Well now you might be forgiven for thinking that we are about to up sticks and travel for a year, but really, truly – that just doesn’t appeal to me. At least, not right now, at this point in my life. I love the connections I have with the land and people and places around me, and would not want to leave them behind, not for longer than a holiday. So, instead, we’ve come up with our own plan to combine all of that with new challenges, new horizons, new opportunities.
The seeds were sown over a family lunch early in the new year with one of our nephews and his wife. He and his brothers are inveterate travellers and explorers, and have all taken opportunities to work and live overseas or just to travel. This one spent several years living and working in Brazil, and now lives in Stockholm. He has definitely Seen The World. He had dipped a toe into my blog (where I had detailed my long walk last year), and was reminded of a book he’d come across about ‘micro adventures’; he thought I might like the book, and bought it for me. We talked a bit about it, and I knew that the book would arrive here a few weeks later.
For a long time Malcolm and I have talked about reorganising the trip we were due to make but had to cancel 5 years ago when his mother had her stroke. We had been off to Canada for the wedding of some dear friends, and the plan was that (not being people to make multiple Atlantic crossings) we would combine this with a side visit cycling around a nearby lake, and a visit to New York. Instead we spent the summer with daily hospital visits and much driving backwards and forwards, on top of work and what passed for ‘normal’ life. And in the years that followed we were far too tied and tired to feel able to revive the trip.
With the plan (now fully put into operation) for both of us to retire at the end of June, this year seems like the perfect time to actually DO the Canada and NY trip. As we talked about it, and about retirement, and about places we’d like to go and things we’d like to do while we are still both fit and healthy, an idea gradually emerged about a different kind of Gap Year: one where we stay home but also build into our lives multiple opportunities to have ‘micro adventures’ and to travel.
To say ‘yes please!’ to opportunities when they present themselves, rather than ‘oh we’d love to but….’.
Malcolm was already very familiar with the micro adventure concept and approach: he’d read the website and even the book (pictured below). It was both new and completely familiar to me – the sort of thing I’ve tried hard to build into my life for as long as I can remember, but with someone else’s ideas and experience to spark off more of my own.
Here’s the plan.
We will have at least one adventure every month, for a year (at least!). We will embrace ideas and offers that present themselves, with one proviso: they have to appeal to us. (Or two: they also have to be within our budget, but that probably goes without saying). Some of the adventures will involve travel further afield, others will be local and some to places we already know but want to see differently.
For example, no matter how many people ask me about it, I will NOT be running a marathon, or doing a triathlon. This does not appeal to me. Whereas I definitely WILL be doing at least one long distance walk. I will NOT be flying round the world. I WILL be flying to Canada and back from the US, and to Denmark, and maybe somewhere else as well (India??).
I do NOT plan to become a life-long frequent flyer, but during this year I will make some flights, always with careful thought and decisions. Only when flying is the only viable option though. The flights to take us to Quebec and home from New York are booked. We plan to travel between the two by train.
No sooner had we made the decision to take a Gap Year than we had an email inviting us to Denmark to join our friends in a house on an island for a week, to mark her 60th birthday. Yes please!
That very same day (!! how could that be?) we also had an invitation to join another friend for a week in Shetland, where she is working as a locum for a few months. We were very excited and made lots of plans, but sadly that one (probably??) isn’t to be – just the fares alone are far too expensive. I’m sorry about that, visiting a Scottish island is on our list, and Shetland especially appeals to me because of the yarn and knitting connection, after all I especially chose the yarn for the baby shawl I’m knitting because it comes from Shetland. But I must confess that until now I had no idea just how FAR away Shetland is from the mainland.
There are other plans in hand: we want to go camping again; we want to do an end-to-end cycle trip again – there is a hope that this might be in India, along with a friend with some roots there. There are other plans we don’t yet know about, but they will emerge as the weeks and months go by. There are also some intentions – swimming outdoors; sleeping outdoors; exploring new and also familiar places.
And we’ve already made a start.
Last week we walked the whole of the Capital Ring – a 78 mile walk around London, starting and finishing by the Thames at Woolwich. As much as possible the walk goes through parks, open spaces and common land. We did it alone, and with oldest son and daughter-out-law, and with some good friends. We had a good time, sore feet, and plenty of cake, and we celebrated the end with the best pizza South London has to offer and a cold local beer. I’ll tell you all about it, once I’ve recovered.