Perhaps it is the rugged backdrop of Snowdonia National Park, or the wind swept beaches that frequent the coast, but North Wales has always held appeal for me. My earliest memory is a family camping holiday on the Isle of Anglesey. I was 5 years old at the time and, even though I’m now 40, I remember how much I enjoyed the simplicity of living outdoors with friends and family.
Time moves on, and I didn’t spend much time in this part of the UK throughout my twenties. However, I re-discovered North Wales ten years ago. I was looking for something to invigorate life back into me, and a few friends had started kitesurfing. Compared to my sedentary office job the idea of being attached to a kite, pulled along by the power of the wind, balancing on a board and riding the ocean waves, sounded like the perfect tonic.
My predictions were right, and I quickly fell in love with this sport. Weekends became about ‘chasing the wind,’ and I often made the three and a half hour drive from my home in the Midlands to the Isle of Anglesey. I slept in campervan, tents, and people’s houses just to get my fix. It was tiring, but it proved a good way to balance stresses that came with a responsible job in an office. Little did I know I was paving the way for future plans to unfold.
It was 2015 when things changed for me. I had been with the same corporate organisation for twenty-one years and, whilst nothing was wrong, I had an underlying sense I wasn’t living the best version of myself. After a lot of soul-searching I decided to hit the reset button. I requested voluntary redundancy and, after my third application, I was accepted. Four weeks later I walked away from all I had ever known for my working life.
Looking back, this was one of my better decisions, but whoever says change is easy is wrong. This is why, I believe, people stay in situations when something new could bring benefit. At the time I didn’t have a plan. I knew I wanted to travel, but as to where, and how, I wasn’t clear. It was as nerve-racking as it was liberating!
To give myself chance to adjust, I decided a transition period was needed. I chose to spend the first weeks of my ‘new life’ between the oceans and mountains of North Wales. At the time it felt like I was turning the page of a new chapter, and I was happy to begin my journey somewhere I liked so much.
With my new found freedom I decided to explore Europe and Morocco in a campervan. Four months later I returned, sold most of my material belongings, flew to South Africa, and backpacked from Cape Town to Mozambique. There’s something to be said for momentum and, once my visa expired, I returned to the UK and flew to Sri Lanka to focus on my kitesurfing.
But I also noticed a constant call between these incredible adventures. Each time I came back to the UK to see family and friends, I always returned to North Wales.
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact appeal sometimes, especially when the sky is grey and the rain seems relentless. Perhaps it’s the peaks of Snowdonia, the cold lakes, the castles, or the isolated beaches. I just know I always have a sense of being exposed to something bigger than myself. Something natural and unforgiving, yet exhilarating and healing.
Because this is where I started my journey, it seemed fitting to write a large part of my book ‘Adventures In Happiness’ in the area. I never expected to publish a book when I began this chapter of my life, but that’s the beauty of leaving yourself open to new experiences. You never know what is round the corner, and writing became as much an adventure as the travels that preceded it.
Of course, not everyone wants (or is able) to quit their job and travel. But, to experience the beauty of the world, perhaps you don’t need to. One of the main things I have learnt from these adventures is to appreciate what is sometimes right in front of you. Maybe that’s the reason I have the call to return to this wonderful part of the UK time and time again. And for that, I am grateful.
A bit about the author, John Alex Clarke is a freelance writer, blogger and a good friend and fellow outdoor lover from England that frequents the island of Anglesey often to go kitesurfing.
A former engineer turned author and life coach, he quit his day job after 20 years in the same work place, to expand and develop himself further. He is now a full-time coach, author and all round cool human being and is often found travelling the world! He has some beautiful reflections about his journey through life which i’d love him to share.
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Front cover image by : John Alex Clarke.