2018 final summary

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Local wooden bench where I sat in July pondering about the point of doing this blog…

The final day and my final post of 2018 so time for a little reflection…

Producing a ‘doing 50 things bucket list’ to mark the year I turned 50 is a form of goal setting with personal development and self improvement in mind.

I had something of a kick up the backside during a health check in December 2017 when I was basically told I was overweight, drank too much alcohol and had a borderline high cholesterol! And this was just 2 months before my 50th birthday… Staying fit and healthy so I can continue to travel and live my best life is a priority for me so several of my 50 goals were related to improving my health. Thankfully a health check in August revealed my cholesterol was down to ‘normal’ levels!

One of the most positive outcomes of maintaining this blog for the last 12 months has been the sense of achievement I’ve felt. Never before have I kept up a gym membership for longer than 2 or 3 months; I have rarely kept my weight under control and I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t have pushed myself to walk over 2000 miles had I not blogged about it. Publishing regular updates has made me feel accountable and has pushed me towards achieving my challenges. I might well have been tempted to cheat on my vegan month or sober October if it were not for this blog!

Walking was a significant and an immensely positive aspect of my life throughout the last year. Walking over 2000 miles has:

  • Certainly helped me to keep my weight down;
  • Kept me fit and healthy;
  • Most likely helped me to stay positive;
  • Continued to enhance my social life (I’ve met several lovely new friends this year);
  • Enabled me to see beautiful scenery (Switzerland, the Peak District and even local scenery around my home town);
  • Saved me quite a sum of money (by not paying for public transport or using my car);
  • Helped to build relationships with my husband Chris and my friends;
  • Given me little ‘light bulb moments’…

In relation to the last point above, walking is almost like a form of meditation. While I didn’t achieve my meditation goal this year, I found walking is great for switching off and clearing your mind. And I did have several moments of inspiration while walking.

Other than the meditation goal I didn’t achieve, I also didn’t do a cooking class, or watch Greg Braden or get another job or complete the first draft of a book of our 2016 global adventures! Never mind… 45  / 50 isn’t bad… and its best to settle for 90% than try to achieve everything and get stressed about it! Rather than force myself to do a cooking class I just accepted this wasn’t going to happen this year.

Plans for 2019 and beyond: 

While having 50 goals and challenges has been fun and has enabled me to stay focussed, at times it has been quite exhausting! I have several travel plans for 2019 but will maybe spend a little more time at home and a few less weekends away… I have applied for another job and I’ll definitely aim to lose the extra 4 lb’s gained over Christmas!

I read somewhere earlier today something along the lines of “tomorrow marks the first day of a set of 365 blank pages… make sure the story you write is a good one…”. How exciting! Life is what you make it and who knows what will be written in the next 365 pages…

Finally, thank you for reading my blog posts and traveling alongside me on the journey into my 50’s… I’m now nearly 51 so here’s to 2019 and the next 9 years until I’m 60!

Happy New Year! 

Marc and Angel: “You have to make yourself happy. Its not selfish, its called personal development”

 

Retirement plan

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I’ve finally got round to producing this post in the last few hours of 2018! OK, so not a formal retirement plan as such but just a few notes to keep me focussed for the next few years. I enjoy making plans although never have a problem in changing them if a new and better option presents itself. I don’t like my life to be too rigid although its good to have some direction!

Ideally I would like to retire at 60 so this is my aim. As mentioned, this isn’t ‘set in stone’ as you never know how your life may change or whether you can afford to retire when you plan to or even if you are still going to be around by then! Hopefully things will all be good so this is produced in a positive light…

Although Government pension arrangements changed in 2015 I am still fortunate to have a decent pension. I could still retire at 60 although my official retirement age is now 67 which means I will have a reduced pension at 60. As long as I have enough money to live the life I wish to live, I am OK with that.

If things go to plan (and I don’t have an impulse to pack in my job and go and work in Thailand as a teacher… hmmm there’s a thought…) this means I have less than 10 years left in the corporate world.

