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Lifestyle

Walking is a Superpower

Exercise powers the body and mind

By Steve W

Every afternoon, come rain or shine, Eric would take off his work boots, push on some battered Nike trainers and scoot off for a good 45 minutes. When he returned Eric passed no opportunity to let us know that he had been for a “power walk” and was mentally and physically ready for the rest of the shift.

Eric described walking as his superpower. It clears the mind, gets the breath and blood flowing. His overriding message: Feeling in a bad mood? Escape for a walk.

Brisk walking is said to have more long lasting positive effects than anti depressants. when it comes to a choice between donning the trainers, stretching the legs and going round the block a few times, rather than shovelling in a pile of pills, I know what I’ll be choosing. Quite simply, going for a relaxing walk is a mood enhancing experience.

Escape in to a sensory experience

Try to hit all the points of a VAKGO approach, to enjoy a positive sensory experience:

  • See
  • Hear
  • Feel
  • Taste
  • Smell

Being stuck inside on a nice sunny day often seems counter productive to health. Business walks are a great way of mingling a meeting with some fresh air and clarity. Instead of sitting eating shortbread and guzzling coffee in a boardroam, why not hit the pavement and have a business walk?

While I would not suggest for a second that I am important enough to be having any business meetings, on this blog we are all about escaping and I’ve found walking around a park or hitting the pavements while talking to a friend, associate or client on the phone is extremely beneficial.

You can too. As long as you don’t become one of those annoying people making it obvious that you are in an important business meeting and start talking really loud like Dom Joly on Trigger Happy TV! Loud inhaler phone calls aside, soaking up the sun’s rays and receive some nourishing Vitamin D is always a bonus.

Escaping the office on a business walk
Escaping the office on a business walk

Look upwards when escaping on a walk

A few years ago I was listening to a podcast and they suggested looking up more when walking. Many of us look down, head bowed, hunched over in a mock funeral procession when we are walking.

Just by looking up we spot so many things we might otherwise have missed. Varieties of birds perched on houses or other interesting wildlife. The houses themselves, how they are strucured or the patterns chiselled in to the roofs, brickwork or chimneys of older buildings.

The patterns of the clouds, the skylines or people hanging out of high rise flats. Look up, head up, stretch back those shoulders and employ a good posture. Elevate your mood. Feel the ground, feel your feet moving and touching the pavement.

Escape physically and mentally with a nice walk. Go a different route, get lost, find your way home. It’s an exciting way to burn calories and clear the headspace. Exercise, as I’ve come to realise over the years, is as much of a mental boon as a physical one.

hedge and foliage in the countryside
Hedgerows are full of nature and food sources

I enjoy it and the dog enjoys. Why not take a rubbish bag along and collect all the crisp packets and tin cans strewn along the road? Where I live in the country there are often fast food wrappings, cans of beer or varieties of sweet packets tossed out into the fields and hedgerows of a morning. I encourage my children to bring some disposable gloves and a bin bag to collect up the “cleaner” waste.

Around this time of year as we leave the summer and head into autumn (or fall if you prefer) the blackberries are juicy and ripe to eat in many cases. Collect them up in a little plastic box, take them home, discard the bad ones, wash them thoroughly and use the blackberries for a nice jam or pie, or even mix it in with ice cream. You can’t beat a bit of foraging, but make sure you don’t munch on anything you are unsure about.

blackberries on a bush
Fresh blackberries are prime foraging material

There’s is so much to see and do outside, to collect, to observe, to eat or to admire. Get the boots on and stretch those calves! There are few things as relaxing and simplistic as an escape into nature. That’s why walking is my superpower.

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Lifestyle

Why I don’t want to work from home…

By Steve W

…but still ditch the office desk

Sitting in traffic is one of the most soul destroying daily practices. The clock ticks by, tensions rise, traffic reports warn of imminent blockages. It can often feel like you’re literally wasting your time.

For so long I dreamed of ditching the daily commute. No more waiting in line at the entrance to the motorway. No more “parking sweats” as the frantic search for a space intensifies. That was until my shift pattern suddenly changed and rather than aiming to be in the building for 9am, it became 7am.

No traffic concerns

Leaving home at 6 o’clock in the morning meant minimal traffic. The parking spaces were not filled as quickly. There was greater availability closer to the office building. An earlier start meant an earlier finish too; leaving midway through the afternoon, avoiding the rush hour.

Then the dreaded Corona Virus hit. It quickly became clear that we would be required to work from home. In the hrand scheme of things I’m one of the lucky ones: no reduction in pay, no furlough, no dreaded redundancy. Three months with no traffic concerns. A chance to test out whether working from home is really as appealing as I always suspected.

