Well, it’s been quite a while (I wonder if all my emails will begin like this. I aspire not to, but if the past is anything to go by…). On the plus side, there’s a lot to tell you about. I’m writing this to you on the train to London to do an Off-site Safety Course. My first time in the Royal Geographic Society building too, so that will be exciting!
**Fair warning: grab a cuppa, it’s a long one!**
I feel like I’ve made up for almost a year without train travel. Last week I was in the Lake District, collecting photos of some routes I have commissioned in Trail Magazine next year. The weather was just about good enough to get the shots I needed. But, after waking up at 2am one morning with my tent bent double into my face, I decided that was enough camping. When it’s 50mph winds and rising, it’s time to stay in hostels.
Then, I went to Kendal Mountain Festival on the way back home. It was my first time at the festival - although I'd heard lots about it. Went to some great sessions, met up with some lovely people and came away with lots of new ideas and connections. Its also so reassuring meeting peers who you only know through the internet, but discovering they’re the same person in real life as they seem to be on Instagram.
Anyway, so I had a 10 hour return trip by train and bus yesterday. Only to be back on the train again today, this time to London. For those who haven’t heard of it, the RGS Off-site Safety Course is basically an expedition logistics course, particularly for overseas trips. Its going to be really interesting getting formal training on something I’ve learnt as I went along.
I see the last time we chatted back back in May and A LOT has happened since then. The big things are:
Finally completed and moved into my new house (!)
Quit my job to go full time freelance (!!)
I was not expecting to do either of those things in the year 2021, but here we are! Isn’t life strange sometimes?
I would like to say it was smooth sailing from May but like hell was it. I can’t remember the exact timeline off the top of my head. But after I’d had my offer accepted, the mortgage company said, “Oh, sorry we’ve changed our T&Cs so we can’t take people on furlough.” Err what? Cue panic to find another provider who would.
Then when that was all settled, there was one stumble after the other. Both our solicitors were waiting for the other to start working. The mortgage survey wasn’t needed and then suddenly was at the 11th hour. And in the meantime my landlady had decided she was actually selling the house and was hitting me with spreadsheets of things I apparently had broken (or neglected) in the house.
Things came to a head a couple of weeks before my tenancy agreement ran out. I was about to leave the house one day, when I heard a very small but persistent tapping noise on the upstairs landing. I was horrified to discover that it was the pitter-patter of maggots, wiggling out of the loft hatch and dropping onto the wooden floor. 🤢
When we decided to open the hatch to see if whatever (read: dead rat) could be removed… The hatch came up and the maggots came down. It sounded like dropping rice on the floor or a sudden burst of hail 🤮🤮. Sadly, despite all efforts to enclose the landing, the wiggling monsters got out. And they were the same colour as the carpet… I managed to kill 100 in a day or so. But for the rest of the week, every time I picked something up or moved something, I'd find a maggot underneath it. Or worse the little red pellets they turn into as they pupate. (Easier to see on the carpet at least.)
And then, a couple of weeks later, the plague of flies began. At that point, I’d completely had it. I lost count at 200 blue bottles and packed up my stuff and moved it into my parents’ house a week early. Eventually I realised they were crawling out of the light fitting on the landing.
ANYWAY before I go off onto a full on house rant, I was lodging in my parents’ house (which they were also selling). Despite everything they managed to complete a few days before me and we were all momentarily homeless for a few days before I could get into my house.
Four months down the line, I'm finally starting to settle in and be glad of the situation. Sure there was woodworm in the attic and so much damp that everything wooden that I own went green with mould while I was on the Two Moors Way. I’ve had to throw out the downstairs carpet (concrete floors are where it’s at) and apparently the chimney is falling down. But this is a mess that I am in control of fixing. And that is very liberating. Sometimes I look around and say to myself, “This is going to be so good.” And it will be 😁, given time.
I have written a blog post all about why I quit my job. It was a really tough decision, because I loved being a staff writer at Much Better Adventures. But, in the end, I was more scared of not trying freelance life than of trying. Full detail in the post, but the fear of regret can be a powerful motivator. And as many people have been realising recently: if not now then when?
So, that means I am going to be freelancing full time from January. I'm already taking clients, so if you’re interested in article writing, copywriting or SEO consultancy drop me a line!
I’m excited to be in control of my work schedule and work for lots of different publications, rather than just one.
(For those interested, there will also be a very practical ‘How I decided to quit my job to go freelance’ post coming soon that you could use if you’re thinking of freelancing too, but can’t decided when to jump.)
With those how bombshells dropped - and an already enormously long email - let’s get back into our regularly scheduled catchup.