Plan as of December 2018

  • Retire in 2028 at age 60
  • Pay mortgage off by 2028; I could pay off extra each month but will need to balance this carefully with the following two important points…
  • Spend the next 9 years travelling to more expensive places for example the Galapagos Islands. This is more affordable while I am working than it would be on a pension.
  • Focus on the more active and adventurous trekking holidays for the next 9 years. I intend to continue doing these when I’m 60+ but as I am fitter now than I am likely to be as I get older I don’t want to have missed opportunities.
  • Living the retirement dream… Retire at 60 and spend a few years as a nomad, travelling slowly around the world and spending chunks of time in different places. This is the time for freedom to do things that are more difficult when you only have 6 or 7 weeks’ annual leave a year, for example:
    • 6 months travelling around Australia
    • Long road trips through Europe
    • 3 months in Hawaii
    • US and Canadian road trips
    • 6 weeks island hopping around Greece
    • A few months in Central America
    • Walk the South West coast path
  • Return to the UK and live a self sufficient semi off-the-grid life in a bungalow but with a camper van to continue regular UK adventures…
  • As I want to have a long and active retirement I need to stay fit and healthy! My retirement plan for the next 9  years therefore includes:
    • Keep my weight at 8 st 6 or under (preferably around 8 st 3)
    • Exercise most days
      • Gym 2 or 3 times a week
      • 40 or 50 miles of walking each week
    • Do some stretching and yoga each day
    • Keep my mind as calm and stress free as possible
    • Eat mostly organic food
    • Limit processed food
    • Limit alcohol to an average of one glass of red wine a day (at the most)
  • Get a promotion at work? This would boost my pension if I am to retire at 60…

On the health points above I did a ‘How Are You?’ quiz yesterday to check my health and fitness levels against those recommended by the NHS and thankfully I got a good score of 9 / 10.

Things to improve:

  • Apparently I should be doing more strength exercises at the gym
  • I would benefit from doing regular yoga and stretching
  • I need to watch my alcohol intake!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Capsule wardrobe summary

Achieved!

I’m marking this as a success as I now have a minimum amount of clothes, all of which fit and all of which I wear. Old clothes get taken to a clothing bank once they are worn out or replaced with new items.

I have spare hanging space in the wardrobe; my jumper and underwear draws have gaps and shut properly; I can find things to wear within a few seconds rather than rummaging around.

Having no need to impress anyone or feel concerned about being judged by anyone I’m happy to wear the same clothes on a regular basis. For example, my black work trousers and range of about 3 different work tops get worn each week on the 2 or 3 days I go into the office. The rest of the time I tend to wear jeans or the odd dress if I’m going out. As well as reducing clutter this minimalist clothing approach keeps life simple 🙂

This does also give me a big incentive not to gain weight… none of my clothes are in a larger size so it would cost a small fortune to replace them again…

 

 

 

 

Plastic reduction summary

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Throughout 2018 Chris and I have made a big attempt to reduce our plastic consumption. We have now started to use natural soap instead of shower gel and Chris also uses shampoo in soap bar form rather than buying shampoo bottles. And even better, they arrive in 100% recyclable materials! Rather than polystyrene chips, the chips shown in the photo above are biodegradable and disintegrate in water within a few seconds!

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We now have a weekly organic fruit and veg box from Riverford where most of the items are either loose or in paper bags. As well as fruit and veg they have a range of organic foods and I was delighted to find the organic muesli comes in a paper bag!

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Some supermarkets such as the Co-op provide decomposable bags which is brilliant. We were given this when we did a beach clean back in October although sadly the Co-op bag was filled with drinks and snacks in plastic wrappers.

We are mindful when we shop to now buy items in glass jars rather than plastic containers (e.g. olives) and chocolate in paper and foil rather than plastic. Only a few short years ago people would purchase large TINS of Quality Street… these are now large plastic tubs… millions of them sold at Christmas and all ending up in landfill…

Below is one of the most powerful video’s which sadly illustrates the damage being done to our planet… selfishly destroying it for future generations. Brilliantly produced by Steve Cutts and available on You Tube.

 

 

 

 

Declutter summary

Still room for improvement on this one!

I would like to think our apartment is fairly clutter free:

  • I’ve completely thinned out my clothes and have spare hanging space in my single wardrobe
  • I get rid of unwanted items and gifts on a regular basis… and have to be a bit ruthless sometimes.
  • I keep our limited kitchen cupboard space as clear as I can by getting rid of out-of-date food (things like spices that you buy once for one recipe and never use again…)
  • I don’t buy items unless I actually need them.

But I would like to be even more of a minimalist… I still have a great deal of books stored in flat boxes under my bed that I never read and I’m probably not likely to. These need to be sorted and taken to a charity shop.

And while I would prefer less physical clutter I also need to look at my lifestyle. This is the last weekend of December and the first weekend I’ve had at home since October. Having a busy life of weekends away is fun and exciting but sometimes its good to slow down a bit, relax and enjoy the freedom of doing nothing. Except for catching up with blog posts! Apologies for the little flurry of them today 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

End of 2018 book challenge results

Achieved!

Until January 2018 I read very few books with most of my reading material coming from articles on the Internet! However I’ve enjoyed reading books throughout 2018 and regular reading is something I am going to continue.

Not surprising that most of these have been travel books… I tried a couple of ‘chick lit’ type fiction books but didn’t really find them too inspiring or exciting. For me, they were a bit of a slog to get through and I could take them or leave them.

This is the full list:

  1. Kamikazi Kangaroos! 20,000 Miles Around Australia. One Van, Two Girls… And An Idiot by Tony James Slater
  2. Just Off For A Walk (South West Coast Path) by Stephen Reynolds
  3. No Wrong Turns: Cycling the World, Part One: Paris to Sydney by Chris Pountney
  4. Travels with Rachael: In Search of South America by George Mahood
  5. Balancing on Blue (Appalacian Trail) by Keith Foskett
  6. The Long and Whining Road (around the world by camper van) by Simeon Courtie
  7. Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson
  8. Lone Rider (female motorcycle around the world) by Elspeth Beard
  9. High and Low (hiking around Scotland) by Keith Foskett
  10. Together by Julie Cohen
  11. Five Years From Now by Giovanna Fletcher
  12. Moods of Future Joys: Around the World by bike Part 1 by Alastair Humphreys
  13. What Happened That Night by Sheila O’Flanagan
  14. The Little Princess by Casey Watson
  15. Thunder and Sunshine: Around the World by bike Part 2 by Alastair Humphreys
  16. Cycling the World Part 2: Into the Sunrise, Sydney to Mori by Chris Pountney
  17. Grand Adventures by Alastair Humphreys
  18. Walk Sleep Repeat by Stephen Reynolds
  19. Step by Step: The Life in my Journeys by Simon Reeve
  20. It’s on the Meter: One taxi, Three Mates and 43,000 Miles of Misadventure Around the World by Paul Archer and Johno Ellison
  21. My Life with Che by Aleida March
  22. The Bolivian Diary by Ernesto Che Guevara

 

I enjoyed all of the adventure books which makes up most of this list! Books with real people having amazing adventures around the world from Keith Foskett’s long distance hiking to journey’s in camper vans, motorbikes and even a taxi! In particular I would recommend Simon Reeve’s book (no. 19) and the Alastair Humphreys cycle adventure books. These were the well written exciting books I found hard to put down although all have given me plenty of inspiration for future adventures!

 

 

 

December book review

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Book number 22

Book read: The Bolivian Diary by Ernesto Che Guevara

This book was compiled from the notes Che Guevara made during his final mission before he was captured and executed by the Bolivian army. It is a first hand account of the progress Che and his team of revolutionaries made through the Bolivian jungle as Che attempted to ‘find recruits’ i.e. enlist the help of peasants in an attempt to overthrow the Bolivian government.

Che provides an incredible insight into the tough daily life they led. From his own perspective Che notes the health issues including dealing with his own asthma and lack of medical supplies, the hunger and thirst and tactics to avoid capture.

The book ends abruptly on 7th October 1967 with Che’s final diary entry… it leaves a chill as you know this was the moment just before he was captured…

From a personal perspective I found this another inspiring and slightly life shaping book. Us westerners moan and complain about the slightest little discomfort: “It’s 11:30 and I’m starving… is it nearly lunchtime?” or “I got soaked to the skin” when walking in the rain back to their warm comfy home and hot bath; or “I could never sleep in a tent”… a small waterproof tent with a few beers and a sleeping bag for a weekend is a luxury compared with sleeping under trees in a jungle in the rain for months on end with little food; insects biting you; foreign armies trying to shoot you and having to spend the next day tired and exhausted as you continue your trek with soaking kit and damp clothes…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November book review

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Havana

Good effort with 3 books read within the last month 🙂

Book number 19

Book read: Step by Step: The Life in my Journeys by Simon Reeve

An awesome book from TV presenter Simon Reeve and possibly my favourite book so far this year. Simon gives an honest account of his incredibly interesting life and he opened my eyes to important global issues.

Simon comes from a modest ‘normal’ background where he grew up in West London with his teacher father, mother and his younger brother. He describes his difficult teenage years where he left school with few qualifications, battled with depression and basically didn’t feel he had much hope in his life.

He got into journalism with a job in the post room and became involved in research. He wrote a book on terrorism before the terrorist attacks of 9-11 after which he became well known as an author, leading to TV appearances and a TV career.

Simon’s first TV travel adventure was called ‘Meet the Stans’ and at the beginning of Chapter 13 he describes the anticlimax felt when he arrived back in London after filming the first half of the series. For me, coming back from any trip and back to the routine of life is always an anticlimax although, as Simon points out, travelling around the world is an “abnormal privilege” and something unthinkable for the vast majority of the world’s population.

Simon describes the issue of migrant workers in Chapter 18, whereby countries such as the UK save money by recruiting Ghanaian health workers which is more than the money they give to Ghana in health aid! This is an issue I’ve never previously considered… how much of this goes on? ‘Rich’ countries making themselves look good with foreign aid donations while simultaneously saving millions with cheap migrant labour!

I resonated with a paragraph at the end of Chapter 19 where Simon suggests we should add meaning and adventure to our trips; for example, by going to strange places, taking chances and embracing risk, rather than “lying horizontal by the pool”. So delving into the culture of a place and not sticking within the confines of the hotel.

Furthermore, Chapter 21 was also close to my heart and values and offers Simon’s take on the environmental consequences of travel. He advises we seek out authentic travel experiences and understand that when we pay our national park entrance fees, we are helping to preserve  “the greatest wildlife on the planet”.

All in all, a brilliant and highly recommended book!

 

Book number 20

Book read: It’s on the Meter: One taxi, Three Mates and 43,000 Miles of Misadventure Around the World by Paul Archer and Johno Ellison

This was another inspiring travel and adventure book! This is about 3 lads who, after a drunken evening, agreed to buy a London taxi and embark on ‘the longest taxi journey in the world…’

A short while later they were en-route from London to Sydney… the beginning, the Europe section was ‘laddish’ with tales of getting drunk almost every evening with their couch surfing hosts. I had no problem with this given they were all in their 20’s and it was fun to read of their antics.

The book got more interesting as they ventured towards Central Asia and described the issues they faced with their journey across borders into countries such as Iran and Pakistan. And their drive across the highest point in the world, Everest Basecamp!

Their adventure was event featured in the Daily Mail!

Another exciting ‘hard to put down’ book!

 

Book number 21

Book read: Remembering Che: My Life With Che Guevara by Aleida March

I picked up this book in Varadero airport at the end of my trip to Cuba where, throughout a week of seeing his iconic image at almost every turn, I was intrigued to learn more about Che Guevara and the Cuban Revolution.

Of over 20 books I’ve now read so far this year, this is only the third paperback with the rest being Kindle books as downloaded to my iPad. However with a recent holiday to Grenada I had saved this book until then.

Learning about history has interested me much more as I’ve got older; having seen places around the world I can now relate to them in a way that they seem much more real than ever being taught from a text book at school. To be honest, I was never keen on history lessons back then.

This book was written by Aleida March who was Che’s wife and the mother of 4 of his 5 children. Argentinian Che met Cuban born Aleida when they were both guerrillas in the Cuban Revolutionary army. The book describes her early life and her life with Che until the point he was assassinated in Bolivia in 1967.

This is an incredible story of her militant life back in the day when many women were housewives. The book was difficult to follow at times but gave a fascinating account of  Cuban history and a side of Che Guevara that would previously have been unknown.

Another fascinating book!

 

 

 

End of Sober October!

Today marks the end of 4 weeks lasting through October without consuming any alcohol; the longest booze-free stretch of time since 1995 when I was pregnant with my daughter Zoe!

The most difficult thing has been the lack of variety of non-alcoholic drinks; basically the choices are: water, juices, tea, coffee and a very limited choice of non alcoholic beer or wine. I’ve acquired quite a taste for Fentimans ginger beer however!

Health-wise I don’t feel much different; maybe slightly more focussed and switched on? I haven’t lost any weight, firstly because I don’t want to and secondly because many non-alcoholic drinks contain as many calories as those with alcohol. Hopefully however my liver is now nicely detoxed which has made me conscious to take better care of it in the future.

Socially has been the most difficult time. Last week a few of my colleagues went out after work for my friend Teresa’s 50th birthday drinks and while they were enjoying the usual wines, beers and gins, I had a pot of tea…

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Time for tea!

 

 

 

Volunteer beach clean

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Last weekend I fulfilled another of my challenges and Chris and I spent Sunday morning walking up and down Gorleston Beach picking up litter! Gorleston-on-Sea is a Norfolk town between Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft on the East Coast of England. The weather was awesome and a perfect 20 degrees which is unusual for mid October.

I’m keen that this is more than just a ‘tick box’ exercise, that is something to make me feel good just to tick off my list. Since our travels in 2016 and witnessing first hand the plastic pollution in beautiful locations around the world, I have felt passionate about the need to reduce plastic waste and do my bit to look after the environment.

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I signed up with the Marine Conservation Society and together with over 100 volunteers we scoured the beach and collected every piece of litter we could find. We were told to focus on the small pieces of litter as much as or if not more so that the bigger pieces. Tiny pieces of plastic are mistaken for food by marine life.

We found all manner of litter, most of which was plastic. Sometimes it was buried in the sand and difficult to spot. We found a lot of chocolate wrappers, plastic straws and plastic bags. One of the seafront cafes serves hot drinks and provides a small red plastic wrapped biscuit on the saucer. Needless to say, around this area of the beach we found several tiny ‘edges’ where people had unwrapped their biscuit and dropped the corner, or allowed it to be swept away by the wind.

I’ve since sent a message to ask the cafe to consider serving unwrapped complimentary biscuits!

I really enjoyed the beach clean and would far rather do this than sit on the beach and read a book. We’re going to look for more beach cleans and opportunities for something similar.