I hope you managed to mark the occasion with something special, to say goodbye and welcome. I somehow managed to spend a fine day with fine friends, in series of course—but even if I hadn’t, I would have been as content with just me and that vast red moon rising.
I made you a New Year present! It’s a kind of a poetic slideshow of photographs and audio from the Four Quartets walk that I did before Christmas. Words by T.S. Eliot, narrated by Alec Guinness.
Quick, said the bird, find them, find them,
Round the corner. Through the first gate,
Into our first world
From Zero to Logo
As you know by now, I love this time of year because of the artificial opportunity for self-reflection and, above all, STATS. One of the difficulties of STATS, however, is making sure that the thing you are measuring is a genuine correlate of the thing that is actually important.
For example, it’s easy for me to throw out a STAT like, ‘Last year I spent 2,117 hours on my computer’, but does that shockingly high number actually tell me anything shocking about how I spend my time? Only maybe.
I do a lot of things on my computer and, although some of my screentime is complete garbage and makes me hate myself, some of it is actually very important to me—like writing you this letter.
So yesterday I struck upon another metric that was relatively easy to collect from my diary and directly measures something that is extremely important to me. In many ways, it’s the equal and opposite to my existing measure of time spent in front of screens. Ready?
Introducing: Days Outside on Adventures (DOA)
DOA is simple to calculate. Every day of the year gets a binary Y/N score: did I spend a significant chunk of the day outside on an adventure? Then you count the Ys and—voilà—you have your DOA score for that year.
SIDE NOTE: ‘Outside’ is deliberately wide open because I’m a firm believer that adventure can be found anywhere. ‘Significant chunk’ and ‘an adventure’ are both deliberately relative because DOA is a simple binary measure that should work for everyone.
‘An adventure’ for an experienced touring cyclist will look very different to ‘an adventure’ for someone who’s never camped before. Likewise, ‘a significant chunk of the day’ could be a very different timespan for a freelancer with no dependents, compared to someone with a 9-5 job and two kids. The point of DOA is not competition between adventurers, but a measure of outdoor adventure against your past and future selves.
Oh, and, yes, I am aware that DOA also stands for Dead On Arrival, a definition only metaphorically compatible with the very best adventures.
In 2020, my DOA score was 67. To give you an idea of what qualifies as adventure for me, those 67 DOAs included:
35 days cycling around the south coast in the summer.
6 days working as an outdoor instructor in the Chilterns.
6 days hiking on Dartmoor.
4 days hiking in the Cotswolds.
2 days cycling with friends in London and Bristol.
1 day on a friend’s narrowboat.
This was about 18 percent of my days in the three months pre-Covid and, happily, about 18 percent of my days in the nine months post-Covid. Hopefully that proves that days of adventure aren’t impossible to find, even in a pandemic world. We just have to choose our moments carefully.
67 days also compares favourably with 2019, when my DOA score was approximately 56. I say ‘approximately’ because these things are difficult to measure in retrospect and, depending on my definition, I could easily add many of the 50 days that I spent travelling in Italy and Greece.
However you measure them, I would like more of them. In fact, I would like a lot more of them. How many more? I hear you ask. Do you really expect me to be that silly?
If there’s one thing that 2020 has taught us, it’s the utter absurdity of ever expecting plans to turn out how you imagined.
So here goes nothing!
In 2021, I would like to have 100 days of adventure. If you like, that could be a slogan: 100 Days of Adventure.
I’m going to stop writing now, before I get carried away and do something silly like buy the domain name or design a logo.
I hope that your 2021 is ram-packed with days of adventure— and I hope too that our adventures intersect, or that we can at least share stories with each other.
May you have yourself a very good news year!
Hello, I’m David Charles and I’m a UK-based writer and outdoor instructor. Say hello by replying to this email, or delve into 500+ other articles on davidcharles.info.
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