I’ve just returned from a skiing trip to France and while I was away, I reminded myself just how important the mountains are to me. Being up high and in beautiful scenery always makes me feel good about myself. Beyond that, it can do many different things for me, depending on what I need. Sometimes, it allows me to simply get away from it all and forget whatever is troubling me. At other times, it allows me the time and space to think through those problems and gain (quite literally) a different perspective on life – by being up high and being able to see for miles (this does happen in Scotland sometimes, I promise!) my problems feel smaller and easier to deal with and give a perspective that in the grand scheme of things, it probably isn’t that big a deal. Physical exercise gives me some happy endorphins that make me feel better, but again its more than that – the regular ‘stomp stomp’ of my boots gives a nice rhythm to think to, the wind blows away any cobwebs and clears the mind and being surrounded by such natural beauty helps me to realise how special and beautiful life is. Sometimes, I go out in the howling wind and blizzard to remind myself how tough I can be when I need to be, and that things normally calm down eventually.
The mountains being important to me was never more apparent to me than back in January 2011. After being unwell for nearly a year, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an incurable digestive disorder. After a few months of pretty heavy steroids, struggling at work and a few weekends spent uncharacteristically in bed feeling utterly sorry for myself, I decided I needed to escape to the mountains. I drove to North Wales by myself and although I didn’t feel well enough to go up anything big, I went for a walk in a remote valley in Snowdonia.
The effect was instantaneous. Sitting on a huge boulder in the sunshine, seeing the blue sky above me, the clouds gently whispering their way over my head, and all the sounds of peace and quiet and nature around me. I just felt instantly better. Not entirely fixed, but sooooo much better.
I had always said I didn’t want to do my hobby as a job, for fear of ‘spoiling’ my hobby. However, at that moment, I just wondered to myself two things;
- Why on earth wouldn’t I want to spend more time in such beautiful mountain environments for my own wellbeing; and
- Wouldn’t it be a fantastic gift to give other people the same feeling I had right at that moment?
That was probably the first time I had seriously considered doing ‘something’ in the mountains as a job. Although its early days so far, I find that, in fact, it has broadened by hobby and made me see other dimensions and aspects that just makes me love and appreciate it more. More of that in later blogs…..
I still keep a separation between work and hobby.
At work, I need to be entirely in my comfort zone, in order to help clients who may be at the edge of theirs. Doing things that may be ‘easy’ for me enables me to fully be there for someone else, both as a coach and a mountain leader. Taking a slower pace also allows me to fully appreciate my surroundings and re-experience all the joys by seeing it through a fresh novice pair of eyes.
As a hobby, I’m able to push and stretch myself and my own boundaries harder and get more of an adrenaline rush. I can walk for long hours until my feet ache and my knees beg me to sit down. I can scramble or climb, I can finish in the dark to practice my navigation, or go out in horrific weather just to get the feeling that I’ve battled against nature and survived.
Lesson I Learnt - “Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life” – its an old cliché, but for the most part, its really true! I have found doing my hobby as a job has enriched my experience of it, brought new aspects and dimensions, seen it through someone else’s eyes and allowed me to combine it with something else I love doing: helping people. When I talk to people about what I do, they often say that my obvious passion makes them want to join me and experience it for themselves. When you do something you love, you generally do it really well, and that’s good for everyone.