Five life lessons I’ve learned from a year of living in the Lake District

Today marks one year since I moved to the Lake District.

A still spring evening, staggering off the bus from Penrith with a backpack as big as me, a restless first night in an unfamiliar room with the sound of the River Greta roaring past.

With the first light of the morning, Keswick’s beauty unfolded before me. I remember walking down to Crow Park at the head of Derwentwater and feeling in total awe of the hills, what felt like mountains, towering and majestic.

I sat with my OS map spread out in front of me, tracing the lines of the fells with my index finger, whispering the names of the fells to myself, new words which sounded like an unfamiliar language, but would become so familiar, so comforting Skiddaw, Latrigg, Cat Bells. 

I fell immediately in love. 

As I paused for breath this morning after running up Latterbarrow, a small hill just outside my current home in Hawkshead in the South Lakes, it struck me how much I’ve changed in this past year, just how much I’ve grown. 

Growth and love which were principally found on the fells learning to run and solo hike, making time and space to write (mainly in my personal journal but more will come to form blogs at a later date) and finally becoming comfortable with letting go of the idea that chasing a career isn’t the bee all and end all of life.

On my run back to the hostel, my mind explored the things this year has taught me, and I thought I’d share them with you today. 

We need the bad times, the hard times, the tough times to really appreciate the good times 

I arrived in Keswick off the back of a few bumpy months. I’d returned from backpacking the winter in South America where I’d picked up a bug that stubbornly seemed to come and go. I’d separated from my boyfriend and had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do work-wise or where I wanted to live (not at home, if possible). 

I had spent many summers as a kid hosteling with my family in YHA’s and was thrilled to get a job, any job away from home. 

I had no expectations on the summer that lay ahead. 

And boy, it turned out to be a stunner

Building campfires and wild camping by the lake at sunset, hiking green and rocky fells until the sun went down, sharing life stories and forming the kinds of friendships that live long in the memory.

I really felt the gratitude for each one of those simple things, knowing that when times are tough, these are the memories that you bring you back to you. 

Putting ourselves into ‘boxes’ limits the scope on who we can become 

I had absolutely no intention of learning to run when I arrived in the Lakes.

Having been mediocre at best during PE at school, sport and me never really mixed. I had therefore already labelled myself ‘not sporty’. 

But these labels, I’ve learned are of our own unhelpful doing and limit who we can become. 

And so it’s a year later, today, I found myself slowing jogging up a tiny fell, and whooping with joy on the run down. 

Learning to run is the one thing this year that’s transformed me – in self-belief, to help me manage my mental health and for that tingle of excitement as I skip over tree roots on the trail runs ahead.

You can read more about my running journey here 

Taking regular baby steps with commitment and love can lead to truly wonderful things 

Committing to Couch to 5k – building up running by going out for three half-hour sessions a week blossomed into a first trail run, a first night run, a first 10k, a first fell run.

I never thought any of these would be possible. 

The hardest part is getting started, staying committed. But get past that, and that’s where the magic truly lies. 

Important life decisions are always best made outdoors 

Preferably on top of a hill, preferably with views across the Lake District 

Letting go and making peace with the fact life doesn’t always take us in the direction we once anticipated is one of the kindest things we can do for ourselves 

The hardest, and most recent lessons of the year. The letting go.

A classic dreamer, I am forever imagining what the future will look like, the great adventures, the big runs, the new projects.

Winter in Keswick was a tougher beast than I anticipated, thoughts of dreamy night runs on the fells replaced with stormy, windy nights and endless rainy days mixed with a little loneliness as many of the summer team had moved on.

With the new year, I had planned to stay in Keswick, but it was clear my manager had no intention of making me a part of the peak season team.

An unexpected blow for me, which left me reeling for a few days. But dusting myself off, I applied to other hostels and found a fantastic opportunity at Hawkshead which would combine by current role with training to be an activity leader.

Of course, life has now given us all an unexpected twist. I spent last week switching between sadness that I wouldn’t now be undertaking my role to joy for having more time to read, write and enjoy the small things in life.

I don’t know what this year will bring going forward, and I am so hopeful that I will be able to remain in the Lake District once government restrictions are lifted.

But for now, I’m trusting.

Trusting that I had no huge ambitious plans this time last year.

And instead, it turned out to be the year I grew into the person I always wanted to be.

I’ll be keeping the faith, right here.