Adventure When You Can't Adventure?
The Nicaragua expedition included two in wheelchairs, one deaf, one blind, one double foot amputee, two arm amputees, one with spina bifida and three single leg amputees. We start from where we are
And greetings from the shadows of a sunrise.
Boscombe Pier stands two miles away. If I were an eagle, even at this distance, I’d be able to see the squirrels in the trees.
As eagle-me can see light in the near ultraviolet spectrum, I’d also be able to follow the trails of their wee.
Isn’t life amazing?
For those of you new to these pages, hello 👋 My name is David and I’m a writer, outdoor instructor and cyclist-at-large with Thighs of Steel. I write stories that help you and me understand the world (and ourselves) a little better.
Welcome to edition 345.
Adventure When You Can't Adventure
It’s been a slow start for Days of Adventure 2023: I’ve been recovering from the traumatic combination of road and gravity on my knee cartilage.
My usual vectors for adventure are out: no hiking, no cycling, no running, no skating, no surfing, no climbing.
Or at least, I thought they were out until I read Belinda Kirk’s book Adventure Revolution.
Belinda was expedition manager on the BBC 2 series Beyond Boundaries, in which eleven men and women trekked 220 miles across the Nicaraguan jungle and desert, dodging bandits, wading through crocodile infested rivers and summitting a live volcano.
In short: one heck of an adventure.
What’s this got to do with me and my knee cartilage?
The eleven members of the Nicaragua expedition included two in wheelchairs, one deaf, one blind, one double foot amputee, two arm amputees, one with spina bifida and three single leg amputees.
I read this as a gentle reminder that we all, all the time, have to ‘start from where we are’.
It’s not much use me dreaming of all the things I used to do or mourning for all the adventures I’ve had to cancel over the past month.
Better to start from where I am today and accept that hiking across Dartmoor or cycling through the Lake District just isn’t going to work for me right now.
That doesn’t mean everything else is off the table as well. Far from it.
But I must start from where I am, not from where I used to be or from where I think I should be or from where I would one day love to be.
The first challenge for me today is not to swim with crocodiles, but to interrupt an alienating cycle of inactivity.
Here’s my current pattern of thinking:
Rest my knee ➡️ Limit walking and exercise ➡️ Stop going outdoors much ➡️ More work, more screentime ➡️ Low mood, poor sleep ➡️ Stop doing much of anything and head back indoors ↩️
It’s a slippery slide, especially when I’m clinging onto the hope that this won’t be forever, that the knee pain won’t last and things will return to normal soon.
I mean, they probably will — I spoke to a very reassuring physio on Wednesday — but still, no.
I don’t believe that the best first response to any problem is to suck it up and wait it out. That’s not me.
Not only does such a solution fail to reflect the reality of where I am, it also spits on the unbelievable good fortune of every minute of my existence.
Instead, I’ll start from where I am and honour the time I have now — not mortgage it against some contingent future.
So this week I’ve instituted a new rule: no screens until I’ve done at least three beautiful things for the good of my today self.
This list of ideas is still growing and welcomes new suggestions. A ✔️ indicates what I’ve done since Wednesday:
Read a book ✔️✔️✔️
See or phone a friend
Go outside and watch the goats eat breakfast ✔️✔️✔️
Do press ups ✔️✔️
Do yoga ✔️
Take a cold shower ✔️✔️✔️
Write morning pages
Prepare dinner or bake bread
This is nothing remotely like trekking up a live volcano in Nicaragua without any feet — heck, it’s not even anything like hiking across Dartmoor on a sunny winter’s day.
But it is starting from where I am.
Three Small Big Things At The End
The Funniest / Scariest Graph Of All Time?
It’s not often that a graph makes me laugh out loud at the screen, but this, from the Federal Research Bank of St Louis, is an absolute peach.
It purports to show the relative defence budgets of the world’s six largest militaries. The red line is China, the blue line is the US.
See if you can spot the lolz:
This article from Geopolitical Economy breaks it down nicely (and includes some sensible graphs).
Wonders of Streetview x Islands of Abandonment
Wonders of Streetview is well worth a play.
This shot of Detroit popped up and pairs nicely with the wondrous book I’m currently reading, Islands of Abandonment by Cal Flyn.
Green-Tailed Comet Watch
If you’re in the northern hemisphere and if you’re lucky enough to have dark skies overhead, then look up around Ursa Minor tonight: you might see the flash of a green-tailed comet as it swoops through our solar system.
That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading and I hope you found something to take away with you.
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In the spirit of adventure, tonight I’m heading into the forest to take part in a workshop about community at the Bikepacking Buds Winter Warmer.
I might not be cycling, but that doesn’t mean I can’t sit by a campfire and listen to great stories.
The week after, on Sunday 5 February, I’ll be sharing my own stories of adventure with the good folks at the Cycle Touring Festival.
I’ll be speaking about 2021’s Spell It Out ride and it’s an online event, so you can join us here.
But neither of those public appearances will match the spotlight grilling I got yesterday in a fierce interview for my friend’s primary school homework: