So What's Next? - Our Next Adventure Plans

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Sunday 10 July 2016

So What's Next? - Our Next Adventure Plans

We've had quite a week continuing with clearing out at my parents' house of, yes, more stuff.  At the same time Sam's been making sure that we get our regular breaks by insisting that we play football every few hours with him in the garden.  We're all getting quite good!  But we also thought seeing as my parents are due to return in 2 weeks we ought to start thinking about what next? Our original plans for the Summer had already changed quite significantly because we'd not expected to be helping out here - that had only come about more recently.  So it left the field quite open and we were left choosing between lots of options.  Certain deadlines for bookings forced our hand this week and it was time to finalise at least some decisions.  As plans are now starting to shape up and as we're now finally booked to leave in just under 10 days we thought we'd share the outline of our next adventure plan.  Originally arriving back in Britain in early March, we thought we'd be off on our next motorhome adventure very soon and through a series of unplanned events and opportunities, we're off on a set of completely different adventures..... So where are we off to?

The short answer is....... we're off to Geneva on the 20th to try a month of thru-hiking and wild camping (tent not motorhome) in the Swiss and French Alps following the GR5 to the start of the Tour de Mont Blanc.  Then on 21st August we'll be flying off for a couple of weeks in Egypt; returning to Venice to then find a way of getting to the Dolomites by mid-September so that we can take part in a running challenge spanning 17.5 km with an altitude difference of 1,350m.  After that we're not quite sure yet!  We do know we'll be back in Cabo de Gata in the second half of November and in early December are planning on running the Almeria coastal 45km marathon+!  We still see another motorhome as part of the plan but when we're now not sure.

So how did these plans come about?? 

After selling Homer so soon after arriving back in early March, the plan was always to find another motorhome and go off on another tour.  After spending time over winter, reflecting about the lessons we'd learnt so far from our adventures and thinking about how to move forward in line with our new passions, the plan had been to undertake a series of 6 physical challenges, over 6 months, in 6 different countries in order to raise awareness of the chronic health conditions that we suffer from and the charities which support them.  Each challenge was different - cycling, vertical running, walking, trekking, a coastal marathon etc.  4 of the events were officially organised which we'd entered and two we were organising ourselves.  Arriving in Durham we were still finalising these plans, working towards a warm-up event maybe in Britain, like the Lake District and then off to Switzerland to start in June.  Our plan was to still travel in a motorhome as it allowed us to train and build-up to the events in a variety of places but also give us the comfort of maintaining a healthy routine (sleep, food etc).   

We'd planned to buy another motorhome (a van conversion) from Germany.  Originally when we set off in 2014, we'd thought about it but we were in a hurry to get gone and also our budget and the exchange rate at the time meant there wasn't much savings to be had from going abroad. But now we were more certain about what we wanted from our next motorhome, Germany was offering a lot more options and value for money.  

But the challenge plans and the new motorhome plans got put on hold as things started to unfold in Durham.  "We've got another few weeks until we HAVE to think about" so let's push on with getting the stuff cleared out and admin organised.  But the more we dug deeper, the more we realised we needed to still deal with in Durham.  When we left we really had left so much on hold and swept under the carpet that really now did need our attention.  So although deeply caring and passionate about our plans, we decided that it was important for us to spend the time needed dealing with things properly so that when we did finally leave we were doing so with a clear mind. Plus as we'd mentioned elsewhere we also started to ease back into life in Durham far more than we could have ever thought.  

Several times we talked about, looked and even enquired about motorhomes and at one point were very certain we'd be flying to Germany at the end of the week to collect the one which really stood out to us.  But then that same week something called me that I should fly to Holland and visit my Mum and Oma in Holland.  It was the right thing to do as during that weekend that as several things came to light and we decided to put our families' needs first and offered to help out.  So although we could see our time in Durham coming to an end, it was now time to change the plan and head to Buckinghamshire for June.  It would mean that we missed the first challenge event but we thought we could resurrect the plans when we were ready.  Family needed help and we were in a fortunate time in our life to be able to have the time to step in. 

We then saw several motorhomes for sale being offered as "available in Autumn" after the rental season is offer.  These allowed us to get a much newer model van for the budget we'd been considering and after our stay in Buckinghamshire it would only be 6-8 weeks before they would come available.  So when we took our mini-trip away to the Lake District we decided to see how we felt about wild-camping again and see how rusty we were.  It turned out we weren't that rusty, we still had all the gear and we actually really enjoyed being back out in nature and sleeping on the hills. So time to resurrect our old GR5 honeymoon plans which had been shelves after Dan got ill in 2014.  We'd planned a 3 month thru-hiking tour following the whole GR5 route from the North Sea at Holland to Nice via the Alps.  We'd been very excited about it at the time.  Whilst neither of us would ever want to go through the experiences which led to us going on the motorhome tour again, we don't have any regrets now looking back at how things unfolded over the past 2 years.  

This time, however, we thought let's fly into Geneva and walk the GR5 over the Alps to Nice. We could have a much needed time-out in the hills and reconnect with nature after the several months of admin, computers, organisation and clearing out.  Refreshed we could come back and then find our new home, picking up our challenge events and heading down to Spain in winter.  So this time last weekend we got the ball rolling by finally booking a flight from Heathrow to Geneva on 20th July thinking that this was the plan. 

