I’m not a big fan New Year’s resolutions. Setting oneself vague, non-specific goals like eat better, run more or be less of a dick seems completely unmeasurable and therefore destined to fail. I prefer to begin each year by creating a checklist of things I want to do over the course of the next 12 months. Things that will improve my quality of life and provide me with some memorable experiences. Things that I can easily tick off once done and therefore actually see some tangible success at the end of the year.
Last week I posted about my achievements for 2017. There were a lot of things I was proud of this year, and in 2018 there is a lot more I want to accomplish. I could fill a book with all the experiences I want to have, places I want to visit and things I want to get good at, but there is no way I could achieve it all in a meagre 365 days. To keep things simple and achievable, I decided to limit myself to five adventure targets I want to hit in 2018.
1. Run my first marathon AND ultramarathon
OK this is technically two. If 2016 was the year of walking and 2017 was the year of cycling, 2018 will be the year of running. Having not yet even run a marathon, I have – perhaps foolishly – signed up to my first ever ultramarathon. The Atacama Crossing is a 250 km seven-day stage race in the Atacama Desert, Chile. The course works out as roughly a marathon a day, through terrain as varied as salt flats, sand dunes and canyons. I will be sleeping in a tent each night and carrying all my own food, gear and clothing. The race takes place in September so at least I have nine months to train. And as part of my training, I will be running the Edinburgh marathon in May.
2. Become a qualified Mountain Leader
In January I’m taking my Mountain Leader training course in Snowdonia, Wales. The Mountain Leader award will qualify me to lead groups in the mountains, hills and moorlands of the UK. It’s a nationally-recognised scheme that will hopefully open a lot of doors for me in the outdoor industry. The week-long training course with Plas y Brenin covers things like mountain navigation, group management, proper equipment, river crossings, rope use, campcraft, night navigation and weather forecasting. The course is a combination of mountain expeditions and class-based learning, alongside five other people. Once the training is complete, I then have to log a minimum of 40 “quality mountain days” in which I use the skills I’ve learnt in a mountain environment before being able to take my assessment and qualify for the award. I’m hoping to be fully qualified by the end of the year.
3. Jump out of a plane
I’ve never jumped out of a plane before, it looks fun, so I want to do it. There’s not much more to say than that. I recently met a skydiving instructor who told me it was around the twentieth time he skydived that he realised he no longer had any fear of jumping out of a plane. I can’t imagine ever getting to a point where the thought of jumping out of a plane doesn’t make me want to shit myself, and I don’t think I ever will. Still, even just attempting it once is a start.
4. Do some microadventures locally
Most of my adventures in the past few years have been pretty large-scale affairs. Even the smallest have been multi-day treks in the Lake District or the Peak District. Living in the heart of Essex, even a relatively small adventure like this takes some time and money to plan (trains are expensive). Getting outdoors and camping under the stars does wonders for your mental health and is the best way to completely destress and declutter your mind. It’s just a shame that my geographical location and nine-to-six job is restricting me. But this doesn’t need to be the case.
Even though the biggest hill anywhere near me is Danbury Hill at a lofty 112 metres, I still live a stone’s throw away from some beautiful countryside. (Bit of trivia: if you walked directly east from the summit of Danbury Hill, you wouldn’t find a point higher than it until you reach the Ural Mountains in Russia). In just a short train journey from London you can be in the the North Downs, Surrey Hills or the Chilterns and feel like you’re miles away from anything. I could bivvy up on Box Hill on Monday night and still get to work on Tuesday morning. When I had that realisation, my first thought was why have I never done this before? My aim for 2018 is to put less focus on massive adventures in exotic places and spend more time having microadventures and wild camps near home.
5. Plan my big 2019 big adventure
When I say 2019 is going to the big one, I mean it is going to be The Big One. Walking from Mexico to Canada was huge for me. It was the greatest adventure I’ve ever had and the best time of my life. Now that nearly two years have elapsed since I first set foot at the Mexican border ready to embark on a 2650-mile trek across America, the time has come to raise my sights even higher. I have a pretty solid idea of what 2019 will hold, but my mind changes so frequently that I won’t mention it here until the plan is finalised. But SOMETHING will happen.
So here they are – my adventure goals for 2018. It’s going to be a busy year, but I’m going to ensure it is as packed with adventure as possible. What are your 2018 goals? I’d love to hear them – let me know!