This time last year there was an overwhelming sense of a need for change. This wasn’t the superficial, ephemeral tokenism of New Year resolutions but driven by a dissatisfaction with the course life was taking.

The early manifestations of change were functional and pragmatic. I emptied the contents of my loft onto eBay and reinvested the resultant funds into experiences or tools that would facilitate these experiences – namely bikes(!)

Lightened both spiritually and materially after clearing this consumer flotsam, I managed to sell my house and thus remove a set of irons that had shackled me to a financial commitment disproportionate to any benefits home ownership delivered. That’s not to say I don’t wish to buy another home – I do – but not one that becomes such an inflexible burden.

Moving house is a stressful business of course. However, in common with many, 2014 presented other challenges and these are yet to fully play out. The latter half of the year has been particularly difficult, accounting for the sporadic activity on these pages focusing on the simple escape of riding and building bikes or (not) hitting the hills.

In all honesty, the hills haven’t provided solace during these difficult times and I have found comfort elsewhere on the windswept roads near home, where the physical effort of cycling has allowed me to fully disengage. Turning the pedals has become the tonic to turning over problems in my head. Walking and wild camping, by contrast, just seemed to feed an unhelpful introspection.

Conceding this saddens me. The hills have always provided an effective counterpoint to the day to day and it has been odd to find them so lacking in the lustre which has, in the past, been so nourishing. I hope to reclaim this feeling soon; like the best of friends, they will always be there.

Reflecting on the last 12 months I have the sense of a job half done. The dilapidated rental cottage on the edge of the Peak District we now call home will serve us in the interim, but that overwhelming sense of change felt so strongly a year ago continues to be a major motivation and one that I can draw strength from in dealing with the other challenges currently faced.

For now then, may I wish you and yours the very best for 2015.


18 thoughts on “Reflections

  1. Hi Matt, I can really empathise with much of what you say. I find that walking and backpacking can sometimes give your mind freedom to ponder problems, even when you want to switch off from them. My wife often tells me to get out for a walk when I’m feeling a bit stressed, but I know that this is sometimes the wrong time to head out as I may just end up running things through my mind too much. I find this especially true when I’ve been living in an area for a long while and have walked every inch of the area endless times before….you know every turn of the path, rock and tree and so there’s less to distract your mind from thoughts. This year I’ve tried to follow Adam Ford’s advise (The Art of Mindful Walking), ‘Don’t set out to do some thoughtful walking, just walk.’

    1. Hi, thanks for the comment. I haven’t heard of this book so will check it out. I’m also a fan of The Gentle Art of Tramping by Stephen Graham which revels in the simple pleasures of stepping out. “As you sit on the hillside, or lie prone under the trees of the forest, or sprawl wet-legged by a mountain stream, the great door, that does not look like a door, opens.” Something I need to rediscover…

  2. A couple of good book recommendations there for me to try. I also like to think when I’m walking, best stress relief I know.

    All the best for 2015 Matt, hope you get your walking mojo back 🙂

  3. Matt
    Lot of empathy with what you have said here. Keep making the changes. Its not always easy but keep at it. Hoping to make some myself this year. They have been a long time coming!
    I’ve cycled seriously since I was 16 (now mid 40’s) so fully understand that a blast on the bike can provide a “pick me up” or simply relieve some stress. Just to need to select the bike to go out on!
    Have a good 2015!
    John Hutchins

    1. Thanks for dropping by John and the comment. Not wishing to over-dramatise, but I’m not sure what I’d have done last year without my bikes. A couple of hours in the saddle re calibrated the compass on several occasions. As for bike selelction…? Well, that’s part of the fun isn’t it?! Best wishes, Matt.

  4. you’re not alone in this attitudinal shift away from the hills to the tarmac. I came to a similar conclusion re the walking/camping switch to cycling 2 years ago. Walking and camping wasnt quite doing it for me and my wife encouraged me to try cycling.

    The benefits have been nothing short of stunning. I managed to lose 3 stone in weight and I am now fitter at 46 than I was at 26. Also I am approaching the 10,000 mile mark and will pass that sometime this month having only bought a bike in Jan 2013.

    What I will say is that although cycling is still my ‘buzz’ and my foil for stress removal, I am hankering after a bit of walking and camping and have actually started getting back into the hills properly now. You may find that you feel the same at some point.

    The only down side is that I seem to spend an awful lot of time out of the house and weekends whizz by! Luckily my wife shares both my passions and so its not a barrier as it might be for some. The only downside is that my wife is starting to do trail running and I just know I will get sucked into that as well!

    Have a good 2015 and maybe bump into you on the road at somepoint 🙂

  5. Thought provoking stuff, both in the post and the comments! I love The Gentle Art of Tramping (I will lend it to Andy SurfnSlide next time I see him, which will be soon). I shall be looking out for Mindful Walking. I used to do a lot of cycling in my teens(although some of my friends seem to have a hard time believing that), but it something we rarely do now. Perhaps I need to make more of an effort, the rest of the family are keen. Walking generally works for me, although I know that sometimes I can spend the early part of walk entirely ‘in my head’ going over things I ought to be getting away from, eventually something will distract me and my blood-pressure starts to fall!

    1. After writing this post (and I’m still not entirely sure where it came from!) I have spent quite a bit of time on foot in the hills, albeit in a rather casual manner. These experiences have been enriching, no doubt helped by some lovely winter conditions we’ve enjoyed over the last few weeks. Consequently, I am trying to alter my approach and focus ‘in the moment’ when I am out. It’s about retraining the brain, I guess, and not always easy. However, I feel I am making progress 🙂

  6. I’m a “bit” late to leaving a comment – as I am reading this. It struck me that these more introspective post, these with a more long distant overarching view are my favorites. It’s too much lacking in many cycling and adventure blogs, especially those written here in the US where it seems to always be about some sort of “Epic” experience. Sure, amazing Adventrues are what lures us all at first – but I think if in some ways it does not touch us in our souls and touch some tender or desperate part of us, then after a while it’s like a ride at Disney Land; entertaining but not personal and honest enough where it leads to any deeper growth.

    So, in a roundabout way, you, I think, are getting what you seek – and so are we in learning from your words. Real emotions and real growth. Those we can use in real life, far more than simply another perfect sunrise and a sunny road.

    I’ve spent two and a half years in hospitals, so I’m catching up with your older posts, which I missed when they were new. The dates don’t matter. These lessons are timeless. Thanks for putting them down.

    1. Thank you so much for this… it means a great deal. Life has been very hard of late and things became particularly difficult last year for one reason or another. Although I questioned my motivations at the time, I do think it’s right to document – appropriately – on here. If others find some value in it as I have done, then all the better. I’m pleased to say life is slowly turning a corner. It has been, and will no doubt continue to be, a challenge but I’m lucky that important folk have been there for me when I needed them the most.

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