ID: A landscape image. Fay stands in the water of a mountain lake. The mountains in the background are covered with a golden light. The lake looks calm and there are rocks in the foreground. Fay is stood with right arm on side and is wearing a black swimsuit.
There was this feeling, that, when we started to travel at the very start of our This Expansive Adventure days got me hooked. For a good while into travelling, I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. It was usually a fairly unique combination of things that would ‘bring it on’ so to speak. It could be a gorgeous drive through the mountains. It could be a sense of fulfillment after a tough adventure that I’d had to push through fear and get to the other side. I started to just refer to it as ‘that feeling’, not really having the words to understand it. I remembered I’d experienced it a few times when I first moved to London, but never as intensely as I was experiencing it through travel. After months of experiencing it, it started to dawn on me that this feeling was joy, happiness. Now, I’m not saying I’d never felt happiness before I started travelling, but the way in which it manifested itself in my body and my emotions was ultimately different to anything I’d ever felt before. This was ultimately the feeling that set me on a path of mindfulness and all of the intentionally connected nature based experiences that I’ve had – and indeed have written about since. This was the point in which I realized just how important and pivotal travel, adventure and spending time intentionally connecting could be to wellbeing.
ID: A landscape image. Shot toward sunset with the light captivating the mountains. In the foreground are green and brown hills, in the background are mountain peaks that are hitting a hazy light,. The sky is dark grey and overcast with hints of sunshine.
‘That feeling’ as I still refer to it, is, I believe an individual place that most people can get to, but it’s about finding the combination of things, or even just the one thing that brings that up for you. It’s about being realistic. It’s a feeling that doesn’t come around every moment of the day and I think in some ways, that’s what makes it really special. It’s an intense sense of joy, where, at that moment in time, everything just seems to be fitting into place exactly as it should be. Your senses are heightened. You have an ultimate appreciation of what is around you. We can often feel that set of emotions on a smaller scale related to particular events or interactions but feeling that for extended periods of time (and I can be talking sometimes only 30 minutes) is a real treat. When I started experiencing that feeling, it was enough to keep me going for a whole day.
ID: A landscape image. Matt stands on a rock outcrop looking at a mountain view in front of him. The air is hazy and so this is impacting the focus of the mountains. He looks out to the right and is pictured from behind. He wears grey trousers, grey hoody and grey and green backpack.
When we made the progression to living this life full time, for me, it was very much shaped around the idea of wanting to have more enjoyable experiences, more frequently. This was, until we started exploring and connecting, not something I’d really experienced. I felt like my life was spent going through the motions. That feeling of wanting a more intentionally connected life was something I felt very passionate about, and I always looked forward to the curiosity around when I’d feel ‘that feeling’ again on our adventures. Then coronavirus hit, and the shock of what was going on was really intense and I just seemed to forget about the really intricate details of what made the life we’d been living so exciting and feel so good. I suppose it makes a lot of sense, you take something away and what you’re left with becomes the normal. I felt really unfulfilled, un three dimensional so to speak, but I had no idea what was really causing it. I just figured it was that we weren’t able to travel. I suppose over time, you really stop thinking about the detail and start thinking about what is going on in broader terms. Add into that the stress around the impact the pandemic had, and any dreams, thoughts and notions of how good these things made me feel went away or were put behind a closed door for the time being.
ID: A landscape image. Fay is pictured swimming in a wild swimming spot at the base of a waterfall. The water from above is white and fast flowing. Around the pool are lots of big rocks. The image is quite brown and Fay is looking at the waterfall wearing a black swimsuit.
