Tag Archives: adversity

The Cancun Breakdown

My tour of the Cenotes with local guide Gustavo was also my last day in Merida.

I was back to the hotel in plenty of time, so I grabbed my bags and hot-footed it to the bus station. Then I had to again try to collect my ticket using broken Spanish.

First, I couldn’t find the entrance. I’d been dropped off in some car park, but couldn’t find a way in. While wandering aimlessly outside an official came to find out what I was doing and directed me inside.

Even inside, and in the wrong place, he pointed me to the right desk.

The ticket collection went more smoothly than the outward journey, and I boarded my evening bus.

I slept most of the way back to Cancun, dozing in and out of consciousness, while a TV played a Spanish-dubbed Spider-Man: Homecoming. Even in Spanish and with eyes closed I was mostly able to follow the plot.

There was also a dubbed Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters. It was hard to follow, and I wonder if it makes sense in English.

The bus eventually arrived…somewhere. It was hard to know. The driver made an announcement, the bus stopped, and most people got out. But not everyone, and not the person in the seat next to me. I was confused where we were, but the bus set off again. About 10 minutes later the bus arrived in Cancun, with me relieved I hadn’t got out too early.

At my hotel, there was confusion with my booking. What the difficulty was, I still don’t know. I feel like perhaps they had me booked in twice, but we eventually gave up trying to understand each other.

They gave me a key, I looked for a lift without success and instead carried my bags up two flights of stairs


The next morning, my transfer picked me up according to plan and dropped me at the airport, easy as that. Things were going well, and I had already checked in for my flight online.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Proudly, I presented my passport at the desk to drop my bags. But there was something wrong.

I tell them where I’m travelling, and the time of my flight. I show my boarding pass. They explain to me the trouble: this is for Friday. Today is Thursday.

Checking my documents, I realise they’re right. I’m due to fly to Mexico City on Friday, and home on Monday.

So what about Thursday? Everything proceeded as scheduled, the trouble was that the schedule had only come together at the last minute when one of my tours wasn’t available and things had got shifted.

Somewhere between the cities and the tours and the time zones and the international date line things got confused, and we all missed an entire day we hadn’t accounted for.

But there I was. Cancun airport, 24 hours early for a flight, and nowhere to stay. I called the Emergency Assistance number for my travel agency and discussed options. I wanted to be adventuring in Mexico City rather than Cancun for 24 hours.

The assistant is looking for alternate flights, and I get disconnected. I tried to make a call with Whatsapp with no more luck.

Using the airport wifi, I shoot them an email and got an instant, automated response. It could be hours before I’d get a reply. Not knowing what else to do, I had a breakdown in Starbucks instead.

I sat with my head in my hands and sobbed because I was far from home, with nowhere to stay, nobody to help me, and didn’t know what to do next.

After a few minutes of this, I pulled myself together. Crying in a coffee shop doesn’t help, I have to put on my big adventurer pants (or tourist in a city airport pants) and just get my shit together.

The fact was I couldn’t change my flight on my own. Even if I could change it, I would be 24 hours early in Mexico City, have nowhere to stay there and nobody expecting to pick me up. The sensible thing would be to book a room for a night in an airport hotel, and come back the next day.


Mexico City here I come
Photo by Adro Rocker on Unsplash

So that’s what I did. The taxi was an absolute rort, charging me 600 pesos plus a tip (over $40 AUD) for a 5-minute journey.

The hotel staff were friendly and helpful on my arrival. I was too early to check in, but they took my bags, told me where I could find the aggressively air-conditioned business centre upstairs, and that I could access my room at 3pm.

All things being equal, it wasn’t how I would have chosen to spend a day, but it was an excellent opportunity to be nowhere and do nothing and just have some downtime.

The next day I got a taxi back to the airport. The driver practically kicks me out at the curb when we arrive. It’s that way he says, pointing to the terminal. He’s not getting any closer, makes no attempt to help me with my bags. I don’t tip him.

This time, I drop my bags off without incident. I’m on my way to Mexico City.

A Blog is Not a Mirror

Social Media is not a mirror.

Instead of being a mirror, apps like Facebook and Instagram can make feelings of depression and loneliness worse.

These platforms show idealised versions of other people’s lives that we can confuse with reality.

Who is updating their Instagram of pictures that show the days they can’t get out of bed? Sharing pictures from when eat junk, because they can’t be bothered cooking. Uploading when their relationships are troubled.

Is there evidence that the beautiful people who share the most selfies are the most insecure? Or any studies on endless pictures of happy couples being them over compensating? I don’t think there is any conclusive data on these things.

Just the same, it seems like we shouldn’t confuse the edited highlights of lives we see online with our own.

Writing about adventure

The Flat Foot Adventure is a blog about adventure, and very little else. It’s not a mirror to my life.

I have kept journals and blogs online where I talk about what’s going on in the day to day of my life. This is purposefully not one of them. It’s a place to write about adventures. It exists to inspire people to have adventures of their own, and entertain people who prefer their life quieter.

I wasn’t writing about how I lost my job in 2009 before I went to Peru. I didn’t devote a blog post to how I ended up crying in a bar in Cusco because my cat of 18 years had recently passed away. These things were going on in the background.

What I don’t cover here is my struggles with depression and anxiety.

