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New Adventure Needed!

When you've seen how big the world is, how can you make do with this?
Image source: http://www.seoco.co.uk/blog/set-geographic-webmaster-tool-works/

“We were brought up on the Space Race, now they expect you to clean toiletsWhen you’ve seen how big the world is, how can you make do with this?”

Pulp “Glory Days”

With the Arctic Adventure truly over, and the notebook exhausted, we take a break to bring you this important message.

I need a new adventure.

I’ve explored North America on Greyhound buses and slept on pavements in southern California. I’ve hiked the Inca Trail to the “lost city” of Machu Picchu.  I’ve driven a pack of huskies across the frozen lakes and hills of the Arctic Circle and gazed at the Northern Lights.  Now I want to know what’s next.

You think about an adventure.  You play with various ideas until one sticks, and you tell people about it.  Maybe they’re admiring, maybe they think you’re crazy, maybe they’re envious — but it all excites you.  After too long of thinking about it and telling people about it, it becomes time to put your money where your mouth is and actually sign up.  Having dreams is one thing, but you don’t want to be the person that dreams and never does anything about it.

Once you take the plunge, it’s serious.  There is now a finite space of time between you and the adventure, and a seemingly infinite number of things to do.  But there’s the other end, too — this end of the adventure when you’ve already been back a month, and you’ve got nothing to train for, nothing to dream about or talk about, nothing to have mini freak-outs about on the way to work.

I signed up for the Arctic Adventure last July, and that was several months later than I ideally wanted to (because I was a bit dense and was looking in the wrong section of the website for the type of event I wanted). Now I have been back for two months, have completed the fundraising, and long for a new adventure.

I took on John Williams and Selina Barker’s “Screw Work, Let’s Play” 30 Day Challenge — after all, these two were influential in getting me to actual sign up for the Arctic, and last year were instrumental in getting me to start writing “Atlantic City” my zombie novel.  I thought great, this will get me started on a new adventure.  After many discussions with Selina, she encouraged me to focus less on the big ideas and to instead find adventures in the small things, every day.

Away I went.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to do, or afford, 30 adventures in 30 days but would do what I could and blog about it.  Have you noticed any of those blog posts? That’s because there have been no adventures.  I didn’t think the idea out carefully enough, and even some things that I thought I would do — go to a martial arts class, learn latin dance — didn’t happen.  Things seem less like “every day adventures” and more like…just doing stuff.

Now I’m in a kind of limbo.  I still want the big adventure, I still want to save the world — I want to help people after natural disasters or in war zones, even if it’s just picking up the rubble or painting walls — and be able to help further by inspiring others to help by writing about it and taking pictures.  As strange as it seems to me, there are also people out there who see no appeal at all in hiking the Inca Trail or dog sledding through the Arctic Circle — but these people like the opportunity to live vicariously through blog posts and stories about adventures.

There’s still so much I want to do, and no practical way of doing it.

As for the every day, since the Arctic I’ve struggled a little with a lack of purpose.  Nothing to train for, no big “adventure” to look forward to, to tell people about or sometimes worry over. My fitness has taken a nosedive, and I’m now taking on the challenge to better handle my depressive moods.

In the every day, things can be a struggle sometimes — but I’m trying to resolve that while there are some things I can’t change, I can take responsibility for how I react, and what I do about it.  This week, I have taken to Tribesports to give me challenges and an excuse to get some endorphins flowing — while I try and get a handle on what adventure means to me, and what I can do, while balancing it with all the things I love so much about being at home.

A new year for adventure

The Aurora Borealis over Eielson Air Force base, Alaska
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Strang

It’s a brand new year, Adventure-seekers! And do you know what this means? No, not New Year resolutions — but that the Great Arctic Fundraisng Adventure is now a matter of weeks away! No longer is it “next year”, but instead something like 8 weeks away.

Am I crazy to be swapping a nice warm flat in east London for some basic cabins in the Arctic Circle, and exchanging my days of social media marketing for sledding across frozen lakes and Arctic forests?

People ask me “Isn’t life an adventure on its own?”. So, maybe I am crazy, because the answer for me is no. When I am looking up at the Aurora Borealis, or speeding across the Arctic tundra with a pack of huskies I will know this is why I am doing it.

Not forgetting the other reason why I am doing it, either — raising £6,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support.

The new University College Hospital Macmillan Cancer Centre will open this year, and cost £100 million to build. Macmillan Cancer Support will be making its biggest ever contribution, of £10 million, towards the centre. The University College Hospital Macmillan Cancer Centre will be the first of its kind in the NHS and will redefine the ways patients are treated, using the best diagnostic and treatment techniques to improve survival rates.

Macmillan will provide a Wellbeing Centre within the building where people affected by cancer can find the best information and support, including advice around coping with personal and financial impact of cancer and returning to work.

The start of a new year can be hard when you have lost loved ones. You wonder what their plans might have been for the year ahead. It can also be tough on anyone living with cancer, or caring for someone living with cancer. Macmillan Cancer Support are there, providing help and support. If you want to find out more about Macmillan, or would like to contact them follow the links or visit http://www.macmillan.org.uk/

So far I have raised £3,359 towards the Great Arctic Fundraising Adventure for Macmillan — and this year promises more pub quizzes, more station collections, and the Aurora Borealis.  You can help support the Arctic Adventure with a donation here or by buying a fundraising calendar here.

Fundraising adventures

What’s new with the Flat-Footed Adventurer and my Great Arctic Fundraising Adventure?  Actual Fundraising has taken up a lot of my time, pre-adventure recently.

In the last few months I have spent entire days collecting in National Rail stations Paddington and St Pancras.  I have also spent large amounts of time collecting on a local retail park, outside a local Tesco store, and at a Poundland fun day near Elephant and Castle.  Some volunteers I’ve met while out collecting have told me they don’t like street collections and find them depressing.  I’m not clear in what way they find them depressing, but I enjoy them.

Sure, they’re often long days; my collections in national rail stations have had me on my feet for 12 hours (give or take some breaks), and I’ve heard complaints from volunteers that the collections recently aren’t nearly as profitable as they have been in the past.

I enjoy the human interaction.  Most people just chuck a couple of quid the bucket as they hurry past, but some people stop to talk — they’ll stop and thank me for the work that Macmillan Cancer Support do.  Or they’ll tell me how cancer has affected their own lives, as a patient or through knowing someone with cancer.  Sometimes they are sad stories, sometimes they are stories with a happy ending — but these people remind me of why I am raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support with this adventure.  Some people don’t just put some coins in the bucket, either — some people will reach into their wallets and put a banknote into the collection.

I also enjoy observing life, watching people going about their business.

I was recently at Droidcon — a conference dedicated to the Android operating system.  While there I had the opportunity to talk to HTC, Sony Ericsson and Accenture about the Great Arctic Fundraising Adventure.  HTC were enthusiastic to hear about it, and the other two were progressively less interested.  Unfortunately, attempts to follow-up haven’t been very fruitful.  I have also tried to make contact with RedBull in several different ways — but have had the same frustrating lack of response.

To date, my fundraising efforts online and offline have helped me to raise just over £2,000 — which is roughly a 30% of my way towards the total, and I haven’t yet been told how much my collection in St Pancras raised.

I need to have raised £4,800 by December 26 — so I still need all the support I can get.  You can contribute towards the Great Arctic Fundraising Adventure here and show your own support for Macmillan Cancer Support.

What are you thinking?

Every now and then I have a “What are you thinking?” moment and the enormity of the Arctic challenge hits me.  In that moment it’s like I realise my place in the universe, how small I am, and at what tremendous odds I am up against.  It’s truly terrifying.

I think about the £6,000 I have to raise.  I think about the physical challenges.  I think about the sheer speed the dog sleds are going to be travelling at.

