April book review

Book number 6

Book read: The Long and Whining Road by Simeon Courtie

An interesting and realistic account of a family of 5 who travelled around the world in an old VW camper van. The author (the dad, Simeon) gives you a good insight of what would be involved if you ever wanted to take on such a trip, setting out a number of issues for example with border controls and with shipping their van between continents.

This book did take me a while to get into so progress was slow at the beginning. However the book got better and better as the family continued to drive through Europe and into Turkey, Syria and Jordan and onto India, Australia and the US.

Incredibly Simeon drove his family through Syria although thankfully for them this was shortly before the tragic events of Syria took hold. Even so, he described the tensions the family felt in a country on the brink of civil war.

This book definitely inspired me even more to take on something similar… maybe not driving around the world in one go but I would certainly love to drive around the UK, Europe, Australia and the US in camper vans!

 

 

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Beginning my clutter overhaul

In many ways I would like to think I lead a fairly minimalist lifestyle. Five years ago, my husband Chris and I downsized from our house and moved into a smaller apartment. Before we moved we significantly reduced our possessions and spent many weekends taking stuff to charity shops and to the tip.

Nearly 5 years on and the clutter is starting to build again… I’m not overly keen on spending time ‘tidying up’ as there always seems something better I could be doing. So I have to be in the mood to have a sort out…

Well… I’ve made a start today! The first bit of decluttering I’ve undertaken this year began with a clothes sort-out. As this ties in with my ‘capsule wardrobe‘ challenge, I’ve put the details under that heading.

As well as finishing off my clothing declutter, I also need to focus on the following:

  • Sorting through my paperwork (tends to build up however hard you try to reduce it)
  • Sorting through my books (I now buy Kindle books but have quite a few books that I haven’t even looked at for 5 or even 10 years…)
  • Sorting the kitchen cupboards (checking everything is in date and fit for consumption)
  • Sorting the freezer

So, as mentioned above, I’m not entirely new to the concept of minimalism and de-cluttering. One of the main reasons for doing this is just to keep life simple. Sorting through heaving wardrobes trying to find something to wear is stressful and I’m keen that my life is as stress-free and easy as possible.

Decluttering isn’t just of the material nature… I’ve got my meditation classes starting next Tuesday in order to do some mind de-cluttering!

 

 

First step: getting rid of unwanted clothes

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Clothes to get rid of

Its Easter Saturday today which means a long four day weekend and the perfect time to start making some progress towards a capsule wardrobe!

Wikipedia explains the official term capsule wardrobe was coined in the 1970’s by somebody called Susie Faux with the idea being you create a wardrobe with a few essential pieces of key clothing that don’t go out of fashion.

Like most things, you can take this type of phrase and adapt it as you wish. My reasons for creating a capsule wardrobe are as follows:

  • Reduce the stress of too much clothing clutter
  • Create more space in my wardrobe
  • Only keep clothes I actually wear

With reference to the third point above it has been said that the 80:20 rule often applies to clothes and I found several web articles on this. The idea is “many people wear only 20% of their clothes for 80% of the time”. I think this is a fairly accurate description of the frequency of the clothes I wear!

I’ve made the initial attempt at de-cluttering my wardrobe… I think I still have a few more things to reduce before I can official say I have a ‘capsule wardrobe’ but I’m pleased I’ve made a start today!

These were the basic rules I applied to my clothing de-clutter:

  1. Get rid of anything that is too big – now that I’ve lost nearly 2 stones since 4th December 2017 I don’t want to keep anything that is too big ‘just in case’. I need to get it into my head that my current size is my size and that it is a permanent thing and not a temporary state. So after trying multiple things on I’ve sifted out various items of larger clothing that now look ridiculously baggy.
  2. Get rid of old and tired looking clothes – and faded and generally clothes that are past their best. Some of these items of clothing have hung around in my wardrobe for a couple of years and are just taking up space.
  3. Just keep a small number of ‘indoor’ clothes – like the old pair of jeans that you wouldn’t want to wear if you are going out but are OK to wear around the home. You only need one such pair! And maybe a couple of tops…
  4. Get rid of clothes I haven’t worn in a while – I don’t want to put a time limit on these as some only get worn on certain types of occasion. For example, I may not have worn my strappy sandals for 12 months but that doesn’t mean I won’t wear them in the summer. I think this just needs a bit of common sense and maybe re-phrasing to ‘get rid of clothes I am not intending to wear ever again’…

So I still have my shoes and underwear to go through but already I have a nice big chunk of space in my wardrobe!

And I need to start thinking more carefully about how I’m going to apply the idea of a capsule wardrobe which I think is something more than just getting rid of a few clothes…

 

 

March book review

Book number 5

Book read: Balancing on Blue by Keith Foskett

A fantastic account of the authors incredible 2,200 mile journey as he made his way on foot the entire length of the Appalachian Trail. This makes the recent 632 mile South West Coast Path book I read look somewhat tame although both are amazing achievements…

Both books, and also the Kamikaze Kangaroo book which had a section where the author trekked Australia’s 623 mile Bibbulmun Track are really starting to inspire me to do a long distance walk. My feet are getting itchier by the day…

At the moment the UK’s South West Coast Path is probably the most realistic to aspire to (no bears or rattlesnakes to contend with) although I don’t think I would get another career break from work any time soon…  And I haven’t actually done anything more challenging than a weekend of hiking… maybe I should try a week of daily hikes first?

