Following my MAP

After my stupendous announcement of turning my GAP year into my MAP year, I seem to have taken a few unexpected turns. Moving Ahead Purposefully was my goal and in some ways, I have been, however, if I’m honest I’ve pulled into a few rest-stops on the way. Not the ones that give you a free cuppa and Kit Kat to energise you. No, I think I’ve been napping behind the wheel under a shady tree.

My new business venture of being a Bucket List Coach is really exciting and I believe whole-heartedly that it is a great program that will benefit many people. Simultaneously it has opened a door to vulnerability. 

During my walk through the mountains of Italy I received many messages from people about how “brave” I was, how they admired that I “could do it alone”. This surprised me and I was totally overwhelmed by these expressions of admiration and support. Enter this new adventure – Bucket List Coach. As I purposefully printed on the back of my business card my personal goal “To take 1000 people on the Bucket List Life Plan adventure” little did I realise what a huge task I had set myself. I have been feeling as alone as I ever did during my GAP year on a mountain in torrential rain with a wet smudged map and no idea if I would reach my destination. Turns out this MAP year might be more challenging and life changing.

Enter my favourite TED talker and academic, Brene Brown presenting on vulnerability, and highlighting the reality that it is not a weakness, in fact, it is the “most accurate measure of courage… and the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.” So here I am laying it on the line for those of you who have taken interest in this journey. Tomorrow night I will present my GAP year story and why having a Bucket List changed that year for me. Truly, a Bucket List isn’t about rushing to get things done before you die, it’s about living now no matter how vulnerable you may feel.

I had better embrace my vulnerability!

PS – I got my Vespa this week… it was on my Bucket List!

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Focus and Flexibility

Imagine if you will a game of tug-of-war. In this imaginary game of strength one end of the rope is held by a group completely focused on the line over which they intend to drag those holding onto the other end. Their opponents on the other hand are a somewhat more flexible group, enjoying the game but also seeing lots of other opportunities for fun going on around them. I wonder who might win this fight?

I am finding the tug-of-war between focus and flexibility a real challenge as my MAP year begins and right now I feel more like the rope than one of those at either end. I desire an arrow point focus on building my new business as a Bucket List coach, at the same time remembering the perspective gained from my GAP year that having the freedom to take advantage of opportunities, trying new things and being true to the upgraded self that emerged over that time needs to be a part of what lies ahead.

May I digress slightly?

Whilst writing I have been asked by a delightful lady and gentleman what the brand of my shirt is and, of course I don’t have a clue. So while they are both looking down the back of my neck for the label and searching for their glasses they comment on the number of people who work on their laptops at cafes. I told them that I am more ‘focused’ when I am away from the house and that I enjoy the ‘flexibility‘ of being able to work anywhere. Then they told me that they still work but get that over with in the mornings and they are free to do as they wish except this was followed by a word that terrifies me… “we have a ‘routine'”. After spending a year specifically trying to avoid routine, the word triggers some fear and resentment. Am I going to backtrack into routine? Do I need to have a routine? In my mind routine doesn’t guarantee focus and it is definitely in opposition to flexibility! Arrgghhh…

Moving on…

I typed those original two words into my personal brain accessory (Google) and wouldn’t you know, there are numerous Scholarly Articles (unlike my blog) on this topic and a load of opinions on the very same challenge… apparently I wasn’t the first to identify the tension between the two. One article that captured my attention is linked below as it introduced a word that resonated and one I feel very comfortable with (more than I do that word routine) and that is ‘awareness’. The ability to stop and survey what is going on around me and being cognisant of the bigger picture. Too focused and I may miss what’s important, being too flexible I may miss what is needed. I confess this balance sounds sensible and is a skill I will need to practice.

So it would seem that I need to move ahead with focus, flexibility and awareness. And perhaps a tincture of routine. Wish me luck!

As far as that imagined tug-of-war game at the start of this blog, I believe it will be a draw or even a failure. If one is too focused on the line they won’t see the tactics of the other team, and if one is too flexible and distracted they won’t be keeping their eye on the line. They both need to be more aware.

Feel free to have a read – https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/2006/03/22/flexibility-vs-focus/ 

 

 

 

 

Embracing Vanilla Nice

If your eyes are better than mine you might notice that the name on the card attached to these flowers is Vanilla Nice. That’s my family rapper name. I know, it doesn’t really conjure up a look like Dr Dre, Jay Z or Snoop Dog, and for a long time I’ve thought it sounded weak and a bit pathetic – but no more! I’m embracing Vanilla – after all it is it’s own flavour just as legitimate as salted caramel. It may not be as bright as choc chip peppermint but it’s my favourite and I love it.

As for the word NICE, well there’s a much maligned word. Over the centuries the word nice has meant everything from lewd to coy to kind. Preface it with the word too and you  instantly give it a sarcastic connotation. Again, I’m going forward with pride, after all isn’t the opposite nasty and who wants to be that?

If you’ve been following my GAP YEAR you will notice that I have moved forward now to my MAP YEAR – and again MAP is an acronym for something. Moving Ahead Purposefully. If there is one thing I have learned over the past year it is that there is no point sitting around and wishing, you have to get yourself up and create your life. I have now experienced how the simple act of vocalising “I’m going to…” moves you forward to do things you would never have imagined possible.

