I could never…start a charity

What do you do when you need some time to figure out if the career you’ve chosen is the one for you?  Travel?  Support a good cause?  Or both.  And so much the better if you can find a novel twist to tie it all together.

This is how Cricket Without Boundaries was born.  A trip from Cairo to Cape Town coaching cricket along the way…and using cricket to spread education on AIDS awareness and other social issues. (Listen in, it makes sense)

I spoke to Ed Williams – founder and trustee of CWB – and we talked about the last 10 years, how CWB has grown and the challenges for the future.  I found out who provided the inspiration for the original trip, the importance of finding the right team and how playing with ideas can lead you to the right place.


CWB is a cricket development and AIDS awareness charity run by volunteers. It has coached over 250,000 children and has had a positive impact on their lives through education, integration and friendship.  Local cricket coaches are supported to ensure sustainability within communities.  The vision is to coach 1 million children in the next 10 years.

If you would like to get involved through volunteering (no cricket experience required) or fundraising and raising awareness they would love to hear from you.


I could never…volunteer

Back in the day, my impression of volunteers was of elderly ladies with time on their hands being seen to be “doing good”. I hasten to add, this is not my impression now.  Having given my time for different causes from packing hampers to be delivered to those in need at Christmas, to project management in a conservation charity and latterly in a variety of roles at sporting events I’ve definitely gained as much as I’ve given.  I’ve got experience from working in different organisations, I’ve helped people to run distances from 5K to over 30 miles and met a great bunch of people and this has made my life richer.

Linda Cairns at the Commonwealth Games, Glasgow 2014

I spoke to Linda Cairns, who I met at our local parkrun – an advert for the benefits of volunteering if one were needed – and we talked about her experience of volunteering, the London Olympics and how volunteering has led to her getting her perfect job.

Grab a cuppa and listen in to get motivated to find your place in your community.  We recorded this after a parkrun in a sports centre café, so there’s a little background noise, but that’s all part of the parkrun spirit.


Inspired but not sure where to start?

Firstly read Linda’s blog: http://poweredbyvolunteers.net/wp/ and then check out https://do-it.org/ ; and here https://www.joininuk.org/ or just get in touch the next time your see something going on and wonder how you can get involved.  I did just that to entertain a local lunch and activity club for the over 60s – they were delighted that I’d offered and I got an opportunity to practice my flute performance.

I could never… travel on a budget

David Fitzpatrick has a career history in the hospitality industry – managing hostels of varying sizes across Australia, amongst other things.  So who better to give the low down on how to travel on a budget. He’s currently taking time off work to travel around Europe and we caught up in London so I could get some top tips on budget travel.

Find out which days are best for cheap flights, what to look for when choosing accommodation and how to find the best things to do at your destination.


“Hostels are a bubble of people having the time of their life; doing the things they dreamt about.”

Book a flight, pack and go. Do the thing you’re dreaming about.

And if that’s not enough, here’s a little bit more: who knew that avocados were so crucial to creating the perfect trip?

I could never…do a triathlon

This story is all about the challenge: creating it, accepting it and doing it.  When Chris Shead was looking for something to do, he settled on a triathlon. But no ordinary triathlon – the Alpe d’Huez triathlon: a legendary mountain in cycling terms. And in deciding on what to do, it doesn’t have to be your thing forever – do it and see what happens next.

 It shows that by committing (entering an event) and taking the first step (or pedal or stroke) you can do it and still have fun along the way. 


Q. Can you explain what the Alpe d’Huez triathlon is?

A. Well, it’s a triathlon, so swim, bike, run, but the beauty of this event is it’s in the French Alps. Alpe d’Huez is a famous ski resort, but there is an amazing road up the mountain, which is famed for its steepness and to negotiate the steep face of the mountain it has 21 switch-backs. From the air it looks like a winding snake and if anyone is keen on the Tour de France bike race they will have seen footage – it’s an iconic, brutal, mountain stage which the Le Tour includes about every three years.

Most triathlons cover standard distances, the standard being the ‘Olympic’, or ‘international’ distance which is 1.5k swim, 40k bike and 10k run. The Alpe event offers two distances, called, dramatically, “Long” and “Short”. The long is considerably longer than the standard and the short is slightly shorter. I opted for the short course.

Q. Had you done triathlons before? What made you choose to do it?

A. No! What made me choose to do it…I wanted a challenge. Simple.

I have always cycled, even from my teenage years I covered long distances, we didn’t have a car. In 2004 I started running and started to enter running events – doing organised races really gets me going, it’s so good to set a target, plan for it, go there, get nervous, do the event and then look back. Fabulous feeling. Around 2008 I decided I wanted to build upper body strength, so I joined a gym, but being locked away in a room doesn’t feel great so I started to swim. We have an outdoor lido nearby so I started to swim outdoors. The only stroke I was any good at was breast stroke which was fine for building strength but I felt I lacked a real reason to go to the pool – outdoors, sometimes chilly etc, I wanted a good reason and suddenly realised that training for a Tri would be a good objective. So I remember searching on-line for an event and found the Alpe d’Huez Tri. It had only started in 2006, and of course I knew the Alpe from following Le Tour. I entered in September 2009 planning to do the July 2010 event. I was scared stiff, I couldn’t even do the ‘freestyle’or front crawl stroke that is expected in a triathlon!

Q. Was it an easy decision? Were you confident you could do it when you signed up?

A. Hmmm, I wasn’t sure about ‘could’ but knew I would do it – even if it took me longer than anyone else and I came last, I didn’t care. The website had terrific, almost scary footage of previous events. I just badly wanted to do it, so the decision was easy. I was conscious of cost, but I figured I could sleep in the car en route, camp and keep costs down.

‘Could’ do it, involves some sense of what is the standard required. I looked at race results and times across the three disciplines. I knew I wasn’t going to win, but I realised I could train, develop new skills, achieve new levels of fitness, enjoy preparing, sharing the journey with friends and meet new people.

Q. What happened between signing up and the event?

A. A pretty heavy training schedule. My wife bought me a famous triathlete training manual and I realised I would be training everyday. I developed a schedule, RunSunday, SwimMonday, BikeTuesday, etc. I even had to spend more time in the gym on specific muscle groups. I told people because I was very proud to have entered such a tough event.

We decided my wife would travel down with me, so the idea of sleeping in the car, camping, etc soon vanished! We booked hotels and started to plan a very pleasant week away.

The motivation came from the simple idea that the training was great, doing me good and it had to be done if I was to perform to any kind of standard. The biggest problem was the swimming. I struggled to learn the front crawl, or freestyle, that’s expected in a Tri. I studied the technique and I graduated from the lido and local pool to an outdoor swimming venue where I knew other triathletes trained. Sunday mornings, 06.30 am putting on a wetsuit and getting into a chilly lake was pretty memorable. I remember one marvelous morning when I was out in the lake, it was big and it felt wonderfully peaceful treading water with mist on water and swans gliding past. I took lessons and worked really hard but it was my weakest discipline, but when other swimmers asked me what event I was training for, they were all impressed to hear I was going to the Alpe d’Huez. That felt very cool.

Getting equipped was motivating. I went to a big Tri event around October because I heard that some companies who hire race bikes out during the season sell them as the season closes. Sure enough, a guy sold me a decent bike, and I bought clip-on pedals, bike shoes, a ‘Tri suit’ which you can wear for all three disciplines. Other equipment included swim trunks, flippers, hand paddles, etc for training, goggles and a wet suit for the event. The lake that they use is fed by alpine glacial rivers and it’s cold, even in July, so the wetsuit is obligatory. The kit-list was considerable, but really fuelled the excitement and brought a new level of technical discipline to my training. I was loving it!

 Q. How did it go? How did you feel afterwards?

A. It was wonderful. I was shocked by the swim section. The lake is surrounded by dark rock, very steep mountains slope straight into the water. The start area was crowded, it was cold and a storm arrived as we waited for the start. The clouds were dark, really low and forboding. It started to hail, the dark rocks all around seemed to turn black, like wet coal. There was a helicopter flying low, lots of commands over the megaphone. The atmosphere was tense, electric and claustrophobic. I saw a few people panicking and they were hauled out of the water into marshal’s boats. It felt amazing to be there. I knew what I was there to do – my best – and I was focused enough to realise I was going to swim-bike-run my race. I wasn’t going to get drawn into any personal duels.

I was disappointed with my swim section, I wasn’t last out of the water but I could see loads of people getting started on their bikes and getting away. I knew I would catch a few of them.

The bike section was awesome. I remember smiling as I shot through the countryside, through some small towns always with the Alpe getting closer. The roads were closed and gendarmes added a real feeling of a professional sports event. I overtook some guys and then hit the start of the Alpe. Wow, it was like a wall of tarmac. I had trained on the steepest hills I could find, some at 19%, and the famous Ditchling Beacon in Sussex, but nothing was as long as that road with it’s famous 21 bends.

The run was fun. I remember running with 3 other guys and we were chatting in broken English as we ran a loop course around the top of the mountain to the finish.

How did I feel at the finish……very, very satisfied

Q. Do you have any tips for people thinking about doing a triathlon/something out of their comfort zone?

A. Know what you want to achieve and be realistic. Enjoy the experience. Get advice.

Triathletes love their kit, and their ‘tech’ equipment. If you do a Tri, you will need to get the kit.

