I realise now that I had no structured goals when I wrote - and made - The Big Decisions earlier this year. There was no 5 year plan, no milestones, no financial forecasting.... Thankfully I didn't have banks or investors to convince. Perhaps living in a van isn't an objectively promising career move.
My ultimate aim was to throw myself into a lifestyle. Most people choose a career hoping it will enhance their lifestyle in some way, don't they? I guess for some people the career becomes the life, as in the case of Alison Culshaw's friend in my last article. Not willing to gamble on whether I'll be able to afford the life I want by the time I retire, I thought I'd better live now. And I've always figured that if you pursue the things you love, success will follow.
Ski mountaineering with Alison Culshaw
As if to reinforce this, on my first day of unemployment I appeared on a BBC Scotland TV programme, as the 'expert' on adventure photography. An unbelievable serendipity decreed that TV show would be called "On The Road 2014".
And so the adventure began.
Scotland was nice, but driving away from Calais is often where excitement kicks in. By the time we arrived in the Basque Country my girlfriend Alice and I were about ready to burst. Luckily we had Doug McDonald to show us the delights of mountain biking through the stunning and varied terrain of the Basque coast and the Pyrenean foothills; a lung-bursting and calf-burning way to use some of that excitement-energy. And then we learnt to surf.
Doug of Basque MTB
An immersive start to an adventure to say the least. But it wasn't just the adrenalin that was liberating, and it wasn't even the freedom of vanlife, but the responsibility of forging my own destiny. I had nobody to answer to in order to pay my way - I simply had to apply myself, and my lens to these beautiful places.
Home at Le Tour
St Bernard Pass
Wild camp Brevent
Hiking in the Alta Badia
And before long my conviction about pursuing passion began to look promising. Over the course of 3 months I met some truly amazing people whom I would never have met if I'd stayed still; Gee Atherton, the downhill mountain bike world champion, Calum Muskett, the UK's latest climbing prodigy, plus the GB climbing team... But none more inspiring than John Ellison, the founder of the phenomenally successful Climbers Against Cancer, whom I bumped into in Chamonix.
I was slowly but surely collecting footage of our odyssey in order to make a film of the trip. As a procession of characters crossed our path I hit upon the idea of telling the story through the people we met; they were after all a continuing source of inspiration and a kind of guidance, almost a reassurance that we were on the right path. And at this point John wandered into my viewfinder with impeccable timing and a unique view of life to share with us. I can't give anything away about the film, but this was a great example of how our lives were already richer for being in the right place to hear John's story.
Onwards through the Swiss and Italian Alps and as far south as Croatia, looking for some island adventure. On the island of Brac I visited the tourist office and told them of my intention to photograph and write about adventure sports in the area, they gave me some email addresses and we camped by the sea waiting for something to happen. But we'd drawn a blank, so decided to leave.
I was taking some photographs in the queue for the ferry, reflecting on the frustrations of travelling, when a tall Egyptian man struck up a conversation about cameras. He turned out to be an accomplished film maker, now living on the island, and in conversation about climbing he mentioned the island was hosting "the Croatian version of the X Games" that weekend. As I stood open-mouthed he told me "I have just, today, signed a contract with the tourist board to produce a film to promote adventure on Brac.... Maybe you can come along and shoot the stills?"
Why the tourist board hadn't mentioned this to me I don't know, but what I do know is that if I'd tried to arrange this trip from the UK, if I'd relied on networking and phone calls and self-promotion, I would never have heard about this perfect little festival devoted to all the sports we love.
The festival is called Vanka Regule, which translates as Outside the Rules, and it has the feeling of being somewhere you shouldn't visit except by happy accident. There's a close-knit and super-friendly community of wind-surfers, climbers, longboarders, slackliners, bikers etc., who gravitate to Brac every year for a mildly competitive holiday. In truth the competitions are totally secondary to the chance to just play on the hills and in the sea. In fact it has very little in common with X Games!
Vanka Regule seaside bouldering comp
It was an absolute privilege and a demonstration of the power of travel, and like the meeting with John Ellison, evidence of the good things that happen when you commit to follow your dreams. So my new 5 year plan? More of the same.