It’s fair to say that as we’ve started to ramp back up our travel over the last four or so months, it hasn’t been the easiest experience. For a while, we were making really short trips happen around hikes that we wanted to do. Many times, we felt guilty for going out and doing that. It felt weird being away from home for the day. Because it had been such a long time since I experienced that feeling, the first time I experienced a glimmer of it again, I can remember the first time I experienced it again clearly. We’d just finished a hike in the North York Moors National Park and decided to go for a bit of a drive before we headed back. It was sunny, and for an April Day, it felt balmy. It was the first time we’d really experienced mountains or at least landscapes like this since probably our last visit to the Peak District months previously. As we travelled along this gorgeous back road, we saw a herd of wild cattle – the golden light was glinting over their horns and ears and I smiled. We were listening to music – I can’t remember exactly what, but it felt like the crescendos were happening in beat to the twists and turns we took. Suddenly ‘that feeling’ started to wash over me. I felt an intense feeling of joy and I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d felt it. It actually felt quite alien. It sunk into me right then and there just how sad the last year or so had felt. None the less, I enjoyed this moment – for these were the moments that I may have forgotten about but are ultimately the most important to me. I subsequently felt this again a number of times on other really short trips, but they never lasted long. It was always an experience that just happened for seconds at a time and I couldn’t fully connect to.
ID: A landscape image. The image is dark and is shot toward sunset. The mountains in the foreground of the image have a cloud rolling over the top of them which seems to fit perfectly. The cloud that is there is picking up a pink hue – likely from the sunset. The sky behind is colours of blue, yellow and pink.
Then our first bigger trip came on the cards – to the Lake District, Cumbria. The Lake District is an area that we’ve visited a couple of times, but because we were generally out of the UK so much, trips within the UK were often not something we had time to make happen. We always felt this was quite a big shame as every time we’d been, we’d always loved it. I’ve always been fascinated by the place – it was an area my parents used to go on holiday a lot when they were newly married and there has been a slate plaque up in my mum’s house on the staircase that I’d see every single day until I left home with a picture of the famous bridge in Ambleside engraved onto it. My mum, who now has mobility issues, would often talk fondly of their walks in the Lake District when I’d tell her about our adventures and so the place has always had a charm and intrigue. If you’re not familiar with the area, it is home to some of the tallest mountains in England (in fact, it’s home to the highest mountain in England – Scafell Pike at 978m). It is also, as the name might suggest, home to a lot of lakes. Although, I recently found out that technically the Lake District has 16 lakes, with the rest (mountain ones) being meres, tarns and waters). Either way, I love them all so I felt quite excited about this adventure.
ID: A portrait image. Out of focus foliage takes over the bottom portion of the frame and is made up of orange and yellow hues. In the middle of the frame, Fay is walking away from the camera into a mountain view. Fay is wearing black leggings, purple top, blue backpack and has hiking poles in the side of the pack.
After having long covid since catching the virus very early on, it has been a really hard slog to get back my hiking fitness in the way it was beforehand. Over the last few months, I’ve been building up more and more height and distance and when it came to the time we were about to head off to the Lake District, I felt pretty confident. I remember one of the first times we visited the Lakes back at the start of This Expansive Adventure, I had a few disappointments and felt like many of the things I tried to do were biting off more than I could chew. So, with my new refreshed sense of lust for adventure and travel, I was ready to take on the challenge of some gorgeous hikes and wild swims.
ID: A landscape image. Matt walks up a mountain path and is fairly small in the image as he walks toward the camera. He is mostly wearing black and holds his camera in hand. The mountains in the background are green and brown. The sky is dark grey.
As we headed off on our long drive from London and got stuck in a lot of traffic within not very long, we laughed and remarked to each other ‘this is certainly something I haven’t missed about travel’. I also really hate packing and organizing for trips. Getting everything ready can feel like the most stressful thing, especially if we’ve got a deadline coming up right to the line. Which we happened to have happen right before this trip. I think it is really interesting how we over glorify things sometimes without taking on this sense of realism. You may only see the beautiful parts of a trip, especially on social media, but what we forget to remember is all of the things that go alongside that which aren’t quite as fun. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that these parts that you don’t enjoy (and I’m not going to specify as everyone has a different ‘thing’ that they don’t enjoy) should determine your travel, but I think it is interesting to look at ultimately what brings you joy and the pay offs of that. I think there is going to be a lot of change around this when it comes to travel over the coming years: where we start to look at and choose how we want to connect.
Looking for some more hiking inspiration in the UK? You might enjoy our article on the best hikes in the Peak District.
ID: A landscape image. A car features on a mountain pass – it is blue. The scenery is rocky and there are hills in the background in browns and greens. The sky is slightly overcast with hints of blue.
