Retired at 26, six months in…
Six months ago I left my job and was upfront and clear that I had no intention of returning. If anything said ‘this is me, I’m done here’, surely it was when I created a WhatsApp group for my leaving drinks and named it ‘Retired at 26'. I don’t think they really got what I was saying to them, pretty much all my colleagues thought it was the wrong decision, which was difficult to handle. I always seek a positive and their reaction actually spurred me on and convinced me I needed to get out of the trap.
Nonetheless I was talked into the option of taking a six month career break, with literally nothing to lose. That ended last week and had the past six months been a total disaster, I may well have found myself walking back into the signals depot tonight, oh that reminds me I really don’t miss working night shifts, especially with winter approaching! The simplicity of waking up with the sun, being outdoors and active in the day and going to bed at nighttime, has made me feel so much healthier and happier. I still couldn’t see myself returning mind you, I would seek other work, meaningful work, or go find a remote island and live off the land perhaps, anyway, I’m not, I’m continuing with my ambitions! With respect to my former colleagues I haven’t contemplated returning once.
Life is whatever you make of it, of course there’s the Mark Twain quote about twenty years down the line and not living with regrets. But let’s go right to the end of our lives, whether that’s in a year, ten years or fifty years, more and more people are saying they wish they took more risks, truly lived, experiences over possessions. Life is about more than going to work, paying bills and dying. Oh wait, the weekend and that crazy week or two when you spend all that money you earn the rest of the year and recover from working your ass for that company you couldn’t care less about. I had fallen right into that trap, I was living a comfortable life, but was I getting any nearer the ambition I had when I was a kid? To travel the world and seek out adventures? No. I was drifting further away from it, month by month, year by year.
I’m a people person, (yes, I know I’m cycling solo), for me I asked myself some simple questions about my life, my job.
1. Did you want to do this growing up?
2. Do you meet new people on a regular basis?
3. Do you have a positive influence on people around you?
4. Are you motivated going to and during work, returning home happy?
5. Do you genuinely care about what you are doing, do I have any passion for it?
6. Is the world a better place for your work (size of impact is irrelevant in the early stages)
When I broke it down the only answer for my life not to drift into obscurity was to walk away, I don’t like the word quit. I chose to leave, I had to take a risk, the bigger the risk the bigger reward, those who dare win – well I bloody hope so!
You see I’ve grown up in Britain, and yes everywhere has their challenges, but on the whole I’ve been beyond fortunate to grow up here. A place where I can go about life as I like, spend time with who I like and have a standard of living which would be considered luxurious compared to the wider population of the world. With this in mind I feel like I have an opportunity, almost a need to make the most of the upbringing in a society which always me the basics to set off and travel. So, so many people in this world unfortunately can’t, be it health, political or poverty preventing them looking beyond the next week or two. It’s an odd feeling to think that in Britain I’m by no means ‘rich’, but on a world level I’m wealthy. Do I feel guilty? A little, it’s with these people in mind that I fundraise for, to try and bridge the gap between rich and poor.
A decade with London Underground can’t simply be erased from my life though, in fairness I had some good times there, the trapped sort of good times, but it’s all part of the learning curve. I hope to consider it far from the decade which defines me, but the decade which set up the rest of my life.
When asked about the challenges I take on, the adventures big and small which I can’t help but get myself involved in, I just picture myself a few decades down the line. If someone was to write a biography of my life I would hope it would be a half decent read. More and more the word inspiration seems such a motivating theme to my life. I’m motivated by the people I choose to surround myself with, in person and on social media. That’s cool, it makes life fun and interesting but one of the best feelings in the whole world is when someone tells you you’ve inspired them to take action, to do something new and challenging.
Today (my first day entirely free from my previous career) it just seemed right, over the past six months I’ve had many moments which have reminded me life is to be lived. Before setting off on my adventure I had the chance to visit and spend time with close family. Playing with my niece and nephew in their new home in Bahrain and spending quality time with my sister and brother in law. Spending time with family and friends in northern England, which I rarely see. My last day in London, going to Wimbledon, a highlight of every summer, especially with my mum and sister. Notice a theme? Spending time. So valuable in the modern world, why? Society tells you you have to be busy, have plans, your friends and work. Suddenly I have none of that, at least not prohibiting my living time.
This past week I’ve spent some time with a cycle tourer who was on the road for two years, he had taken a career break from being a fireman. Yet with two years, 730 days he still said that he felt the constraints of time. Early on he was rushing from place to place, country to country, eager to see all he could in two years. Then he began to slow down, he realised he couldn’t see everything in two years, so chose places he really wanted to go to, and travelled slowly through these places to really get to know them. Slow travel is real travel, it gives you a real taste of the life and landscapes of a country or region. In my mind I knew I wasn’t returning to work after six months, so the fact I’ve spent four of those cycling around France and haven’t seen half the world, or even a continent doesn’t concern me in the slightest.