Although they represent part of the blog’s theme of overcoming adversity, I am not comfortable talking about it.

My mental health issues affect my behaviour and as a result affects my relationships in negative ways. I don’t write about the really bad decisions I make.

Or maybe I am just a flawed person making some bad decisions, and in addition also has other issues. And sometimes adventures.

The point is, keep reading this blog for adventures. Go find adventures of your own, of whatever size. But don’t read this blog and think your own life is inferior, because it isn’t. You are doing the best you can.

Guest blog post from Anna Shields: The London Marathon for Mind

Today’s blog post comes from the very talented and inspirational Anna Shields. Anna is co-founder and musical director of Starling Arts. This month, Anna ran the London Marathon for the first time. This is her story.

Anna, triumphant after her first London MarathonThis time two years ago I had just started therapy for my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). There are so many misconceptions about OCD and what it is, and I won’t delve into mine too much. However, I will say that the term OCD is thrown around incorrectly by a lot of people when they’re talking about being organised or a bit ‘anal’ about things – this is not OCD. OCD is actually ‘a serious anxiety-related condition where a person experiences frequent intrusive and unwelcome obsessional thoughts, often followed by repetitive compulsions, impulses or urges’. Many describe it as ‘the hidden illness’ and I think that’s a good description.

My treatment took the form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in which I would wean myself off the ‘compulsions’ I carried out as a result of my obsessive thoughts. It was a tough and gruelling process, but ultimately helped me understand my condition and, thankfully, get a hold of it.

But alongside my OCD, I had a bit of a meltdown. I didn’t ‘do’ sadness up ‘til then, so I hated the fact that I was suddenly miserable and in tears all the time as result of having OCD. However, every cloud has a silver lining, and this thunderous smog taught me to understand the mind. One of my best friend’s, Amy, has suffered from depression and agoraphobia for several years, and once I got to grips with my own mental health problems, I realised I suddenly got to grips with hers too. For years I’d thought, ‘I don’t know why she can’t just beat this?’, but I then realised that the mind doesn’t always work that way. However, with the right help we can make it work that way, and my CBT, along with the incredible support of my family and friends, helped me beat my demons.

In taking stock of my life, it dawned on me that my favourite thing in the world, singing, was now my profession and that I had no other hobby with which to escape. Having been a good middle-distance runner at school, I decided I would re-try my hand at running. It was a struggle at first, but ultimately it worked.

A few months later, I went to Canada to visit one of my best friends. She’s a ‘fitness guru’ and set me on the path to really enjoying the sport. She kitted me out with some decent trainers, inspired me to pursue races and I was away.

I entered the Silverstone Half Marathon in March 2012, followed by a 10k race and another half later in the year, then one cold November afternoon, I got a call from Mind offering me a place on their London Marathon 2013 team. I’d entered the public ballot for the marathon earlier in the year, but was unsuccessful and had rather written off dreams of the race this time round. However, I’d forgotten I’d also submitted a charity entry to Mind so, following a quick call to my folks and my best girls to reassure me I could do this challenge, I had myself a place to run the London Marathon 2013. Gulp!

Mind is ‘the mental health charity’ with the brilliant tagline, ‘for better mental health.’ As I have often said, we all have mental health – it peaks and troughs throughout our lives, but it’s always there, whether good or bad. What frustrates me is that so many people feel scared to talk about something everyone on this planet has! People are scared of what they can’t see, so my ambition in completing the marathon, aside from running 26.2 miles (!), was to raise awareness of mental health problems and encourage people to talk openly about them.

Training through the longest, coldest winter we’ve had for years was a struggle, but having a charitable goal at the end of it all helped me plough through and I loved ticking off longer and longer runs as the weeks went by, conquering great distances and having a good excuse to eat copious amounts of pasta and even more Mars bars than usual.

Everyone seems to be doing something sponsored these days, and in a tough economic climate it can be hard to sponsor everyone. To that end, I thought a bit outside the box when it came to fundraising and, with my housemate Cat, devised a plan to combine my old and new hobby, singing and running, and produce a concert in just 26.2 hours. With an hour of rehearsal for every mile in the marathon and a handful of talented friends and family, The Marathon Show was born.

This concert raised just under £1,000 of my £1,700 target for Mind. Just as importantly, it provided a platform for me to talk publicly about my OCD and mental health to an audience of around 80 people and, having heard their feedback, inspired many of them to confront mental health issues in their own lives, whether personal to them or their friends, family and colleagues. I couldn’t have asked for a better response.

On April 21st, I completed the London Marathon in 4hrs 19 mins. It was undoubtedly one of the proudest moments of my life and I sobbed with glee on crossing the finish line.

I ran the race with a card on my back which read:

‘I’m doing it for…
My mind
Amy’s mind
Your mind’

While running has saved my mind, given me a focus aside from singing, and helped me to complete one of the greatest sporting achievements in the world, it has also given me the opportunity to contribute towards your mental well-being in running in aid of Mind.

To date, I have raised over £2,700 for Mind, far-exceeding all expectations when I took on this challenge. It is overwhelming, wonderful, and something I am so thankful to all my supporters for contributing to.

Adversity is bitch, but beating it is the greatest thrill in the world. We all have the right to better mental health, so let’s have it.