Here’s the thing… everything doesn’t have to be big but it does need to be done on purpose. In a recent Bucket List Life Plan course I ran, one of the participants made a decision to purposely smile at someone every day. This one thing doesn’t cost anything and it may just change the trajectory of someone’s day for the better. What is really great though is the purposeful decision to do it.

I am never going to stop grabbing onto opportunities that just pop up, or hitching a ride on someone else’s dream or goal if they give me the chance, but I am going to make sure that I always have something purposeful to do. This MAP year will be a great test of my resolve and I hope to be able to tell you about it along the way.

I don’t need a rapper name like Snickerdoodle Stunning (yes Snickerdoodle is an ice-cream flavour) to be living a fulfilled and purposeful life. Vanilla Nice can give anything a red hot go if she sets her mind to it and so can you.

It’s Nearly Midnight

As the clock ticks its way to the end of my GAP year I want to thank everyone who has followed my ups and downs, adventures and ponderings. Your support and encouragement has been amazing, inspiring and humbling. Whether I’ve driven you crazy with my stories or inspired you in some way it’s been a pleasure to travel this road with you.

But wait… there’s more! You’ll have to wait until 2019 to find out what it is.

I hope you will stick around to see what happens next. Goodnight and thank you all.

 

Walk at your own pace

Time has passed so quickly since I arrived home from Italy and yet the trip seems a lifetime ago. I know I’ve already discussed the subject of time earlier in my blogging year, and it continues to be a seriously a tricky beast. I have regaled my adventure many times over in the past weeks, relishing the chance to tell funny and tragic tales to the exhaustion of my family. So why has it taken me so long to write again?  Could be I fear boring people to death although I believe it is something more than just that.

I recently met with a friend of the family who took a similar walk and after 15 years he still loves to chat about it. It’s obvious that he has thought a lot about the outcomes for himself but it was one particular thing he said over our cuppa that resonated and has remained with me. It was that an adventure like this has three stages – the excitement of the planning, the reality of the walk and the reflection on your return. I had no trouble sharing the first two on this blog but it would seem that I have struggled to put into words my reflections since I returned.

There were some very practical things that will no doubt influence me for years to come, particularly when I go back to complete the walk from Assisi to Rome. Don’t know when but I will!  Along the way there were many now obvious lessons such as drink plenty of water, always hike with two walking sticks, drink more water, don’t necessarily believe the author of the book you are following, take your rest days as planned, drink lots of water, always pack your clothes in the wet pack even if the sun is shining in the morning, a needle and thread is the answer to blisters, stretch more and yes, drink drink drink that water.  The most important lesson though was to always walk at your own pace.

Walking at my own pace meant that I was most often walking alone. There were people on the same trail in front and behind me, but rarely within eye or earshot. There were those who marched past me and occasionally those that I overtook. As I arrived in each village they would all be there, some having arrived well ahead, all showered and having a beer and those who had just made it and collapsed into a chair at the same bar to recover before they searched for a bed. What was so wonderful was that every time you saw a familiar face there was a smile, a well done and an unspoken understanding that the day had been hard and no matter how long it took, how hot it was, how high the climb we had all arrived at the same place. There was ongoing gentle advice and encouragement. Never once was there a sense of competition or a look of criticism for perhaps not being the greatest hiker. Just a sincere well done, you made it.

So finally I have stopped to reflect and it is that I will continue to walk at my own pace. Whatever you or others are doing, don’t try to outrun people or criticise those who can’t keep up. It isn’t going to help anyone. Some of us will be faster, better prepared and experienced and some of us just won’t. We are all travelling the same road with different abilities and loads to carry. As long as we all keep learning as we travel along, we will arrive at the same place just at a different time.

A simple well done, you made it, might just be the thing that will turn a bad day into a great one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t stop me now…

Who remembers these lyrics?

Don’t stop me now I’m having such a good time, I’m having a ball.
Don’t stop me now. If you wanna have a good time just give me a call.

I’ve been home now for 19 days and I’m still really proud and pleased with my trip to Italy with all its ups and downs (literally, physically and emotionally). I really had a good time, in fact I had a great time, so I’m going to make sure that I don’t stop now.

Apart from getting my feet back in order here are a couple of things that I’ve set in motion since my return. Firstly, my business… I’m now a My Bucket List Coach. I’ve been to training and am currently getting everything in place to kick off in the coming days. There’s a potential position on a Board for an amazing organisation, and as part of my own Bucket List, today I have had my motorbike pre-learner training and I nailed it.

Of course there’s so much more to each of these stories that I will share soon. I just wanted to let all of the amazing people who are following me that I truly appreciated all your support on my adventure and let you know all is well. The GAP year still has a lot of things in store.

Plan B for Brilliant

Did I truly do what I set out to do? Yes I did. Looking back on the reasons I gave for setting of on this quest I’ve ticked all the boxes. 

