A bookclub, a festival in the woods and a mighty river — a year of connection!

I’m sitting here at Escape the City across the room from the guys planning tonight’s Rebel Book Club monthly meet-up. And, I’m feeling a little nostalgic — here’s why.

This day a year ago I went to an RBC meet-up in London for the first time, seven or so weeks after I had arrived back in the UK after a year out of the country. And, after many meetings but no sign of work, I wasn’t feeling great as the month in which I was to turn 40 approached.

Over the August bank holiday weekend last year, I had decided that I had to make September 2015 count and resolved to make it my annual booze-free month and really embrace that month ahead, starting with RBC.

From seeing some Tribewanted Bali friends (Ben, BSG, Lorna) and meeting other bookclubers for the first time (Rima, Cecily), the chat about Never Eat Alone hosted by Rebecca at Huckletree was the first night of a really motivating month.

Come the Friday of that week, me, BSG and Rima were on a train headed to Canterbury to meet Lorna, and on to the Escape to the Woods festival in East Sussex. En route, BSG was telling me about his upcoming 10-day tropical island survival mission as we tried to figure out which part of Indonesia the island was located.

Over that weekend in the Woods, my ‘world’ and outlook on life expanded. I was thinking about it yesterday — it was by far the best weekend experience I had ever had. It’s hard to put into words what I mean so maybe it’s easier to pick some from the blogpost I wrote after it.

Sunday at the Woods listening to Nick Weston who quit the City to build and live in a tree house

What I know for sure though is that being at the Woods, being seen and heard was a really good thing. It was not just about meeting lots of really cool people, it was about creating the possibility of connections and friendships. And it was about building trust.

It led directly to me and Danielle hosting a story-telling night about Tribewanted Bali, and me going on an adventure on the Mississippi River with Dave and Emily. How often do you get to meet the hosts of your ‘holiday’ at a festival?

Doing what I love, speaking to people, in this case a man whom we came to admire and love last year on the Mississippi — John Ruskey of Quapaw Canoe Co

Being out in Memphis, on the river with Quapaw Canoe Co and then in Clarksdale was an unforgettable experience, for the people I met in our group, the adventurers that joined us, and those that guided us downstream at he start of October.

Again, it is hard to put into words and, thankfully I don’t need to as the #Quapaw24BigPaddle that Chris and me organised in April says everything about the connections made during that week. And things have kicked on from there.

As I read my Woods blog on the train yesterday, I line describing the words of Eiji Han Shimizu (aka Mr Happy) stood out:

Eiji talked about how all heroes in this world face massive challenges and encouraged us to find our place in the mesh that links society.

A year on I am working on three project, all of which have a feel of meshing something potentially special together for the people I have met along the way.

And at work, I am working on a project looking at the Future of Work in a hard-to-find industry. It turns out that Gemma Pessant, who I met at Escape to the Woods, used to work in that field and is an amazing source of gold that I would not have otherwise been able to find.

On that note, I can hear noise in the background which means it must be time for book club to start. I’m no longer a member, but I love the way that has grown since the Woods too!

Ben Keene welcoming everyone to Rebel Book Club at Escape the City tonight
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