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Honest thoughts about living in denial

Rookie escapee Anna describes her plans to leave her job to spend a year cycling across the United States on a ride called the Big Five-O, a 13,000 mile journey across all fifty states.

I thought everyone in my office felt the same. That sitting at a desk all day, tap-tap-tapping away, all the while wishing you were elsewhere, was a rite of passage. That we’re all unfulfilled and frustrated, but we just get on with it, because, well, that’s the way the world is, right? Turns out I was being taken for a royal ride by my colleagues.

The fact of the matter is, there’s a difference between those who say they want to be doing something else, and those that actually do. I mean, it’s easy enough to be fooled by water cooler ‘get me out of here’ chit chat after all, but offer these office-haters a route out, and they’ll back away. “Uh, no…. um… thanks. I’m alright where I am actually, very much”. “But you just said you hated being here?” “Yeah yeah, but, you know, I like it really”. Confused? Me too. I can only conclude its Stockholm syndrome. People must have fallen in love with their captors, and can’t fathom life beyond the regime.

To put an honest spin on it, I think 80% are happy with an office job and corporate life. And that their ambition and life path lies within those walls. I envy them in certain ways, not wanting for anything else and having a defined direction might be easier. And, other than indulging in false peer-to-peer exchanges on how they’d like to break free, they’ve committed no crime. So how about that remaining 20%? Well, these ones really do want out. It just took me a while to realise that I was one of them.

The early warning signs

In my early twenties, I was seeing a guy who lived in Birmingham. One June, I’d taken a few days holiday to spend time with him up in the midlands. On a Sunday night in London, whilst perusing train tickets for the following morning, I had a brain wave. I decided that rather than opt for a 2 hour rail journey with him, I’d instead hop on my trusty Cyclocross and cycle the length of the Grand Union canal, meeting him at the other end. Upon revealing my master plan, he looked at me like I was mental. Didn’t this just have the makings of the most wonderful adventure, I thought? It was certainly far more exciting than sitting on a stuffy train for 2 hours. He begged to differ.

I had no idea what the canal path was like, only that it was there – a watery corridor, with the potential to catapult me from Brentford, West London, right into the heart of Birmingham. So at 3.30 am on the Monday morning, I woke him up as I left, and gleefully whispered in his ear “I’m going on an adventure!” He groaned and went back to sleep. 217km, 4 punctures, 4 rounds of honey sandwiches and 11 hours later I skidded, muddy faced and grinning from ear to ear, into Birmingham. Turns out that a lot of the canal path is grass, and very uneven. Who knew?

I didn’t see it at the time, but looking back it’s obvious how often I desperately sought adventure in everyday life. I still do. I’ll always jump in the puddle rather than step over it, dive in the mud instead of walking around it and take a swim in a sea or river over a pool any day. I’ve heard many a seasoned adventurer remark “Why walk, when you can run?” On this occasion that translated into “Why sit on a train, when you can cycle up the canal?”

The Escape plan

I’ve finally admitted to myself that the time has come to stop treating adventure like a side line. So here I am, standing at the foot of my first adventure mountain, letting it take centre stage. In June I’ll leave the UK to embark on a 13,000 mile cycle through all 50 states of the US. I’ve broken the news to work, am 4 months into the planning and 5 months away from boarding that plane. I’m a little scared, a lot of the time, but I’ve never felt so fulfilled and happy in all my life.

Why sit in the office when you can cycle round America?

  • http://Www.theglowgetter.com Ailish

    Absolutely brilliant post. Loved it. Would love to cycle across America too but figuring out which order to do my other ideas in first. The very best of luck with your adventure. I hope you smile through every state.

  • Anita

    Good for you! I also used to sit in a very large open plan office and look around at the bowed heads tapping on keyboards for hours and wonder ‘what the hell are we all doing?’. Turns out I was about the only person thinking that way. I escaped 10 weeks ago…

  • http://www.escapethecity.org Rob

    Anna – loved this post. Inspired me to get on and do some microadventures in and around London over the next few weeks. All the best with your US cycle and come tell us how it is going on this blog again??

    • http://www.thebigfive-o.com Anna McNuff

      Hi Rob, definately! I’ll glady check in whilst on the road, and let you know how America and I are treating eachother.

  • http://www.dromomaniacs.com Ed

    Nice one Anna! Brentford to Birmingham! Now there’s an adventure not many have done!

  • http://happysugarhabits.com Laura

    Amazing post Anna, really enjoyed reading thank you.

    I totally had people saying that in the office too and was confused to say the least. I hope you’re adventure goes well!

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  • http://uk.linkedin.com/in/lolaaskarova/ Lola

    Really liked your story, very inspirational. Good luck on an adventure of a lifetime!

  • http://www.thebigfive-o.com Anna

    Thanks very much for the comments everyone – glad you could relate to the experience. Good luck to those of you on the escape…!

  • Holly and David Partridge

    Brilliant article Anna! The very best of luck with the planning and your adventure when it comes around. I smiled as you described yourself jumping into puddles and heading straight for the mud, I thought “hmm, that’s exactly what I’d do!”. My husband and I shall follow your journey as best we can from the road we too will be cycling along.

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