Did that title grab your attention or disgust you?
If it disgusts you then just stop reading now, there you go, you have been warned, no room for complaints.
Hello to the brave and realistic people who are continuing to read on. What is the biggest question humans ask? Is it not, what is the meaning of life? Surely it is? Well, I'm here to tell you something, you won't find the meaning of life by binge-watching Netflix and becoming another statistic on the obesity charts.
Here is a very simple and easy task for you to do to find the meaning of life: Find something that makes you feel uncomfortable and do it. It can be anything, this is personal to you and once you push yourself out of your comfort zone you begin a path of testing your strengths and weaknesses, thus understanding yourself better, thus experiencing life more, and the bigger picture: You start living.
In the last 3 years, I have implemented this technique, not through a conscious choice of wanting more from life, it all came about organically. However, through these scary moments in my life, I have begun to understand so much more about myself and what I'm capable of.
Ok, so you are probably thinking "Oh yeah, what have you done then to test your capabilities?" and I don't blame you. At this point, I would also want to hear some evidence to back up these opinions.
I started saying 'YES' to opportunities that presented themselves, even in the most subtle ways. If the opportunity made me feel excited or nervous it was a definite 'Yes', if the opportunity was something that didn't align to my values or the direction I wanted to steer my life in then I learned to say 'No' better.
To do this you need to be open with your conversations. Tell people what you really think, talk about your dreams and desires even if they seem weird. You have to stop worrying about what people are going to think of you and start living the way you want. Do you think rebellion fighters worry about what the opposition thinks? Start fighting for yourself.
Through this action, I said 'YES' to an opportunity that presented itself as a conversation on an Instagram post. I began following a photographer in my own country whose work I admired. The next thing you know I had agreed to go on a trip to the Dolomites with this group of people you see in the image below. One of them is the photographer I followed, the others are people I did not know until I met them at the airport.
To get this in perspective, I am English, I live in Denmark but rarely make Danish friends. All the people above are Danish, I did not know them, I have never travelled to the Dolomites, I have rarely ever travelled on someone else's planned itinerary without knowing where we are going exactly, I have never gone on a trip with people I do not know and I certainly have never trusted this many people to split the bill fairly on an entire journey where we made the rules as we went, oh and we all slept in a 6 person room at a mountain refuge. I was somewhat out of my comfort zone but the biggest thing that helped me through it was that I had surrendered to the opportunities and let life take me on a journey.
Thankfully I did a ton of travelling in 2019 because now COVID19 hits. What do I do now, I'm an adventure and travel photographer and I can't travel. Hmmm, sitting on my butt waiting for this to blow over won't work.
Enter the Danish Pilgrim Route hike adventure. After homeschooling all week I needed a break and would grab my hiking buddy and together we started hiking from Helsingør in Denmark along the Pilgrim Route, staying out overnight on the weekends before returning home to continue being a mother and wife. This wasn't the challenge though. There came a weekend on the planned schedule that my hiking friend could not come, shit, that means I'm alone. Hiking alone is a sinch, camping alone in the wild is a bit scary and I could feel the nerves kick in, which, being me, fuelled the entire challenge.
I had never spent the night alone in the dark forests of Denmark. Some weirdo could find me, a fox could eat my stash, a slug might slither into my shoes while I sleep, people might think I'm homeless. I could feel the encore of thoughts setting in but remember, I have stopped saying 'No' to scary stuff so I have to do this to prove to myself I am capable. The video above is a timelapse of me after a wonderfully peaceful night alone in the forest, packing up my camp. I was feeling pretty damn good about myself for doing this.
Hold up, we have barely dipped our toe into the new year and I'm about to tell and show you what I did to test myself in 2021 already! Damn straight. Dates are just numbers, somewhat significant ones at times, but all the same, still numbers.
My challenge to myself was to try winter bathing because I hate the idea of getting into cold water. I only stop wearing a scarf in summer, so this is a big one for me. Especially after the camping expeditions where I was always prepared with layers of clothes so I wouldn't get cold at night, now I want to strip off and get in cold water, WTF am I thinking now?! I blame my podcast co-host for planting the seed because that baby kept growing until we had both said 'YES' to a New Years Day dip. He did it in the UK and I did it in DK, same day, same feelings and after the event, we both agreed that we had the same reactions from doing it.
Instead of writing it, I'll let you watch it because I was prepared this time and made a vlog.
What have I learnt from these actions?
Be open to opportunities and aware of when they pop up.
Life isn't always trying to screw you over, it is our egos that do that.
Don't listen to the voice in your head, listen to the one in your heart.
On the other side of FEAR is great JOY.
Life is about experiencing as much as possible.
I do not want to be on my death bed wishing I had done things differently or taken more risks. If you want rewards, you have to take the risks, make the jump, trust yourself and if you fail just get back up and try again. We learn by testing ourselves, not by sitting in a comfortable place and wishing we had the guts to do more.
This is the way I see life, some may disagree but if you were paying attention, I have already written that I stopped caring what others think.
May you find courage and belief in yourself to challenge your comfort zone at least once this year. If you do, please tell me!