FREEDOM, like I’ve never had before. I plan my life. Since being on tour it’s as simple as it gets. My new ‘job’ as such is simply to cycle to my destination, sometimes I make it there smoothly and enjoyably, other times I’m wrecked by the end of the day. I seldom complain though, I told myself from the start; Adam, you chose to do this, don’t for a second start to moan when there weather isn’t great, or your chain breaks. I’ve learnt food is great answer when things border on the verge of grouchiness!
Today was a joy, a 100 miles of joy, yes I had to mark this day with another #LifeYears cycle, no.15 of #16in16 just the ONE 100 miler remaining, I’ve got a special one in mind 😉. Add to that I past the 5,000 mile milestone! Unbelievably good weather for the end of October, autumnal shades of the tree lined Loire, tranquil cycle ways now the peak season has well and truly ended.
A fair amount of thinking time was given to the past six months, as well as the past few years. The support of my family is huge, I’m often asked ‘don’t they miss you?’ Yes, yes they do and I miss them, but they know and can see how much this means to me, so they can accept what I’m doing and be pleased for me. These days with Skype and WhatsApp no one is ever too far away, I mean my mum even got Instagram to see what I’m up to on a daily basis!
Three years ago something like this was simply not on my radar. In January 2014 Dave Cornthwaite changed my life, opening my mind up to how ridiculously cool life can be if you tweak things here and there and ‘Say Yes More’. It wasn’t until the end of 2014 that, under difficult circumstances I set sail in the Caribbean and along with Emily Penn we hatched some ambitious plans on Exploring Mindset. I said to myself before the trip, sometimes you have to invest in yourself, my goodness have I reaped the rewards and continue to do so.
On to the cycle tour, I knew I needed a big, life changing adventure. In to my life walks (or rather sit beside at a talk) Anna McNuff, fresh from a 50 state cycle, buzzing with enthusiasm I was intrigued, inspired. Inspired and intrigued and SO alive being around her, so much so I decided a cycle tour is the adventure which will change my life. I told her in September 2014 on the way to a night at the Royal Geographical Society, again it just felt right. I’ll add that I was barely cycling at the time, had never been on a big day ride, let alone a tour! In August 2015 I cycled the length of Britain and it was here I realised what made me feel alive, the challenge, adventure, outdoors, surprise, in the middle of the second week, I had the day which absolutely confirmed the big tour was without any shadow of doubt happening.
Again, I’ll say that I’m not on a big cycle tour due to a heap of affection for cycling, although ‘Adventure Simba’ has rather taken my heart. The bicycle (sorry Simbs), is simply my mode of transport, getting me from point A to point B. Why? After walking, cycling is the cheapest and best long distance way of travel. Maybe I’ll try the long distance walk thing in the future, but #WalkTheWorld never really got me excited. Yet it is far superior to motorised transport, what it lacks in speed is made up for by the appreciation you have of landscapes; you really feel every hill, you notice gradual change, apposed to being dumped into a mountain range or on a jagged coastline. The people you’ll meet; I’ve found you tend to gain respect from the locals faster, I guess they think I must really want to be there if I’ve chosen to cycle there – I’m also pretty innocent – what you see is my life, they are more inquisitive of you, especially with four panniers. A few weeks ago I was interviewed for a travel documentary, I was in a pretty touristy area, they could have chosen anyone, but I stood out as a different type of tourist. One of my favourite reasons I like cycle touring, it’s a bit of a personal one, is after a week of cycling when you look at a map, you always say “Ooooo look where I’ve come from in a week”, under your my steam. I want to travel for as long as is possible, the biggest constraints to travel are time and money, I have the time and I’ve chosen a very cheap way of living, I’m near sure you have spent more than me since I’ve been on tour.
Another huge factor in making me realise my potential and giving me the confidence to be who I am is Danny Bent. On a cold late November morning in 2014 at 6:30AM I came alive to a new bunch of friends, which grew weekly. It takes a certain type of person to get up and into the city this early and these are the people keen for more of life, epitomised by Danny. His support for my ventures was much needed, as he said to me ‘I could see there was something in this shy boy’.
There are of course many, many more people to thank, but know if you’ve made it to here, then I thank you, support on social media means a lot.
For now all I am left wondering is what kept me there so long!?
Here’s to the next six months, and the rest!!