For me, most important is to set a target. Don’t just talk about it, find a target, make a date, commit. Then organise and enjoy the ride!

Q. What are your current or future challenges?

A. Nothing specific. I run and bike, but swim a lot less. I have just looked at the Alpe d’Huez Tri web-site, and they now have a Duathlon event planned. That’s run, bike, run – no swimming!

If you might be interested in the Alpe d’Huez triathlon you can find out all you need to know here: http://www.alpetriathlon.com/en 

I could never…do air travel

Fear: an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain or harm.

If you’re afraid of something, the easiest thing to do is to avoid that thing.  This is not a problem when you can control it and choose whether to make it part of your life or not.  But what happens when you need to bring it in to your life – to allow you to develop your career; or get to those dreamed-about travel destinations?

Listen to how Julie Kapsalis made the decision to face her fear of flying.  Despite skepticism she tried hypnotherapy and now travels all over the world for business and for pleasure.


To me, this conversation is mostly about asking for help.  We all like to do our best, but when we’ve used all our resourcefulness (or even before we’re all used up) it can make a massive difference to turn to someone else with specialist skills.

I could never…travel solo

I’ve been travelling on my own for a long time now.  It easily becomes a habit to be able to escape the constraints of a timetable well, more to the point, to escape someone else’s timetable.

That’s not to say it’s easy.  There’s no one to give you confidence that you’re going the right way, no one to help speed up the inevitable waits at airports and stations and no one to laugh about the dreadful decor in the hotel room you’ve chosen. However, please don’t let this put you off.  The benefits of going somewhere always outweigh the fear of not going.

So, that’s my first tip: pick somewhere you want to go.  Not somewhere that everybody else says you must see, or that’s top of the must see lists of travel magazines, but somewhere you’ve thought would be good to visit.  Maybe no-one else sees the attraction, but that place somehow gives your heart a little kick when you see yourself there.

When you’re travelling solo, I find you can get through a lot of things quickly, so tip number 2 is that it’s ok to go for a short amount of time.  Don’t kill yourself with a complex, long, multi-point stay (unless you want to). A city mini-break is perfect – 2 to 3 nights: enough to begin to feel familiar with a place, but not too much time that you get bored with your own company and plenty of accessible activities: visiting museums, shopping and eating are pretty much similar in all destinations.

Florence – perfect for a first time solo city break

Tip 3 is to do some planning before you go.  Book somewhere to stay, work out how you’re going to get there, and plan one or two things to do to start you off.  Things don’t need to be set in stone for the whole of your trip, in fact I’d advise against this – leave yourself some room for the unexpected. Try and walk where you can – you see so much more and can find some gems that you would have missed completely if you were on public transport.

Pack light, is tip number 4.  You won’t need everything you think you do and trust me, the less you have to carry, the better.  You’ll thank me for this when you have one more flight of steps to negotiate and your arm already feels like it’s dropping off. And it’s so freeing to be without possessions.

Tip 5 is all about accommodation.  There is such a huge variety and definitely no one size fits all. It depends on what you’re looking for.  I’ve taken to apartment living whilst I’m away.  I like the feel of being part of a place and having a key to one of those doors that you otherwise walk past, wondering what’s behind it. But if you want a bit more certainty then go for a traditional hotel or B&B.  If you need your social time then think about some sort of hostel or accommodation with shared facilities.

If it’s your first time travelling alone, or if these words are bringing you out in a cold sweat, consider group activities or tours. Intermediate options include self-guided tours or individual guides so you can do things on your own terms, but you’ve got someone on hand to deal with any difficulties.

So there you have it: pick somewhere, book it, pack and go.  Relish the experience – the good, the bad and the ugly – and come back and tell us all about it.

For more of my travel musings take a look here: https://seallikeactivity.wordpress.com/

I could never… sail the Antarctic in my own boat

This is a good one.  It sounds like an impossible expedition, but drilling down, it turns out to be an ordinary man taking on an extraordinary expedition.  This is the story of Tim Barker, an amateur, albeit experienced, sailor who was inspired to tackle what is probably the remotest seas in the world, which had an unexpected impact on his life.  The expedition took 4 years in the planning but was successfully achieved.

I spoke with Tim to hear his story and found out that once you start telling people what you plan to do, it becomes easier to go through with it than turn back and do nothing.  And a key motivation is being inspired; and in turn inspiring others.

I hope you enjoy his story and let me know what you think you could never do.

Use the password: doinglife

For more inspiration from Tim’s expedition you can read about it here https://mina2.com/cruise_journals/20112012-southern-cruise-to-antarctica/