Said Yes More: My 2014 in Review
(Re-posted from previous blog)
It’s about that time of year to look back at the last twelve months, process, calculate and prepare to turn another page.
I have a simple rule: whenever it comes to a birthday or a December 31st just ensure that the last year counted, can’t bemoan the new wrinkles, then!
Time is going to keep on rolling by, but on the whole you’re in control of how you spend it. This has been another year of adventure, new friends and fresh experiences. There have been some struggles, too, but 2014 has been another brilliantly fruitful year, and hey, when a year starts with flying monkeys, you know it’s probably going to be a good one.
2013 ended and 2014 began in East Africa, on the island of Zanzibar some 25km off the coast of Tanzania. Our home for two months was the Red Monkey Lodge in the coastal village of Jambiani, and the reasons for being there were many.
Not yet restricted by the temptations and costs of a home, Em and I had decided to see if we could find an epic place to hone some new skills as well as escaping the miserably grey winter in the UK. While Em helped the Red Monkey achieve its sustainable tourism certificate, I set about making some films and learning how to kitesurf, with a big journey in mind.
So many new friends were made on Zanzibar, some of them hairier than others, and by the time our departure in mid January came around couldn’t imagine life without a troop of vervet monkeys leaping from roof to roof, the local kids dancing and playing football on the beach, and the ever growing rush of understanding as my kiting skills improved.
The filmmaker Tom Bryan joined me for a week in the water and made this great short film shot entirely with a GoPro camera.
Adventure Travel Show, London
I gave one of my first public presentations at the Adventure Travel Show back in 2010 and the event has become a regular fixture in my calendar.
The organisers are always super kind and give me a nice slot on the main stage, and the SayYesMore/Expedition1000 table always has a nice buzz about it, especially because of the motivated faces behind the table. This year Louis Bedwell, Elsa Hammond and Luke Yates leant a hand, with all of them preparing to head off their own adventures later in the year. (If anyone wants to step into their big shoes for the January 2015 AT Show, let me know!).
Apple Store, London
Towards the end of January I was glad to check off another one of those ‘it would be AWESOME to speak there!’ moments, sharing some adventurous tales at the Apple Store on Regent Street in London. I’m not much of a hoarder but couldn’t resist when they offered me one of the advertising boards at the end!
Celebrity Summit: Caribbean
On the last day of January I bade farewell to my folks and embarked on what at the time seemed like a mind boggling smorgasbord of adventures. I wouldn’t be returning to the UK until mid June, and the first leg was a brand new experience: I’d been invited to be a speaker on a cruise ship.
Now, I’d never stepped onto a cruise ship and already knew it wasn’t exactly my style of travel, but I couldn’t help feeling an edge of excitement at the chance to understand what actually happened on these goliath ships. Plus, they covered my air fare across the Atlantic and this was my first visit to the Caribbean, so into San Juan, Puerto Rico I flew and the next morning boarded Celebrity Summit, which was basically a skyscraper with a hull.
You might think cruise ships consist of thousands of geriatrics just about managing to limp between their cabins, the dining hall and then poolside loungers, but this was no floating hospital. Yes, the average age of the guests was over 50, but I made plenty of friends in between the conversations about how many cruises people had been on. Some had experienced hundreds!
When not delivering a lecture about some adventure or other I spent my time strolling the dusty streets or white beaches of St Croix, St Kitts, Dominica, Grenada and St Thomas. I worked off the free ice cream in the ship’s gym or up on the Deck 11 basketball court, and lived up to a self-promise to rise early in time for sunset, which gave me the chance to master the time-lapse function on my GoPro. And the resulting film is probably the best way to describe the sights of that first week in February.
Since my Mississippi River paddle in 2011 Memphis has been a regular stopping point. The friends I met there are magnetic, and the chance to pay them another visit was extra special because it marked the coming together of a who’s who of American river paddlers and the river angels who helped them along the way: between them all over 100,000 miles had been paddled, what a bunch!
Road Trip via St Louis with Rod Wellington
After that, I jumped into a car with my good friend Rod Wellington (Rod was the first North American to paddle the length of the Mississippi Missouri and had the misfortune of pedalling the first day of my 2012 Bikecar trip) and we sped north, sharing the stage at an event in St Louis organised by Patrick ‘100+’ Albert, [http://100plusproject.com] and from there we hit the highway once more, grabbing winks in a gas station carpark and arriving in a snowy Dayton, Ohio just in time for a new event
Dayton Adventure Summit
The ace team at Five River Metroparks had asked Jon Turk and I to speak at the Dayton Adventure Summit (kudos to everyone who braved the weather!) and I stayed around for the whole weekend, striking up partnerships with all kinds of people including Jimmy from Equality Longboards (stay tuned for a new SayYesMore board) and the team from Flow397, who went on to design a limited edition SayYesMore tee.