Eventually we arrived (only a mere 10 hours later) at our destination. It was sunny, and I could feel my mood start to improve. The next day, we headed out for our first hike and because we knew the route and we had a lot of daylight hours, we decided to take it that bit easier in the morning and start around lunch time. As we approached the car park for that first hike, we very quickly realized and remembered that pretty much everyone in the UK is currently having a staycation and we maybe needed to have arrived earlier. We laughed at ourselves, whilst secretly feeling a little bit annoyed that this had happened. We looked at one of our back up options and realized this was over an hours drive away, but set off on our way. Before we set off, I’d remembered to download one of our old driving playlists that we used to listen to a lot and so I put that on as we drove down the winding, steeply graded roads to our destination. As we turned a corner and started to head downhill, I was presented with the most incredible view of valleys, mountains layered together and sunshine peering through the peeks. It was a gorgeous day and I smiled. I started to get ‘that feeling’ and it came in full force. I felt my senses heighten. The hairs on my arms stood on end. I felt the sun bask over my face as I closed my eyes for a second and smiled. I opened the car window and felt the warm breeze and the smell of summery air intertwined with a thousand wild flowers. The gush of emotions seemed to flood over me and I felt so intoxicated by it. I breathed deeply and felt the starts of tears forming in the corners of my eyes. I hadn’t felt this feeling like that for over a year at this point. It felt good to feel it again. It made me feel like in some ways, I’d come home.
Our hike that day was met with a lot of sweaty panting and huffing as we climbed the most ridiculously steep incline with the sun bracing our backs. There were those moments that we get on every hike where we wonder what on earth we’re doing it for. The views made it worth it. As cliché as that feels to say, that sense of wonder, exploration and deep gratitude that we were back out in those big mountains for the first time in a long time felt like a welcome reward for the time we’d faced over the last year. We smiled and looked at each other and hugged. We looked at the view and our conversation changed on the way back down. It felt much more at ease. It felt much more romantic and heightened.
ID: A landscape image. Fay stands to the left of the frame on a cliff edge looking out at a gorgeous hazy mountain view. Fay is wearing black leggings, pink top and blue bag and has hiking poles in both hands.
I was desperate for a swim, because I’d noticed I was starting to find reasons why not to, so we headed to a lake I’d wanted to swim in for quite a while – Buttermere. It took me a lot of courage to get in that lake – there was a lot of umming and wondering but that moment where I pushed off and felt the water swirl around my body felt like heaven. Soon, the lower light as the sun started to make it’s way down the sky started to paint the mountains in the background yellow and orange. As I swam back and forth, I could feel the glinting sun on my back and face. I managed to get Matt, who was more hesitant, into the water – promising it wasn’t that cold. Swimming together and feeling that rush of endorphins as we moved ourselves through the water felt treasured. The calm we felt, the sound of the water splashing, the feeling of the setting sun brisking over the water. I didn’t want that moment to ever end.
ID: A landscape image. Matt is sat on a rock eating from a food container with a fork. He is looking out at the view to his right and is smiling. He is wearing grey trousers, red coat and sunglasses on his head.
I realized as I was drying off that the good experiences we have in life can certainly outweigh the bad experiences. The problem is, if we are not having any experiences that allow us to outweigh the bad. Whilst I’m not saying that everything we’ve experienced in the last year has been bad, there have been more bad times than good and they certainly feel like they have had center weight. You can call it escapism if you want, but I actually choose to see it differently. I think that connecting mindfully can be a great way to help us reset and relax in difficult times. Even though not everything is perfect or amazing in our lives right now, these moments of cherish and wonder are so important to me. I realized at that point that I wanted to recommit to my kindness again. I wanted to recommit to my sense of wonder. I wanted to recommit to my sense of not feeling guilt for feeling joy. That last one was a big one for me! The thing is, though, just because you’ve said you’re going to recommit to something, doesn’t mean it just happens. Very far from it. The decision is merely the idea and the work that comes next isn’t glamorous or pretty. Sometimes it can mean forcing yourself to do something when you don’t want to, which is exactly what I experienced over the coming days.
ID: A landscape image. In the foreground is a triangular shaped mountain side with lots of grass and green. In the background are hazy jutting peaks. It is overcast but there is a highlighted quality to the image.
