About Rebecca – Life before the Lake District
At school, I would be one of the last girls you’d pick to go wandering off into the world with a backpack at the end of classroom days.I was meek and geeky; more comfortable in the library or the kitchen than I was playing outside. I was the kid picked last for the netball team and would always be trailing last in the cross country.
Ah well, it’s the taking part that counts, right?
But, pinned to my bedroom wall was a National Geographic map and I remember creating imaginary itineraries to countries I longed to visit – New Zealand, Iceland, Vietnam….
Setting off on my own for the first time at 18 in 2003, I struck out on an unlikely gap year – my other friends heading off on the classic East Coast Australian trip.I flew to Norway with the intention of travelling around Scandinavia for a quieter alternative of fjords and mountains.
And to my horror – I struggled.
I was shy and awkward. When fellow travellers tried to strike up a conversation I struggled to add anything meaningful; I lacked the confidence of talking to strangers having rarely been in situations of having to initiate chit-chat.
The scenery was breathtaking but I just couldn’t relax – bogged down with the worry of where I was heading next, how I would get there and what if terrible things would happen. In the end, I admitted defeat and flew home from Copenhagen after two weeks. I felt a mixture of both sadness and anger. I had failed. But why? Wasn’t this always what I’d wanted?
I vowed to try again.
Thankfully, university built my confidence back up and I threw myself back into the spirit of adventure by doing mini trips to Europe and working two memorable summer seasons in France and Italy as a campsite courier and children’s club leader.
After graduating from university, I took a short work experience placement at the BBC in research but knew straight away a sit-down office environment wasn’t for me – I’d spent 3 years cooped up in the library and needed a new challenge.
I applied to do a ski season having never even set foot on a pair of skis or board. I was hopeless, terribly bad. It took me a good month to master snowboarding. But I persevered, plodding up and down the nursery slopes, next to speed demon 5-year-olds until my uncoordinated body finally started to master the moves. You can find more info about my ski season life here
After two more ski seasons with summers in between in Scotland and Switzerland working in kitchens, I set off on two-year working holiday to New Zealand, unbelievably landing a trainee pastry chef position at a vineyard restaurant on the island of Waiheke close to Auckland.
All those yoghurt cakes made in the Alps paid off!
Whilst in New Zealand, I pushed my boundaries a little more – hitchhiking solo around the South Island, hiking the Routeburn and Raikia tracks – my first multi day hike and flew home via South East Asia, pausing briefly in Cambodia to teach English.
After a fourth ski season in Val D’Isere in 2012/2013, I returned having absolutely no idea on what direction to take next. After a friends place became free for a month, I moved London, dipping my toe into short courses (photography) and numerous talks about starting your own business whilst working full time at a fusion restaurant with a big international team.
Ideas were forming.
On a random January night in 2014, I had dinner with one of my old ski season roommates and we hatched a mad plan to hitchhike from London to Morocco, still one of my most memorable and heartfelt trips to date.
After a solo backpacking trip to Brazil for the World Cup, I decided big city life was not for me, and randomly found work on the tiny island of Yell in the Shetland Islands, managing a cafe for the summer and commuting from my home on Unst, the most northerly habituated island in the UK.
The peace and bliss I needed.
As winter set in, I briefly headed back to London before starting 2015 backpacking around Eastern Europe in winter and working at an art school in Tuscany for a month as a cook, before working as a pastry chef again for a friends pub in Suffolk, spending many of my days off on my beloved coastline of Norfolk (as well as sleeping in the sand dunes for a night!).
It was that summer, long hot afternoons on breaks from split shifts that I dreamed up my first small business idea, a cake business, which I bought to life in September 2015, moving back home to Nottingham to run it from my childhood homes kitchen table.
2015 was also the year I turned 30, and I believed that I should now ‘settle down’ and stop moving around so much.
I loved running Willow and Dove for 2 years eventually focusing on vegan cakes. I had a stall at a monthly market in Nottingham and supplied various cafes.
But something was missing, something didn’t feel quite right.
I missed being part of a team and missed the freedom of being able to take off on even the smallest of adventures. After a breakup and a trip to Galway in September 2016 to mend a broken heart, I realised that it was time to move on; to head back to my old carefree life – 30 was not too old.
I closed Willow and Dove the next year in September 2017 and spent a wonderful autumn working at a boutique hostel on the Isle of Skye, followed by my fifth season in the Alps, this time in Meribel (which I documented month by month here) running my very own seven-bed chalet for the first time before a carefree summer spent living and exploring North Devon and Cornwall.
My winter of 2018/2019 was spent in South America, hiking in Patagonia, adventuring in the Atacama Desert in Chile and exploring the coastal regions of Peru before returning to the UK and finding work in the Lake District, where this story has come full circle 🙂
You can read more about my decision to prioritise a life of travel over climbing a career ladder in this post
This little series I’ve called On the Places That Made me are more insights to the personal stories in those places which have left the deepest impact on me
The name of my blog is inspired by this quote from Marcel Proust
The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
I really hope this story and the others I share on my blog inspire you to undertake your own adventure, no matter how big or how small.
Sometimes, you have to take a leap of faith to take flight 🙂