I think about all of these things, and I worry that I’m just not up to it.

Sometimes I think maybe it’s too hard, and I should admit defeat..

But I haven’t given up, and I won’t give up.

Yes, I’m out of shape, and yes I have only raised 25% of my fundraising total so far.  Yes the Arctic Circle is one of the most inhospitable places on the planet, and yes I will be in charge of some hyperactive huskies pulling me across ice and snow at break-neck speeds.  And, yes, the fundraising is still hard work.

But I can do this, and I will do this — one way or another.  I think perhaps you have to be slightly crazy sometimes to see the odds stacked so high against you and want to carry on anyway.

As always, you can show your own support for the Great Arctic Fundraising Adventure here: www.justgiving.com/james-chesters.

Show your support

Show your support for The Flat-Footed Adventurer — please place this html on your blog or website:

<a href=’http://www.justgiving.com/James-Chesters’ target=’_blank’><img width=”300″ height src=”http://flatfootedadventurer.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/arcticcirclebanner.gif?w=450″></a>

Drop me a comment when you have it, and I will link back to you –or display a badge of your own.

Fundraising underway — although slowly — and ways you can help

Image source: http://bit.ly/mS4oFT

Donations to the Great Arctic Fundraising Adventure are at time of writing a little shy of £500, which is quite impressive in the time since I signed up.  However, it’s nearly September now and I need to be raising on average £1000 a month between now and January. It became terrifying the moment I signed up, but it seems like a lot of my ideas original for raising money haven’t come through.

The idea of 60 companies donating £100 each seemed straight-forward enough, you think it would be a drop in the ocean and far outweighed by the good PR value — but of course, they are being hit up with requests almost every day.  I have recently contacted half a dozen supermarkets requesting the opportunity to make collections outside of their stores — I don’t know how long they typically take to reply, but it’s been a week and I’ve not heard a peep out of any of them so far.

The next plan is charity collections in key London transport hubs — National Rail,  and both London Underground and Overground stations.  All the respective offices have been very swift and helpful with their responses and sending me the necessary forms to complete.  London Overground have already told me “sorry, no” as they only allow collections by the charities themselves, and not people raising money on their behalf.

Fortunately, London Underground don’t seem to have the same restriction — from what I can tell, they just have to be able to verify your charity is aware that you are undertaking collections on their behalf.  No problem there.  The 3-month wait is more annoying, but if I get the application in now, I can be collecting before December.  It seems that Network Rail have the same policy as London Overground — but I will ask my contact at Macmillan Cancer Support if they will submit the form on my behalf.

Following the press coverage earlier this month, my work have been quite enthusiastic about the fundraising adventure and have encouraged me to use our community.  I have put a page up on our website (which is, essentially, the press release dressed up with some pictures and quotes in big writing) and created a web banner to link to it.  Donations as a direct result, I think, number two so far — but everything is appreciated.

The plan of action now is to contact family members to tell them about my fundraising and ask if they would like to donate.  I think suggesting a specific amount they might like to donate, while perhaps effective, seems rude — I don’t know if anyone reading has an opinion about that.

I might have to “invest” in a printer for home.  It sounds ridiculous, not having one, but I didn’t ever replace my old one when it packed up — but right now, having to rely on printing letters and forms in work is slowing things down, as I barely have enough hours in the day to do all my work, let alone the promotional fundraising activities.

Funnily enough, I am only now realising that trying to raise this money is effectively a full-time job on its own.  There are letters to write, forms to complete, events to organise (I have barely even done more than think about that) — not to mention the time I should spend working out.

I have actually started thinking again about just self-funding the challenge, and anything I raise for Macmillan Cancer support is a bonus, but it comes back to not having £2,500 for it, and no real way to earn it before the trip.

As ever, I end with a request for your help — donations are always welcome, no matter how small, but they are just one way you can help support the Great Arctic Fundraising Adventure.

You can also help me by promoting the challenge through social media — Tweet about it, blog about it, Facebook about it, G+ about it — use every social media account you have and mention it.