Tom Helbig, who found me on the Interweb and secured my place as keynote speaker, deserves a mention here because he’s gone on to do some cool things, and is preparing to kayak the length of the Florida Keys, and back again!
Exploring Mindset: Miami to the Cayman Islands
And then, to the sun! It was time for another Exploring Mindset voyage. I joined Emily Penn and the crew from Pangaea Explorations at the Miami boatshow and shortly afterwards we set sail with a crew of seven wonderful people. Via the Dry Tortugas and around Cuba to the Cayman Islands, along the way chatting about all the things that are (and perhaps should be) important to us as modern-day humans.
Celebrity Infinity: South America
Another offer for another cruise, this time a two-week run from Buenos Aires in Argentina to Valparaiso, Chile, via the majestic Beagle Channel and Magellan Strait. We stopped in at two of the world’s southernmost towns, Ushuaia and Punta Arenas, and although it was certainly not how I’d envisaged approaching Cape Horn it was kinda funny sighting South America’s southerly point from the comfort of the gym on Deck 10 (just one floor up there was a lounge with bay windows absolutely crammed to breaking point, but it seemed that most of the guests had forgotten the gym existed.)
I’ll admit, two weeks onboard a ship was a bit too much, but I busied myself with preparing presentations I never had to prepare and setting myself a challenge to kick a football into a basketball hoop from thirty metres.
Expedition1000: Whike Atacama
Celebrity Infinity deposited its guests onto the dock in Valparaiso, Chile. The next stop was the capital, Santiago, where I caught up with filmmaker Jamie Fulbrook. Along with Ned Aufenast, we were about to attempt the 9th journey of Expedition1000, at least 1000 miles through the Atacama Desert by Whike, a tricycle with a sail.
And then, after a two day hiatus involving the airline losing Ned’s bags, off we went.
Our 19 day, 1009 mile Whike adventure saw us ascend over 18,000 metres (that’s two and a bit Everests). In the mining town of Copiapo a news crew spontaneously covered our trip, offering a brief opportunity to take advantage of their lack of English understanding!
Eventually, our bodies and gear saturated with red dust, our tents tired of having been used in both the most desperate and epic ways, and our minds reeling with freezing nights and 40 degree © days and shooting star nights like you’d never believe, we rolled into the town of Calama victorious.
Here’s an article by Red Bull about our Whike adventure…
Expedition1000: Trike Europe
5 days after finishing 1000 mile journey no. 9, I was in Germany giving a talk at the Spezi, which is a non-motorised transport festival in the small town of Germersheim. Looking around, I realised I was in heaven and that there was no justifying a plane flight back to the UK. So, instead, I asked the folks on Facebook to vote for a form of transport that I should take on a brand new journey.
On the Monday morning, just seven days after the Whike journey had ended, I counted up the votes, packed my bags and began a new adventure, this time on an ICE Trike. A quick night in France and then I turned around and followed the Rhine north before hanging a left, crossing Holland and then heading towards the south west of England, where the journey eventually finished at the ICE Trikes HQ in Falmouth, but not before a well done so far party with some friends in London!
One of my favourite moments of the year was spending a day at Burton Primary School in Saltash, Cornwall. Just look at the send off from the kids as I rode off on the trike! Incredible!
All in all the 1106 mile journey took 5 weeks, and the coolest thing was that the accumulative distance pedalled by people who joined me on the trip topped up just over 1000 miles, too! Ben Sadd was one of those people, and he put together a great little film about the journey.
50 Ways to Make £50
Thanks to my Bristol-based energiser bunny Donna Jordan, I ticked off another four items from the ’50 ways to make £50’ list. Thanks to my good friend Tom Allen, all the action from Bellydance Instructor, Urban Search and Rescue, Glass Blowing and Hair Stylist were caught on film. Who said quitting a job makes one less employable?!
Why wait for the New Year to make resolutions? Every month I jot down a short list of things to achieve and skills to learn and in July I wrote just one item: ‘learn to fly a drone’. I’m determined to try and improve my filming and editing and having the ability to capture new angles, especially from the air, was really appealing. Obviously, the chance to fly a new toy was exciting as well, so I did what I rarely do and stumped up a few hundred pounds for a DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter, to which I could attach a GoPro. So much fun!
Run Sean Run
Having already completed a length of Britain swim and cycle, my friend Sean Conway decided to complete the trilogy and run from John O Groats to Land’s End. We spent a day together making this promo film.
Off to the Uffington White Horse for a 5 to 9 adventure with a big group of friends. Leave work. Sleep on a hill. Back in time for the next day. Simples. It’s also important to note what Alastair Humphreys deems as hard work (look closely at his computer screen before he leaves the shed)
AUGUST — OCTOBER
Expedition1000: Hobie Kayak Scandinavia
In early August I started thinking about how to use the completely blank two months I’d saved in my diary. 12 days later I was in Oslo, Norway sitting in a pedal powered Hobie Mirage kayak for the first time in my life. And then I started pedalling to Helsinki, Finland.