Firstly to do a walk of significance. Florence to Assisi is a pilgrimage in its own right and 200kms is significant, particularly as it was much more challenging than expected. I pushed myself further than I ever thought possible, met interesting and lovely people along the way and experienced some extraordinary locations and events. 

Check.

I wanted to spend a significant time in Italy. Funnily enough the enforced stay in Assisi has given me the experience of having to deal with day to day matters. Doctors, hospital, chemists, food shopping, finding my way around on local public transport, chatting with the locals and basically hanging out. It’s no Under the Tuscan Sun, but it has opened up another world. 

Check.

I wanted to do something that I was responsible for from start to finish. My successes, my mistakes. There’s no doubt I achieved both. Things in the planning and delivery worked, others didn’t. No one else’s fault or responsibility. I was so fortunate to have complete freedom to execute this adventure with unwavering and

Check.

In my blog about my legs before I left I said there would be tears and arguments in my head and both of those have come to pass but not as savagely as I thought they may. I also said these legs were made for walking and they didn’t let me down. From my ankles to foot arches is another story. 

As I come to my last days in Italy I have absolutely no regrets. I’ve got so many stories, memories and enthusiasm to plan more adventures. 

Remember my GAP year is all about getting another perspective and I’ve sure done that. Anne’s GAP year is not over yet!!! 

A Flash of Orange

Good on them. Hare Krishnas strutting their stuff in potentially the most Catholic town outside of The Vatican City. Groups of people travelling together are rife in Assisi – there are more people following flags around than there will be at the AFL Grand Final next week. Young, old, walking, limping, wheeling, touring, riding, pilgrims, all on their own adventure and all with their own reason for being here. 

Limited to exploring anything close to a seat today I visited one of the buildings in the Piazza that is named (wait for it)… Chiesa Di Santa Maria soprano Minerva Tempio Di Minerva. In short (or long) it is The Temple of Minerva circa 1st century BC that currently houses the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, built in 1539. The columns are the only original part of the 1st Century BC building that remain. It is one of those spaces you walk into and have to sit and soak in. Obviously as a tourist also snap a few photos.

Something moving happened while I was admiring the 17th century Baroque renovations of the Church that froze me to my seat. A lady fell onto the kneeler behind me sobbing. I couldn’t move. Her intention of being in that place at that time was so intense. I couldn’t turn, I certainly stopped taking photos and I felt somehow privileged to be there. When I could sneak a look I saw her husband (I presume) standing behind her with his hand on her shoulder. I’m not sure how much time passed. I imagined dozens of scenarios for this response as improbable as she had done her achilles like me to a true spiritual desire to reach this place. Eventually they both quietly left, tears mopped up and a knowing look toward each other. 

It doesn’t really matter why they were there or what it was all about. It felt like an honour to be present. To me this lady was the epitome of a pilgrim when there are so many I’m meeting on “pilgrimages” who are essentially tourists (including myself). I like to think I’m a good person but as for spiritual the jury is still out. I haven’t quite defined what that means for me. 

What I did observe was someone who wholeheartedly believes in something. That’s got to be a good thing. No instructions on what that needs to be – religion, football, nature, music – leave that up to you. 

I’m sure the Hare Krishna crew are passing through on their way to somewhere special and totally believe in their quest. So again, good on them and what they believe in, although I don’t think they’ll do much good recruiting here.

The Wisdom of Brian

How lucky am I to be told to put my feet up and stay in Assisi for 7 days? It wasn’t luck I felt when I heard these words in broken English. There was that momentary sinking gut feeling mixed with annoyance and disappointment having sat in a run down waiting room and various corridors in Assisi Hospital for 8 hours to get what I genuinely believed would be a letter saying “send her on her way”.

Then I remembered Brian. Not the name I was expecting from a 20 something, bright eyed Colombian boy with the worlds biggest smile, but Brian it was. My fellow travellers from Wales and I ran into Brian on the final stage before walking into Assisi. He told us he was on a spiritual year and was on a practice walk before leaving on a to trek to Rome the following day. 

This young philosopher was one of those truly interested people. Asking us about our trip, why we were doing it, our families, how we were feeling. In 5kms he dug deep and brightened the day.

Brian also shared his philosophy on life – that we are all where we are meant to be at any given moment. Whatever it is we are doing or wherever it is we are, then we are in exactly the right place doing the right thing.

I have thought about the “philosophy of Brian” quite a bit over the past couple of days, particularly today as I lay on a bed in a foreign country with my legs up on pillows, with the most exciting thing to look forward to being the salami and cheese in the refrigerator and a self administered needle. Why is it exactly where I should be? 

Admittedly I’ve struggled a bit to find an answer. Perhaps Brian’s lesson is about being present. Feeling okay and soaking in the moment. This is a lesson I have never fully grasped. I have spent a lot of time anticipating the future, anticipating the good and bad of a situation before it’s even happened. Literally living moments ahead of time. This can lead to disappointment if things don’t turn out the way I imagined (and relief if they do).

I know Brian didn’t invent the idea of being present, but he is definitely living it. So if you ever run into Brian – and he did say part of his year is to come to Australia – then thank him for reminding me that the most important time of any day is right here, right now. 

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