The Great Escape

It hasn’t escaped my notice that in recent weeks other than going for a run or an occasional Sunday afternoon stroll about town or somewhere, I haven’t properly ventured outdoors. I’m talking hills, mountains, trails and the like. Being consumed by all things life and work can cause this absence.

After watching my colleague effectively have a breakdown in recent weeks (I haven’t watched him like he’s an ant under a magnifying glass in the sun, slowly dying. I have held out a hand of support), I have been taking on more at work, questioning myself a lot outside of work and it’s led to this general feeling of being somewhat lost, like I was losing my identity. By mid-week I decided something was definitely going to happen: I was packing my bag and going walking on Saturday afternoon, and pretty much nothing was going to stop me.

Maybe some of you can relate if you have a partner, but I tend to feel selfish if I want to do something, even if it’s beneficial for my health or wellbeing. As I’ve written before, I am in a very supportive relationship nowadays where we both can (and do) talk openly about how we feel. So after a chat, I was told I was being daft for feeling selfish and she understood the importance of this event. Of course, I never planned to go alone, so my partner and I and kids in tow went off into the hills together.

The day was perfect: I got my outdoor time in, we all got quality time together, away from the confines of the house and screens, it wasn’t too strenuous for the younger legs, and it actually felt like an enjoyable, mutual adventure. I’d already planned ahead and decided where we could go, and things to show the kids to engage them a little.

It’s an interesting revelation that I can crave the outdoors like you would chocolate, and to feel that it is a way of resetting myself. Getting out there is stimulating and inspiring. If I ever feel despondent (which sometimes happens, more often than not without good reason), I have found being outdoors fills me with motivation to the point where I become almost carefree and annoyingly animated. Having younger minds around me and sharing my knowledge, daftness, and enthusiasm with is a major factor in this upward turn.

As if I ever needed proof that being outside was good for me, this has confirmed it.

Bullshit Bingo and the art of talking

In my working life, I am almost a polar opposite to my private life. At work, like most, I am required to dress smart, and have to pop into meetings, where there are buzzwords aplenty. I like to play a game called Bullshit Bingo, where you tick off as many acronyms and buzzwords and phrases as you can until you get a full row. Hours of fun, unfortunately. In my private life, I’m a shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops kind of guy, but with a huge outdoors attitude. I’ve pondered it before that perhaps I need this contrast in order to appreciate what I enjoy.

Working in a sterile office environment is a strange experience, especially like yesterday morning when I got to work after I’d been out training with my Bergen and an hour and a half later, I’m sat talking about marketing strategies, but with a satisfying ache in my shoulders reminding me of what’s more important to me and what hard work really is.

Occasionally in the office, people break out of their professional shells and reveal something really interesting about their outside work self. That’s where real relationships are forged I think, especially at work. That common acknowledgement that goes beyond the seemingly aloof world of business. Granted, there are some dull people, as well as people who just live and breathe their job, though I respect them all the same as I don’t know what they are going through or have been through to get to that point.

I work with many different nationals and cultures, which leads to great conversations, mutual banter too. On Monday this week, I found out that two people whom I have frequent conversations with (not about work I should add!) are both outdoor enthusiasts too. One is a well travelled Bulgarian girl who has been to more countries than I’ve had hot dinners. It turns out, she’s going to North Wales in May to sample Snowdonia because she misses the mountains. I then mentioned my Mountain Leadership Training, and she practically volunteered herself and her group of friends as guinea pigs, and asked for advice about the best paths and summits to tick off.

Talking about your own country to people from other countries reignites the fire that made you fall in love with the hills, fields and mountains in the first place. Almost like you’re seeing it for the first time through fresh eyes. They probably feel the same way as they tell you about their own country.

Given the point at which my life is at the moment, talking about things I love take my mind away from everything for a few minutes, especially if it’s a mutually enthusiastic conversation. A kind of therapy, without being in the outdoors.

I suppose the conclusion is, like with the old adage that you shouldn’t judge anyone as you don’t know what they’ve got going on, you should make the best efforts to chat to people as they may help you and in turn, you may help them.