The Hobie Kayak is pretty cool, and is powered by two fins based on the propulsion values of penguin flippers. Hobie the kayak and I followed the Oslo fjord, pedalled through the Bohuslän archipelago on the Swedish west coast, crossed Sweden via the Göta Canal, pedalled across the Baltic and through the Åland archipelago and finally reached Helsinki after 49 days on the water. I camped in my Sky Tent the whole way across, spending 25 nights on tiny little uninhabited islands. One of my favourite journeys so far.
Because I was hands free the journey gave me the chance to 1) catch up on all my work, 2) pretty much write a book on the move and 3) made the journey really on-the-spot and real time in terms of the social media updates I shared. One of my favourite bits of this trip was learning how to film and edit with my iPhone, put into practice with daily ‘Good Morning’ films. Here’s a taste!
TEDx Youth @ Bath
Having opened the first ever TEDx Youth @ Bath back in 2011, it was a pleasure to return to the event three years on. TED events are always riddled with lessons and wonderful stories and this was no different. From the founder of Coffee Republic to a World War Two survivor and North Korean refugee, the chance to share a day with hundreds of teenagers and some inspiring speakers is always humbling.
The Explore weekend at London’s Royal Geographical Society is an annual mid-November event and features regular conversations like:
’What are your plans this year?’
‘Oh, I’m planning on cycling around the world, rowing an ocean, skiing to the south pole.’
‘Great, you should talk to so and so, oh, there they are.’
About as inclusive, positive and motivating as any gathering could be, I try my best to make Explore when I can and this year was a special treat as I took part in a Dragons Den special, where members of the audience pitched their expedition ideas. Golden!
For a while I’ve been struggling with a back problem and the challenge of strengthening my core to provide at least part of the solution led me to thinking more about a return to paddleboarding. I started creating a series of shorter, less time intensive adventures than Expedition1000 and, into the mix, decided to use this series as a way to make a wider difference.
So, Project Origin was born. The concept was simple: use adventure to plant one million trees. Along the way, I’d help 200 people a year to embark on their own adventures in return for fundraising towards the tree planting, and over the next 3–5 years I’d complete 25 more journeys by stand up paddleboard, each one around 100 miles in distance and lasting less than two weeks.
Origin: SUP Around Martinique
With another Exploring Mindset journey due to launch from the Caribbean island of Martinique in mid December, I decided to fly out two weeks early and circumnavigate the island with a team of four friends. We began in Port Du Marin on December 1st, carrying all of our gear in Aquapacs on the decks of our inflatable Origin Paddleboards.
12 days and 146 miles later we arrived back in Port Du Marin, with a great deal more respect for the strength of wind, weather and water in this part of the world. Oh, and we were the first people to circumnavigate the island by paddleboard, awesome!
Exploring Mindset: Caribbean
For the second time this year Em Penn and I joined forces on Sea Dragon, this time with a full crew of 11 for our latest Exploring Mindset voyage. Stopping off at Antigua, Barbuda, St Barths and eventually finishing at the British Virgin Islands, we had another brilliant voyage with an inspiring team of strangers who quickly became friends.
Christmas in Virgin Gorda’s North Sound
We spent Christmas week on Sea Dragon, relaxing in the North Sound, savouring free time in a beautiful, windy place. Things just happen when plans aren’t made and somehow we woke up on a boat moored to the dock of Moskito Island, Richard Branson’s new home. Very cool to have even a brief look behind the scenes of an empire created by a man I’ve respected for years. Motivation to create an island home of our home is now fully stoked — no idea how this will happen, but will is a strong power. Watch this space.
Estes Park, Colorado
‘Does anyone have a dog, cat or house that needs sitting for the first couple of weeks of January?’
This kind of message has become a regular feature in recent years, as my strange, location independent life leaves time open to opportunities. And so Em and I found ourselves arriving in Denver, Colorado in board shorts and flip flops, naturally unprepared for a temperature drop of nearly 40 degrees centigrade! Our duty, to dogsit the wonderful Tikka, who is officially a Malamut and unofficially a snow wolf.
From the Caribbean to Colorado, this last leg of 2014 pretty much sums up the year. Endless change, so many lessons, flexibility and openness to the unexpected. I am not a wealthy man, I am not a pauper, I say yes to the things that will enrich my life even if they scare me (ESPECIALLY if they scare me) and as a consequence my life is rich. Looking back at 2014 I’ve much to be thankful for, and the power of that YES word and of the woman who grounds me and provides a sense of home even without bricks and mortar to my name, well, I’m grateful for my chance to lead an epic life surrounded by people who have made a positive existence their choice.
Now, 2015, are you ready?
Have a wonderful New Year!
Originally published at davecornthwaite.tumblr.com.