My story really got started about 4 years ago, when I was diagnosed with cancer. Until then I had played it fairly safe with life. I worked hard in a corporate job, spent my annual leave going on nice holidays and, on the odd weekend I wasn’t glued to my emails, I would squeeze in some time outside. Every aspect of my life felt rushed and half-hearted. I was largely unfulfilled and suffered from anxiety but I couldn’t work out why – there was nothing wrong. After 4 years of climbing the ladder I started getting itchy feet. I’d saved up enough money to travel for a few months and so decided to quit my job.
I spent ten months eco-adventuring in remote locations all over the world. I hiked through the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces of southwest China and rode horse back through Outer Mongolia in search of the elusive Snow Leopard. I crossed the most isolated parts of Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway and spent two months over landing through sub-Saharan Africa where I first encountered, and fell in love with, the rhino.
Three months after I got back I was diagnosed with stage two cancer. It had spread to my lymphatic system. I was completely blindsided. When you’re faced with death, the reasons you want to live suddenly become overwhelmingly clear – and that’s what you fight for. For the first time I could visualise the life I wanted and a sense of direction that I’d never experienced before. I just needed a second chance to follow through with it.
I had treatment, followed by radiotherapy and returned back to work shortly afterwards. Despite the epiphany I felt in hospital the reality was that I craved the feelings of certainty and familiarity that cancer had taken away from me. It soon fizzled out and the only familiar thing was that hollow feeling of emptiness I felt before I went travelling, but this time it was laced with guilt too. I decided drastic measures were needed and so I quit my job. I didn’t have a plan for the future but cancer, for all its downfalls, gave me the confidence to throw myself into everything whole-heartily and follow the life I imagined. I wanted to love every single day. I wanted to feel connected to the world. I wanted to pursue experiences that gave me a sense of purpose and meaning, and pushed my mind and body in every possible sense. I wanted to feel alive. That meant spending more time with my precious family, and campaigning for issues that were important to me. But, above all, it meant getting outside in the silence, stillness and solitude of nature – the place I felt my happiest.
This blog is a both a personal record of my milestones and achievements to look back on, but also a way of sharing my journey in the hope that someone reading it might find the courage and power within themselves to have the courage to face the fear of the unknown to find the life of their dreams. That’s where life really starts. Ask yourself what matters to you in life? Are you doing what you love everyday? And if not, why not?
I’ve been in remission for two years and I’m deeply in love with my life. It’s been scary, difficult and exhausting but quitting my job and shaking up my world has been the best decision I've ever made. I’m incredibly grateful for the cards I've been dealt and the new sense of perspective I have and I’m excited for 2017 and all the challenges and opportunities it might bring.
If you believe you can, you can.