This was another of those books I got through fairly quickly as it was hard to put down… I loved the way Fozzie effortlessly weaved his feelings, experiences and connections with the harsh facts of what it’s like to experience life as a thru-hiker on the trail.

Again, much of this book resonated with my constant desire to travel and explore… “the desire to roam is all I dream of” says Keith. This is me. I am always dreaming of exploring but the difference is, Keith is out there doing it while I’m spending far too much time dreaming while in the office…

I found many more inspiring quotes in Fozzie’s book and another was from one of his trail buddies, who, upon his return back into civilization said:

Page: 261

“I had no desire to own anything other than the crappiest car in existence. It also acted as a people-filter. I had little time for anyone who judged me on the basis of my car, and you would be surprised how few people that left.”

I can definitely identify with that too!

I’m keen to read more of Fozzie’s books… I’ve been thinking that maybe I should expand my literary horizons and read a book that isn’t a travel book but I haven’t quite managed to do that yet… I’ve now started following the adventures of a family travelling the world in a camper van…

 

 

Plastic pollution: initial thoughts…

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The issue of plastic pollution, particularly in the oceans has become big news recently and this was the one thing which saddened me the most during our 2016 travels. Thankfully there is much greater awareness now so I won’t go into the full details here.

Chris and I are, however, committed to reducing our personal consumption of the dreaded P material and as I feel so strongly about it, I wanted to make it one of my 50 pledges for this year.

A short tour around our home is our first starting point:

  • Packets of instant Microwave rice while convenient to pop into the microwave for 2 minutes, if we did this once a week there would be 52 pieces of rice bag plastic discarded in some landfill site. Our new alternative is to revert back to Uncle Ben’s boxed rice… while more fiddly and time-consuming we are trying to get away from such a convenience lifestyle at the expense of the planet. 
  • Individually wrapped dishwasher tablets similar to above… this would equate to 365 little bits of unnecessary plastic just from us! We will revert back to buying dishwasher powder in cardboard boxes.
  • Plastic food bags we try to re-use these where possible. For example if I take my lunch to work in a plastic food box, I usually put this inside a large plastic food bag just in case it leaks… while this has happened on occasion, I now wash the outer plastic bag and re-use it.
  • Fruit and veg in plastic bags at the moment we order our fruit and veg from Ocado, the online shopping delivery company. The drawback is that fruit and veg is delivered in plastic bags and single use containers. We are currently considering a separate weekly fruit and veg delivery from Riverford Organic and will shortly place an order. As a green company they don’t use plastic bags and supply fruit and veg in a box.
  • Toothbrush Chris has just started using a bamboo toothbrush.
  • Coffee-on-the-go last year we brought a Starbucks reusable cup-to-go each and try to take these with us when we are out and about.

On a recent holiday to Antigua we made a conscious effort to use zero bottles of water. We managed to achieve this with a Water-to-go bottle each. We filtered all of our drinking water from our bathroom tap and didn’t use a single plastic water bottle or indeed drinks bottle for the 10 days we were there.

We will continue to look for ways to reduce our plastic consumption and I’ll post regular updates throughout the year.

 

 

February book review(s)

So, another two books completed before the end of February! Both are travel books again, documenting the adventures of two very different styles of traveller. Chris Pountney who cycled from Paris to Sydney and George Mahood who backpacked with his wife from Quito to Lima.

Book read: No Wrong Turns: Cycling the World, Part One: Paris to Sydney by Chris Pountney

Book number 3…

Wow! An awesome book! What a guy! I enjoyed every sentence of this book and was gripped right from the beginning… How could anyone even consider cycling from Paris to Sydney? This seemed such an impossible task and is only the first leg of his World cycle tour! And he didn’t even take the most direct route! Chris set himself a number of conditions one of which was to cycle through 100 countries.

Having begun in Paris, he headed off up through Germany to Scandinavia before dropping back down via Estonia and Poland and back through Germany towards Ukraine.

Not only was the adventure side incredible to read, the author has a brilliant style of writing which, together with his descriptions and humour make this one amazing package.

I was quite sorry when the book finished in Sydney so I’m now a regular reader of his website, eager to catch up with Chris and his now wife, Dea.

I love Chris’s approach and way of thinking… How to travel for next to nothing… Get a bike of course!

Awesome quote:

“But I also hoped that if I could circumnavigate the entire planet without ever once getting in a motor vehicle, it might just inspire one or two people that they could perhaps do their shopping without one.” Page 132

This is the best of the four books I’ve read so far this year.

And note to self: I have huge admiration for Chris and while I have been inspired to lead a more adventurous life, I don’t think (extraordinarily) long distance cycling is for me…

Book number 4:

Book: Travels with Rachel: In search of South America by George Mahood

A book documenting the author and his wife’s 6 week adventure through Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.

I enjoyed this book as I was able to closely relate to their travel style which was similar to the way Chris and I travelled in 2016. Yes, we are middle aged and did manage to spend a day doing the short version of the Inca trail to Machu Picchu and climb up and down the steep paths of the Sacred Valley without just about making it to the gift shops (as George seemed to imply this was the case for anyone over 30…)

I loved reading about the places we didn’t get to such as Ecuador and the Amazon rainforest trip (both of which I would love to do in the future) as well as those places we did visit.

As well as plenty of reminiscing and developing an even stronger desire to travel to South America again, the main thing I took from his book was the inspiration to turn our 2016 adventures into a book! We were away for 11 months in total, exploring the Pacific, Asia, Central and South America… We captured much of our adventures in our blog so surely it can’t be too difficult to turn this into a book???

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Oct 2016: me at Machu Picchu

 

 

New job or not?

Advertised jobs I’ve been tempted to apply for so far this year = 8

Jobs applied for = 0

I’ve been in my current job since 2010 and at the beginning of the year I had a big urge to look for something different thus decided to include this at the last minute as one of my 50@50 challenges.

The issue I have at the moment is that I actually enjoy my job and have a relatively high degree of flexibility which suits the way I wish to lead my life… this is great but on the other hand I also love change and the prospect of ‘starting a new chapter’… I am a bit of an experience junkie and find the prospect of experiencing a new job and a different place to work to be hugely exciting…

Good things about my current job:

  • 32.5 days annual leave (and I carried 10 over from last year)
  • 2 flexi days per month (handy for weekend trips)
  • I work with fantastic people and we all get on well
  • I can work from home 2 x days a week
  • I enjoy my job with new projects and areas of work each year

What is appealing about a different job:

  • Higher earning potential = retire earlier/better pension… (proper retirement planning is important when you are 50…)
  • I love change and new experiences

As is often the case, decisions are about striking a good balance in your life. I am fortunate to have such a flexible job which enables me enough time to take several trips each year which meets my desire to travel.

But… if I push myself a little could I potentially find a higher paid job, retire on a better pension and travel more when I’m older…

 

 

January book review(s)

Book read: Kamikazi Kangaroo’s! 20,000 Miles Around Australia. One Van, Two Girls… And An Idiot. by Tony James Slater

My first book review following the challenge I set myself to read a book each month. 

Even though the author is nearly half my age and (by his own admission) a weird bumbling idiot I really enjoyed reading this book. The book follows Tony’s adventures and escapades of driving around Australia in a battered old camper van, together with his sister and her friend.

They have an enviable carefree lifestyle which lacks any real responsibility or any sense of direction. They have no money and no plans but somehow seem to get by with odd jobs along the way.

The book is somewhat crude and even a bit cringy in places but still hilarious all the way through… It gave a great insight into this kind of lifestyle and a real sense of escapism as I sat reading it (via the Kindle app on my iPad) as I commuted in and out of work.

I enjoyed learning more about Australia and loved Tony’s account of the Bibbulmun Track which inspired me to consider a long distance trail in the future… and a road trip around Australia…

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(I have no kangaroo pics…)

So… you might have noticed.. ahem… the heading of this post states ‘reviews’… yes… after not picking up a book for possibly 4 or 5 years I managed to get through TWO books already this month! I’ve enjoyed the sense of escapism (as mentioned above) that reading these type of adventure books brings… a good way to relax and get inspired too…

OK… here is book number 2:

Book read: Just Off For A Walk by Stephen Reynolds

Review: This book is an account of the authors incredible adventures as he walks the entire 630 mile South West Coast Path in one go! He is an average 37 year old office worker who discovered a passion for walking.

While well written it’s not as hilariously funny as the Kamikazee Kangaroos book as mentioned above but Stephen does have a good sense of humour. He has no ego and seems a really decent chap.

I can’t believe his diet… all he seemed to eat was chips, mars bars, some kind of spicy sausage/pepperoni and Weetabix every day… I mean, every single day…. he was doing wonders for his body and his physical fitness levels yet he filled his body with junk…

Anyway, Stephen also inspired me to do this awesome long distance trail at some point! I don’t think my work will allow another career break for a while so I’ll just have to put this on hold… actually I first thought about doing the South West coast path about 12 years ago when I first heard about it… this book has only but fuelled another ambition…

 

 

 

Welcome to my blog!

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Argentina road trip

Thank you for visiting ’50 at 50′ where to celebrate the year I turn 50, this significant milestone in my life, I decided to set myself 50 experiences and challenges.

Follow me on the journey through my year of turning 50 where I will post regular updates on each of the 50 challenges.

And hurrah… the first part of my first challenge i.e. setting up this blog is now complete!

The above photo was taken in November 2016 during an Argentinian road trip from Salta to Cachi. More information can be found at From Blue to Green

Do please leave any comments…