It’s hard to put into words just what happened last weekend. I am not sure I fully understand it myself. But I can say one thing: its impact had been profound.
It may seem obvious that if you put 400 pretty out-there adventurous types in a field together for a weekend that the outcome will be a little crazy. However, I would not in any stretch of the imagination have guessed that it would have involved the following….. playing scissors, paper, stone with 399 other people, sharing bone-crunching hugs with complete strangers, listening to a hairy motorbiker in a pink tutu present for the first time in his life and have the whole audience in utter awe of his honesty and courage, incessant stories about poo, crying uncontrollably with an ugly “I’m trying really hard not to cry” face on the shoulder of a total stranger & then sitting there embracing for the next 20 minutes, and waving goodbye to a girl in gold hot pants as she cycles away…. to New Zealand!
So just what is this crazy Yestival? Well, it’s the triumph of Dave Cornthwaite, founder of the YesTribe. He is on a personal mission to bring together people who want to “say yes more” to the opportunities in life and live the life they really want right now, rather than putting it off for a day that may never come. With such an ethos, Yestival is a magnet for the most positive, energetic, courageous and supportive people that you are ever likely to meet. From the moment of arrival it’s hugs all round and it’s absolutely infectious… within 5 minutes of being at Yestival, I completely transformed from a limp “why is this guy hugging me – does he think I’m someone else?” hug, to a whole-hearted bear-hug of another Yestival virgin who was eyeing me with the same initial suspicion that I had experienced only moments earlier.
Morts gifted me with an hour of me-time first thing on Saturday and Sunday morning and he looked after the Big O whilst I headed to the main tent for some early-morning yoga. The sessions were run by the oh so calming Olly from ‘Itchi Feet’, who in true Yestival style was incredibly attentive and supportive and tended to the varying needs of this mixed ability class. It’s amazing how much difference an hour can make to your own sense of well-being; by the end of it any tiredness and grumpiness caused by the fact that Oskar had insisted on sleeping on my face during most of the night, had positively vanished. By the time I emerged from the yoga tent, I was happy, calm, defrosted and ready for the day
Throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday, we pretty much bounced from one tent to the next listening to one amazing speaker after the next, each sharing their stories of adventure. I was drawn to the family talks as I was keen to hear how other families made adventuring their life. The Meeks had already stolen the show for a second year running. The formidable Ella and Amy (11 and 13 years old respectively) had presented the previous evening on their ‘Clear Plastic Bottles’ campaign; their aim to remove 100,000 plastic bottles from the environment and get supermarkets to sell non-plastic bottle alternatives. Ella and Amy had worked with Dave this year so that Yestival was ‘plastic clever’ and there was not an item of single-use plastic in sight; an incredible achievement.
As a teacher, Ella and Amy’s talk the previous evening had blown me away. I honestly don’t think that in a decade of secondary school teaching, I have ever heard a speech that was so well researched and evidenced, so eloquent and passionate and so humorous. It was perfectly pitched to the 400-strong audience of adventurers, who would be intimidating to even the most confident of presenters. These kids were and are impressive. It was also great to hear from their delightful and understated parents Tim and Kerry, the following day about the realities of travelling the UK and homeschooling, and the recent changes they had chosen to make to their nomadic lifestyle.
During the weekend we also heard from the Simonsen family from Denmark about their incredible family kayak trip from Copenhagen to Istanbul, and once again the absolute confidence of their super-cool young kids has got me thinking very seriously about the option of home-schooling and travelling/adventuring in the long-term. It’s impossible to ignore the life skills that are clearly gained when the world is your classroom.
Another cool-kid that I can’t fail to mention is pint-sized Thomas Ivor-Jones, who shared his absolute passion for cycling. Aged just 9, he is planning to cycle between the UK’s highest three peaks and climb them all, all within the confines of his school terms. He has broken his trip down into weekend-sized portions and is completing it one step at a time; a great reminder to us all that it is possible to incorporate adventure into our everyday lives and still achieve something that we are proud of.
On top of these family talks were a whole host of other awesome travelling and adventure tales, all inspiring and uplifting in their own individual way. Each talk felt very personal, like the speaker was really opening up and sharing something special with you, and the audience received the information with absolute respect. Some talks had people beaming from ear to ear sharing in the speaker’s achievement and euphoria; others cringing as they heard tales of disastrous mishaps and accidents and various broken body parts being replaced/mended; and many others still had the audience crying with laughter. But one talk that I will never forget is that by the brave Chris Millar, who shared his journey over-coming drug addictions and mental health issues and how his personal adventures have helped him through. At one particularly difficult chapter of his emotional tale, the whole audience erupted in cheers, warmth, support and encouragement through teary eyes to help him through. My spine still tingles when I think about the feeling in the tent at that time; a very special moment to have shared.
I feel like I pretty much floated away from Yestival on an absolute high. When I got home on the Sunday night I simply couldn’t sleep; my mind was buzzing with ideas of how I could reconnect with my adventurous soul, which somehow with the arrival of Oskar has been somewhat lost or at least moved aside. What could I do to help us re-balance and re-prioritise our lives? How could our little family live our life with adventure and travel at its very core?
I woke up on Monday morning and purchased thebigadventurefamily.com and the rest they say is history.