I woke up the next day feeling like I couldn’t be bothered. For some reason, I just felt it would be easier to stay small, and to enjoy just being. Maybe we could go and explore in the local area? Maybe I could use a busy car park as a reason not to try. Even though I’d been so excited about this trip, something in me had resisted this want for more joy and it was not breaking down. I was secretly annoyed when we got to our car park for that day’s hike and there was plenty of space. At that moment, I remembered I’d made that commitment to myself of pushing where the joy was. Surprise surprise, by the end of that hike I felt great. Our conversations changed and I was raring for whatever was next. This was subsequently the case throughout the rest of the trip as we explored and photographed. We found amazing scenery that literally spoke to us in poetry through weather conditions for mere moments at a time. For the first time in months, I didn’t feel like just an observer, I felt like a documentarian telling the story of the world in whatever way it wanted to present its verse. I felt engaged rather than passive.
ID: A landscape image. Matt is hiking down a narrow path on a mountain and is centre frame. He is wearing grey trousers, purple top and a grey and green backpack. He is pictured from behind. In the background are more soft mountains with greens and browns from vegetation. The sky is a little overcast.
On the last day, after a number quite intense days in a row, I woke up feeling tired. I’d been starting to get my intense muscle aches returning that I’ve come to have to live with since Covid which really impact me whilst hiking and I just didn’t feel I could do it. We had a big mountain planned that day and realistically decided that it just wasn’t going to be possible. I won’t lie, I was disappointed, but I remembered my commitment to reframing towards what might bring more joy and decided to see what else was possible. You see, being rigid with pretty much everything going on in life has been the ultimate of unlearning for me. It hasn’t been easy, but what I generally find is that being more flexible has lead to some of my favorite, most cherished times. Some of my favorite hikes have come from things like this – and just as one of the last times I found probably my favorite hike ever – the Little Lakes Trail in the Sierra Nevada, California, today wouldn’t be any different. I found a trail that felt reasonable for that day and plotted a route. When we arrived and spent the first hour finding somewhere to park, I was starting to lose my enthusiasm. When we got on the trail and I saw the trail meander off up the mountain steeply on the side with a very thin path, I started to feel nervous. It was like a lot of my old worries and fears came running back to me and I just felt like I didn’t want to do it. I thought to myself, at that moment that I could very easily turn round – make an excuse and head back. But the part of me that wondered what I’d see, experience and feel if I kept going took over. It turned out that the trail was fine – actually pretty fun to be honest. As we hiked up to our ‘pot of gold’; the tarn at the top, I felt that connected feeling. Today it wasn’t about a particular summit, it was about enjoying. We ate lunch by the tarn and then headed back down. We’d found a wild swimming spot at the base of a waterfall a bit further down that we wanted to swim in, and I was really excited. It looked cold and I was all for it! As I made my way over the rocks, I just kept focusing on what it was I wanted – to get in the water – rather than all the reasons I could not have done it. The water, surprise surprise, felt amazing and I felt another sense of achievement when Matt got in too. The truth is, you’ll always find reasonsnotto do something. They will ultimately try and win out. What if, instead, you looked for the reasonstodo something?
ID: A landscape image. Fay is pictured from behind hiking down a narrow mountain path on the right hand side. Fay wears black shoes, trousers and pink top. Fay also wears a blue backpack with Kula Cloth attached and is using hiking poles. The background is mountain peaks as they are near the top of their hike.
As we headed back down the mountain after our swim, I felt so happy. We were talking mindfully. I could feel that my voice had changed. It felt clearer and crisper. I felt more decisive with my words. I felt more confident. I was noticing and appreciating everything in so much more detail.
It might have been a long time since I’d experienced those feelings in my body, but they still felt as familiar as they once did. They seemed to just ‘fit me’, no questions asked. They made me feel alive in a unique way that feels connected to my very core of who I am as a human. Those feelings make me feel home.
It took one and a bit years with very little travel to help me realise that you can feel so at home so many miles away from your physical home.
ID: A landscape image of a lake. In the foreground are rocks and stones. In the middle is the water from the lake with a mirror reflection of the lake. The sky is slightly overcast with bright blue behind. It is a fair weather day and the light is golden.