I have done a lot of writing since May. I was back at MBA four days a week. You can see my pieces here. I’m particularly proud of my 6.5 Hikes in Snowdonia article. But I also got to interview Sam from Cycling UK about the West Kernow Way and write about everything from AONBs to bikepacking to packrafting. Oh and was finally let loose with an All the Cool Routes That Involve Scrambling So I Haven’t Been Able to Write About Before piece. It was quite a busy month!
On the freelance front, I had an interview published in MPora’s Green Issue about Pedal4Parks. It was great talking to Isaac and the team’s film was released at Kendal. I also got a feature in the print edition of The Great Outdoors magazine, back in August, about my Spanish 3000s.
If you’d like a little insight into behind the scenes of my summer, that article was pre-written in my head on the Two Moors Way and then pushed out in a very late night as soon as I got back. Ah the joys of short-notice print deadlines!
Earlier in the year, there was also a piece about an abandoned slate quarry (which I can only describe as a great big Hmmmmmmmmm 🤔). Note that I didn’t promote the particular location, especially given the tensions with access - hence the weird looking cover photo.
I also wrote a Rock Climbing for Beginners explainer piece for Advnture.com - which I’m please to say is top of Google for “beginners guide to rock climbing” and “rock climbing for beginners” already, underneath the snippet feature.
Finally, although this doesn’t really count as writing, I was quoted in Wales Online and The Independent about safety and vetting qualifications.
I have a list as long as my arm of things I want to do. I’ve said it a lot recently, but 2021 has felt like something of a nothing year. It feels like nothing has really happens and I’ve passed through it in a blur of house survival. But if I look closely, there are a few things that have happened.
I spent some time in Snowdonia in July. A fantastic week and with bizarre weather for Wales. It was almost too hot. Our main aim was to go everywhere except Snowdon. Great fun.
I led a group along the Two Moors Way in August. It was great fun and, with freelance brain on, I'm definitely considering mixing writing work with outdoors work. There will be a story blog of the week sometime soon…
The trip just done in the Lakes probably counts too, although it was essentially work.
And Ten Tors training has finally started up again after a 2 year hiatus. Very much looking forward to having a season, although it remains to be seen if we'll have an event.
And coming up… Well I have so many ideas. The big one is that I’ve booked onto Winter Mountain Leader training. I feel like my QMDs were a bit sparse, especially having missed last winter, but my Dlog got approved so yay!
Although it may be premature to list out things for next year, here are a few themes running around my mind:
Dartmoor Way (score to settle)
Lakes in winter, Scotland in winter (snooooooow!!)
Karnisher Hoenweg (via ferrata)
Cycling - West Kernow Way, Tour de Manche? (I’ve run out of lip salve)
Skiing (learning? touring? cross country?)
Those pesky Wainwrights
And undoubtedly some more things too… But that’s a fair flavour of what’s shooting around in my head.
What are you up to now?
Well, not that much to be honest. I was meant to be taking these three months to finish a book I’m writing. In fact, I wrote the first draft when I was 11. But for one reason or another I’ve spent a good decade not writing it. Now is supposed to be the moment. And to be fair I’ve done a draft and a half. But it’s almost the end of November and with end of year rush, I’m not optimistic that it’ll be done by 2022. Still, we have to make time for the things we care about.
Other than that, I’m recovering from 2021 and plotting for 2022. Obviously, I need to have a solid foundation in place to make sure I can pay my bills through freelance income. I’m also trying to fix up the quirks of my blog website - some of you might have noticed the new drop cap! A search bar and an infinite scroll on the posts page will happen too if I can ever work out how! I coded the theme myself like four years ago, so it’s just a bit of a mess on the back end.
Most recently, I am rewatching some classic film favourites of mine: Zorro, Count of Monte Cristo, Pirate of the Caribbean 1 - and realising that they are basically all the same film. What more does a girl need than an escape from prison, plot for revenge, training in secret, wit, charm, sword fighting and a deceptive party? I went down a rather long rabbit hole, discovered Zorro and PotC were written by the same people (who knew!) and that they have an excellent old school blog that’s still active.
What’s coming up?
Big notice is that I’m ramping up to go back to posting twice a week on my blog: Mondays and Thursdays 7pm. Just like we used to be back in 2019, before writing about adventure became my full time job. So watch out for a load of catch up posts coming this December and a whole lot of fun in 2022.
As ever, if there’s something you’d love me to write about - or are even vaguely curious about, do let me know. Left of field exceptionally welcome. e.g I’ve had a request for a primer in SEO recently, so have added that to the list. Not adventure or writing explicitly, but if even one person is interested I’m happy to write.
Hope you have a lovely weekend and speak soon,