La dolce far niente…

It’s Italian for ‘The sweetness of doing nothing.’

It’s what I plan to do for the next two weeks, probably involving a considerable amount of ice cream. Often it’s my favourite choice of weekend activity too… only I never knew what it was called until I finally watched the film ‘Eat, Pray, Love‘ featuring Julia Roberts. She plays a woman healing from a broken relationship in Italy = Eat, India = Pray and Bali = Love.

‘La dolce far niente’ is a seriously underrated pastime. It restores you and enables you to live in the moment, whatever that moment brings. Not worrying about anything or anyone for a sweet period of time.

Photo by Derek Liang on Unsplash

Weirdly if you search for it on the internet, a bunch of gurus from various backgrounds talk about how you do it and/or how you achieve it.  This seems counterintuitive to me.

It’s the art of doing nothing. Simple.

See you in two weeks!

Love Ruth x

Header Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Ruth Goes to Ghana: Expedition 04G

I was prompted to write this by a Raleigh International update, which made me think about my expedition to Ghana and the affect it has had on my life…

It started with the weekend interview and a river crossing, in slippers by one candidate. I got in, personally I think due to my Mum’s training when camping as a child – I actually wiped down the groundsheet to sleep on and had a wooden spoon tucked away in my rucksack!

I raised money through a cash lottery with a weekly email update entitled ‘Ruth Goes to Ghana’ (one friend commented that I wrote like I think, very revealing for her!). The rest I basically just paid for out of my wages, resigned in September 2003, went ski-repping in Switzerland for the Winter and to Ghana in May 2004. They still did paper tickets for the plane back then…

Arriving in Ghana, I was overwhelmed by the constant drumming… It was green, a shock. Hot, not a shock. And everyone there was fascinated by my hair, long and blonde, and my skin, still very white.

Screenshot-20180804_025623

We trained as expedition leaders in Accra. Maybe 30 of us, mostly around 30-ish. That was the easy bit… The Venturers arrived about 5 weeks later. They were 17-25 years old, many from Glasgow, some gap year students, others Ghanaians. I did not understand much of what was said at first – accents (mostly Glaswegian), noise and chaos all contributing to this. Just outside Accra, we did our first trek with the group we would take onto the first Phase of the expedition. There were cobras, dehydrated young people, unbelievable tiredness and relentless heat.

Then I heard by letter that a good friend had been killed on a motorbike. He was 31, he never saw his child. He had emailed me just before I left and I had not replied before heading off to Ghana. As you can imagine, the expedition leader reading this Baz Luhrmann track went straight to my heart:

Sleeping in a tent became normal after 3 months. We cooked on BBQ-like stoves – including making bread from scratch. We sat over a very long pit, the long drop, some with chronic diahorrea… We built a primary school and nursery (making mud bricks from scratch), refurbished a hospital, constructed a toilet block and used machetes to carve a trail for the tourists visiting Bui National Park.

One of my overriding memories is of a young venturer who didn’t thrive in his first placement but subsequently found himself, weirdly through hefting a pickaxe. He changed from being a frustrated individual to being well-rounded, friendly, supportive and a pleasure to be with. As I understand it, he carried this attitude on into his future and I hope I was a little bit to do with that.

Screenshot-20180804_025816

Thinking about the experience of Ghana itself. Of course, there were mosquitos and very itchy, very large nits. There was also malaria and fairly frightening medical facilities… There was poverty but there was sharing the last of your food with someone who had none. There was illness but also people willing to take care of you. There was nothing in terms of material things compared to the UK but there was gratitude for something as simple as a pencil. Deeply inspirational.

I saw hippos in their natural habitat and a massive elephant called Action looked straight into my eyes from 20 yards away… I saw slave trading castles, where the floor in the room where the slaves were ‘stored’ before being transferred to the ship, was a metre higher than the rest of the building floor. Accumulated and compacted human waste.

All things considered my experience in Ghana had a profound impact on my view of life. Some lessons have taken me a while to absorb, others were immediate leaving me with a conviction that Adventures that Matter really matter. Exposure to other cultures and environments really matters. These experineces impact on the traveller, the local inhabitants and positively colour the world for both. They change perceptions, build confidence and create lifelong friendships.

In Ghana, I saw my favourite birthday sunrise. A memory I will hold forever.

Screenshot-20180804_025858

Book your own adventure soon.

Love Ruth x

P.S. Beware the reverse culture shock…

Single Parents and Business Travel….

Is it even possible to hold down and succeed in a job requiring travel as a single parent? Well I do it… so I’m thinking ‘yes’ despite the perception of many people, with or without children.

It takes a great support structure, including:

  • mainly family and friends, relatives or otherwise, prepared to step in and help,
  • a rigorous logistics plan,
  • and, most importantly, a flexible, well-prepared, secure in the knowledge they are loved, small child.

Alex Jones was on Radio 2 the other day talking about her book, ‘Winging It, Parenting in the Middle of Life’ (ISBN 978-1911600015) and I realised that this is a relatively untapped conversation. A friend also suggested it as a potential and lesser discussed topic.

Travel is an inevitable part of many senior roles, and therefore required, and yet is still perceived as inadvisable, for mums especially, to do the level of travel expected. Of course it’s a choice. Of course it has a price. Equally, being prepared to travel enables working mums to reach their full potential in many workplaces and for single parents is often a necessity to make ends meet. I wonder whether the choice to travel or not is one of the roots of the gender pay gap…

The reality is that kids are resilient. Parents can leave their kids with trusted carers. It is possible, just hard.

Preparation is essential. I don’t mean travel plans. I mean mental preparation for the child. Giving age appropriate notice of travel (not much when they’re young, increasing as the child gets older), details of timescales, care and logistics information for them to maintain their routine, and a picture of where your going and why, helps.

However it’s actually hard, not because of the logistics, but because I miss my daughter when I’m away. I trust the person she is with. I know that she is likely having fun, equally I somewhat enjoy the freedom of the responsibility (this is also a mummy taboo…). Despite this, there is a longing to be back together which is a difficult feeling for both. A sort of elastic cord which pulls you, resulting in a kind of relief when you are together again – and lasting approximately 6 minutes before the inevitable bickering begins! I’ve found the physical distance makes little difference, London or Australia, it feels the same.

In my experience, a week is a maximum in terms of duration absent, after that it’s just a strain for both parent and child. A working week is okay. A weekend not so much. The second week, agony.

Until the child is three-ish years old it is easier as they have little concept of time. The main hurdle is when they realise a suitcase means you’re going away. The actual absence is relatively easy.

After four, they know how long you’ve been gone and count the days. They are generally happy to see you when you come back, but there is often a tantrum/reaction period by the child after that – up to a full day with my daughter! They kinda punish you…

From seven, the child understands it’s a work thing, they adjust and adapt, though to be honest there is always some price. Gifts, especially conference freebies, work well. I’ve found they semi-compensate but is not the same as physical presence, obviously. Time spent together on returning is also precious. Do something simple together when you get back and normal is re-established pretty quickly.

I’ll let you know what happens at ten! I’m hoping WhatsApp and Skype will help more as we move to a more emotional rather than practical support phase. Who knows? It’s all winging it as a parent!

It would be great to hear the experience of everyone else. Hoping I can learn…

Will get back to publishing topics now. Safe travels!

Ruth