Other ways to help are you can offer assistance with organising events — hell, if you were really keen, you could even run your own fundraising events on my behalf if you want to help raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support, but you don’t want to go to the Arctic yourself.  Letter writing and printing would also be a help to me.

I have to go to the Arctic on my own, and I have to get myself into shape for it — neither of these things anyone can do for me.  But if you support what I’m doing, please — lend a hand any way you can.  And yes, donations are a quick and easy way to also help — if you have a spare £5,500 then I could devote all my time to training.

Adventure is out there

Preparations for the Great Arctic Fundraising Adventure have got into full swing this week — and hardly a minute too soon.

Donations via the Just Giving page have reached £220 this week. It might seem like a slow start, but that’s 5 donations — including one from someone who is a little bit a personal hero of mine, Peter Lubbers.  The man does it all — ultra-marathons, bungee-jumping, skydiving — and still finds the time to be an expert on HTML5.

Corporate requests for sponsorship have so far been met with polite declines.  From a sports marketing perspective, I also approached several brandsto see if they would get behind “The Flat Footed Adventurer”, with much the same level of success.  Adidas have told me that while Macmillan Cancer Support are one of the charities they are supporting this year, they can’t support me “due to resource & budget limitations”.  Animal — without a doubt one of my own favourite brands — agreed that Macmillan Cancer Support are a great cause, and like so many others the friendly press office contact had seen first-hand their work, and said on a personal level he “supported” any charity fundraising for them.  However, like so many others, Animal have to draw a line somewhere.  In this case, I was told normally they offer goods to raffle off or to support in any event that ties in with their core of surf, board and bike sports.  However, dog sledding doesn’t count as one of their core board sports — although it involves snow.  As they say, there has to be a line somewhere.

Among the other responses I have had included a no from the office of Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London.  As a publicly funded organisation and a strategic body for London, I am told the Greater London Authority is not in a position to assist individual causes, no matter how worthy they might be.  As “sorry, no” responses go, while it may be entirely copy/pasted, there’s very little you can argue with in it.

I have not had any kind of response from the press offices of London’s various transport services, nor from my local MP.

In a more positive light, the organisers of the Hacker News London Meetup made an announcement to their members about my Arctic Fundraising Adventure ahead of this month’s meeting, and I was given a very kind donation by the organiser of the London Java Community.

Outside of fundraising, I was generously given a free personal training consultation by Matt Wolstenholme this week — Matt has a variety of fitness qualifications and bags of experience under hsi belt (as well as being a talented sports writer), so I considered myself very fortunate to get an exclusive consultation with him.  Although I am sore today, and noticeably out of shape, I found I’m not nearly as disastrously unfit as I had thought I was — but this could just be as a result of Matt’s motivational style.  If you’re in London and want a personal trainer, Matt comes highly recommended by me — and hopefuly, if finances allow, I will be able to see Matt on a regular basis for more personal training. With his help, I have no doubt that in no time I will be fit for chasing huskies and pushing sleds uphill.

So , where does this leave me?  I consider this some of my first steps along the road — I have made a start on fundraising, but there is an awful lot more to go.  I have also had one personal training session, the first of many more hours of fitness training.  From here, we can only go up.  There needs to be more donations, which will surely come as a result of more effort to find the donations — so there must be more emails written and more contacts made.  I also need to start some traditional supermarket collections.

I should also get a proper press release written, since all contact with the Docklands newspaper was met with a resounding silence.

In the news his week was a report that Four in 10 Britons will get cancer.  According to the Guardian, “Figures obtained by Macmillan Cancer Support show that 42% of Britons had cancer before they died – compared with around 35% a decade ago.  The study, which analysed data from 2008, also revealed that 64% of cancer sufferers will eventually die from the disease.”

It reminds me of why I am doing this trip in the first place.  You can donate to my Great Arctic Fundraising Adventure here.  Adventure is out there!