This question landed with such precise timing. A day where my best friend, a brother to me for most of my life, moved abroad to start a new chapter with his girlfriend. At the same time, I was questioning whether my girlfriend loved me. All culminating for me think about my late mother. Not life destroying, but enough for my mind to be restless, not able to sleep.
I’d also just returned from holiday. A holiday, loosely described, as it was a cold-water surf trip to the tip of Scotland and Orkney Islands in December. The trip was with three other blokes, all crammed into man made bunks built into a standard size van. Bunks so small you could not roll onto your side to sleep, which was unfortunate because daylight hours that time of the year were so limited, meaning we were in the bunks longer than hoped. That being said, the trip was one of the more luxurious ones of my recent trips. I chose Scotland with the aim of doing something I loved in an environment I sought; to surf on a perfect wave with nobody else around but your friends in a unspoiled setting. A place that is shaped by weather, not man, inhabited by more seals than people.
So as I lay in bed thinking of my mother, girlfriend and best friend, as well as replaying that recent trip, it was no shock that I was thinking about what makes me appreciate life. The only shock was an email that very day from my friend Carmen, who I haven’t spoken to for a while, asking me if I would write an article on “What makes me appreciate life”. Now, here I am, downstairs in my boxers typing (something I am not used to doing, as you can probably tell) my interpretation to the question.
Learning and growing
I know for sure that being in a certain environment, a special place, makes me appreciate life. Also discovering what our bodies’ capabilities are physically in different environments is what makes me feel alive. My recent years have been just that. However more recently I believe that a person can have an influence and make you appreciate living.
Since my mother passed, I have found myself becoming one of those people that likes undertaking a physical challenge. I will not say adventure or adventurer, as I despise that phrase, but I must admit a challenge was something I wanted and I soon became addicted to. I have done various stupid things. I rowed a boat around Great Britain and I have also completed the world’s longest Cross Country Skiing race in Finland, all with no real prior training. It was then no wonder that my body went on strike to remind me I have just the one. As a result, I have chronic tendon issues in my ankle and some other minor issues elsewhere.
Has that changed my outlook on what makes me appreciate life? Kind of, yes. My opinion is what I now believe to have matured. I no longer seek a record-breaking challenge or a challenge that has the pressure of the public following it. I now have a more peripheral understanding of what living is to me.
My important places
Places are very important to me. I go away every weekend to either somewhere new or somewhere that awakens my senses. I seek:
- Being outdoors in the wild in a place also ruled by a species that is not your own.
- Being in an environment greater than yourself
- Feeling tiny in an ocean
- Being bashed by the power of oceans waves, cradled by a gentle swell, spat at by the salty spray
- Feeling tiny in the mountains
- Running off the beaten path over rocky terrain, through muddy puddles, cutting yourself on spiky brambles and being overshadowed by giant trees
- Skiing off-piste creating fresh tracks and getting stuck waist high snow
- Navigating foreign places, carving your own path, tackling strong tides and surviving all types of weather
- Mother Nature is everything around us and it’s great. Great because of its enormity and beauty. When being in her mercy it makes what we’re doing feel truly great. Great mountains, great trees and great oceans have witnessed everything far before we showed up, and the ever-changing weather has more power than we can harness. It is only fair then, we appreciate being amongst such greatness.
I also love getting lost in a foreign place and indulging in their culture. As well as going to new places, I like to try new things. I love food. I love an atmosphere. Just a short weekend away meeting new people, tasting tapas, slurping sangria and chatting loudly in a bustling courtyard in old town in Basque Country after a day of surfing ticked a few boxes last year.
Ultimately then I still like to be active in these places. I have recently found a sport that ticks a lot of my boxes.
My true happy place is being salty. I have sailed all my life and I still find it fascinating to travel from one destination to the next via wind. However it is not sailing that has recently excited me. Being in the water, not on it, is what I really love. I also like limiting ‘kit’. Kit being equipment. By limiting it, you are exposed to the environment. To then harness nature’s gift and feel your heart pump with the adrenaline of what you’re hoping to achieve makes me feel alive and definitely appreciate living.
Surfing is just that. Just you on a simple board, riding a wave loaded with power. A single wave travels from storms happening all the way across the other side of the world, and travels the entire ocean before finally breaking across a reef or beach near you. I find that pretty amazing, as well as very challenging. Every wave is different, which makes learning (which I most definitely am and forever will be) a personal challenge. Challenging myself is a large part of living – you may have already worked that out about me.
A new kind of physical activity
My link then to why I also believe certain people have changed my perspective on life is because of another new activity. Not one filled with adrenalin. An activity that not only challenges the body physically but one that has opened my mind. Yoga.
I’m in the early days of discovering yoga, originally undertaken to improve my flexibility and strengthen my ankle problems. However, it has given me so much more. Being a personal trainer I have a great appreciation for an instructor that is both knowledgeable and captivating. Since starting yoga with Faye my appreciation for my body has doubled, and my thoughts towards others and myself has significantly deepened.
Yoga has made me appreciate life by understanding the type of person that makes me appreciate life and, without stating the obvious, they are people who also appreciate it. People who;
- aren’t afraid to show love
- listen and show interest
- want to forever learn more and forever explore new places
- understand nothing is perfect but will also seek the most in everything they do
- respect themselves and everyone and everything around them
- want to help better other people’s lives and the ecosystem around them
- aren’t materialistic and appreciate the finer things in life like lighting a candle, making something with your own hands, growing your own plants, cooking for friends and family, and learning new skills.
Personal training has given me a fairly decent understanding about how the body works and how to train to better it. There is a lot of research out there to read up on and as a result a lot of it is now becoming common knowledge. What now fascinates me is how little the majority of society know about the brain and how best to train your mind to better your mental health. Something I haven’t even began to dive into.
All I know, it through 2016 I want to continue to be salty, to take more bashings from the ocean. I want to continually explore new places, meet new people and be more wild. I aim to fix my injuries, strengthen my body and now, as importantly, learn more about the mind and myself. I’d like to learn a language or how to play an instrument. I will light more candles and share my life with friends and the people I have described. All because “currently” this is what living is for me and I love it.
Josh, 26 years wise