Motivated by freedom of movement

I swiftly settled in to a neat routine. Getting up early, daily exercise completed, nice breakfast cooked, home schooling out the way, logging on to the computer. It worked seamlessly for the first month. That was until it didn’t. Suddenly going in to the converted “office” with its infinite mess and dull lighting became a drag. It was like crawling in to a cave each day.

The lack of airflow added to sluggishness. The standard work was getting done, but all of those “extras” that I had added confidently to the list at the start of lockdown were not disappearing off the to-do and motivation was waning.

As we started getting drafted back in to a working environment -single days at first, increasing gradually as the months went on- I suddenly rediscovered a semblence of motivation. Getting back on the road, in to civilisation (no matter how weird or awkward with social distancing and face masks) felt invigorating. My productivity increased not only in work but in my personal endeavours to.

After thinking it through it wasn’t necessarily the fact that I had returned to my physical place of work that had allowed me to rediscover my motivation. The location was irrelevant. It was the freedom of movement that I found so motivating.

Working remotely is still an option

My long term ambition remains working remotely, in employment that does not require me to attend a specific location every day. However, working strictly from home, in a home office environment, did not work out well in the short space I tried it. I thought working from home would be great. Turns it wasn’t as liberating as I expected.

That said, being chained to a designated location is not the answer either. I’ve discovered I need a middle ground. The ability to pick and choose my spot for the day. Have laptop, wil travel. The cafe, the library, the coffee shop, the back of a car with a WiFi box – the choice of locations is endless. It may change each day, but the key point is the choice of location. Working as a Digital Nomad, picking my own times and spaces to work in are of more interest than strictly working from home.

It’s a shame that it took something like a pandemic for me to find this out. However, something we think in theory is the answer does not work out in reality. Maybe one day I’ll be sitting on a beach with alaptop somewhere, growing grapes by day and coding HTML by night? I still want to work from home, as long as “home” is flexible enough to move with me.

Categories
Lifestyle

Escape to Portugal

Why one freedom seeker escaped to Portugal

By Steve W

When it comes to escaping the rat race there are worse spots you could end up in than Central Portugal. That was one of the main appeals when Bolton native Owen Lloyd Martin relocated with his then-wife to the beautiful warmth of a country that spawned Port wine, Piri Piri Chicken and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Rising in the morning to capture the floating, etheral mists on the hillside or observe the wildlife moving around freely in its natural habitat, this truly sounds like an idyllic location. Martin lives near a reservoir, in the Pedrog√£o Pequeno region on Arrochela Farm.

Speaking to Carl Munson on Good Morning Portugal, Martin explained the joys of living near the water: “I was with a friend the other day and she was telling the story of sitting in a pontoon eating sandwiches with the children and the bread fell in. All of a sudden there was a multitude of carp all around her. She decided to get in the lake and swim with the carp,” he said.

Martin’s off grid set-up helps sustain his remote lifestyle. Solar panels add power. A limited quantity of mobile internet data keeps him connected with the outside world, while a homesteading mentality allows for fruit and vegetable growing.

Summer temperature highs hit as much as 42 degrees, although the average is a slightly cooler 36. When the rain falls, it falls, as four seasons often swing by in one day. When the cold weather comes, chimneys around the village can be spotted blazing.

“I chop wood for a fire late in the day,” Owen explains. “I’m nice and warm then. I’m asleep by the time it heats up so why expend the energy chopping wood all day?”

The dry days allow Martin to grab his wellington boots and sow seeds for food supplies. Portuguese weather does not always allow for winter gardening, despite what you might think.

Martin grows lemons, various orange types for freshly squeezed juice in the mornings, pomegranates, limes and grapefruits. Peanut plants are the latest vegetables being tested in the sunny climes.

Martin recalls the first time he realised that a tropical, distant life in Portugal was exactly for him.

“Getting up at 5 o’clock in the morning, walking down to the lake with my fishing rod and my headphones, I cast a line, saw some buzzards and an eagle, watched the carp swimming around.”

The neighbours’ home brew is also a weekly hit for this relocated Englishman. Not proficient in the language, Owen enjoys the hospitality, kindness and generosity of the Portuguese people who appreciate his attempts to communicate in the local dialect.

Sunday is market day, a time for mingling with people of all ages across the community; many engaging in religious practices. Martin concludes by explaining how his decision to leave the UK for Portugal was strongly based around freedom and personal liberation. Two core ideas that can motivate many escapers to follow their own dreams.