Then something else called our attention one morning last week.  Earlier in May we'd found out about a meditation trip going to Egypt led by Michael Beckwith, founder of the Agape Spiritual Community.  Among others, his books and talks have been very supportive to us as we've tackling our personal and shared baggage this past year.  We even took a trip in April to see and meet Michael Beckwith (and his wife Rickie) give a talk in London for the first time in years, and the experience had proved very moving and powerful to us.  We'd enquired and thought about it but with the busyness continuing in Buckinghamshire we'd not given it our full attention.  Realising we had missed the deadline by a long way, we sent an email just to see.  If we decided then and there, space could be made available.  So we did ..... it did mean however, that Thursday was a bit of rushed day, checking out all the different flight options and trying to work out how to transfer money to America.  But we got there in the end.  

As there was no point coming back to the UK to fly to Egypt on 21st August, we checked out the airports near the French Alps, in particular Nice as it was the end-point of the GR5. However, as we had left it in airline terms 'relatively short notice' many of the more reasonable not ridiculously priced options were gone.  We don't know how it quite happened but I had the idea to, instead of looking from Nice or Milan etc. to re-check Geneva to Cairo.

Long story short we made a quick decision that actually we had already spent quite a lot of time in the French Alps, especially last year and even walked section of the GR5 there before. Secondly although we would say to ourselves from the outset "we're not planning on doing the whole walk just to catch the flight in Nice" we know we might have a tendency to get over-excited and try and complete the whole walk without public transport.  We wanted to take off the temptation to cover mighty distances every day so that we can make it to Nice in time. Thirdly, although more me than Dan, I do feel a great calling to and get very exciting thinking about the Swiss and higher Alpine regions.  

So, we've decided to walk from Geneva from July 20th and then somehow get back to Geneva for a flight to Cairo in 21st August.  We're still planning on walking a section of the GR5 from Thonon-les-Bains to Chamonix and then either consider taking on the challenge of the Tour du Mont Blanc or maybe the Tour du Vanoise before heading back to Geneva.  It might change again but given it is only 2 weeks away this is our new plan (or at least outline of a plan) and what we're preparing for. 

So as we needed to confirm a return flight, we needed to think and quickly, after more than 2 weeks on a meditation and sight-seeing tour of the ancient sight of Egypt, what next?  We looked at the cost of flights back to Britain, Germany (to go straightaway and buy a motorhome) or returning to the French Alps as we remembered that we had still got an entry to the running event in the Dolomites (which was going to be part of our challenges) on the 17th September. We were both really looking forward to this one in particular as it was an area we'd never been to before and given that we missed that event in Switzerland in June, running along the longest European Glacier, we decided to see whether it was possible to return to Italy instead. As luck would have it, one of the closest airports (Venice) was actually more reasonable than most other European airports and much more reasonable than returning to Heathrow. So, we have now booked on to a flight from Cairo to Venice on 5th September.  We had thought about buying a motorhome after the Egypt trip and driving it to Italy for the event and then going straight to Spain but it felt too rushed in 12 days after landing.  

Once in Italy we're undecided if we will catch a bus to the area near the race in the Dolomites or maybe even hire a car and tour around, potentially returning to Venice airport for the flight home after the race.  This is currently undecided and we don't yet have a return flight as yet.  We may look at returning to Amsterdam to visit family and Oma in particular before returning to the UK.  Or before returning to the UK/Holland, we may even look at what motorhome options are still available in Germany; consider another challenge in the Pyrenees on foot or bike before the snow and temperatures fall in late October, considering exploring Southern Italy or Greece....... we'll just wait and see nearer the time what and where we feel is calling us.  As with a lot of our previous adventures, as much as possible we'd like to leave it fluid and flexible so that we can take up new opportunities as they arise.  Had it not been for this mindset, we'd not be off on this particular adventure which is excitedly and also very scarily just 10 days away now!  It's out of our comfort zone (well, me in particular as I've not left Europe before and both of us will have to careful manage our health conditions on the thru-hiking and running challenge). But we're not here to be comfortable all the time, right? Isn't pushing our boundaries how we grow as people?

So time to get packing then....... Thank goodness for all the Yoga and Pilates over the last weeks and training at the gym in Durham, it gives us a good chance of enjoying as many nights as we can under canvas in the next month!  Although Homer's mattress wasn't the most comfortable by far, I have a feeling I might be missing it after week 2 on a lightweighting air mattress!

In summary:
20th July - Leave Heathrow For Geneva
21st July - 20th August - Walking/Backpacking/Camping Swiss/French Alps
21st August - 1645 - Leave Geneva for Cairo
22nd August - 4th September - Egypt Tour with Agape
5th September - 0310 - Leave Cairo for Venice
17th September - Mountain Running Event in Dolomites

It might not be the challenges we imagined or planned as we left Spain but the different aspects of these plans are still going to need thinking about in terms of our health conditions and although we don't plan to journal as often as we'd planned as we go along, when possible we'll try and still reflect on some of these issues. 

So Sammy's helping us take time-out not just by insisting we play football but also helping us check out if our tent still good for the trip to come!

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