THE CHALLENGE: We have all seen the memes circulating on social media:
Do more of what makes you happy.
But in the busyness of our lives, how many of us actually take some time out on a regular basis to do something that we truly enjoy? I’m not talking about a full day of pre-planned fun, but a spur of the moment decision to just do something (or nothing perhaps) that gives us pleasure.
So, at the start of this week I set myself the challenge to make a 1 hour window of opportunity to do something I wouldn’t ordinarily do in the routine of my week that would bring me joy.
I crawled out of bed early this morning (it is Friday!), fuelled up on coffee and a light breakfast, stuck on a load of washing, made the kids’ packed lunches and got them all off to school.
There was still a list of household chores to be caught up on and I have an essay to write for my studies with the Open University, but on this occasion I decided to turn a blind eye to the rice krispies littering the floor, and hopped in the shower to ready myself for my 1 hour of fun. I had been on a very intense training course with work yesterday and knew that the time out away from screens and housework would do me good.
My happy place is being close to nature. I am most contented when I am sweating a bucket load while hiking in the mountains, and we do endeavour to get down to the Mourne Mountains as often as possible. I love nothing more than roaming through a forest or being near water as it is always relaxing and I believe it is good for the soul!
However, I am a city dweller and with my 1 hour window time-challenge I decided that staying within the environs of my home was the best way to make the most of my time – I didn’t want to waste half an hour driving somewhere picturesque only to have 5 minutes to appreciate it! Also, Belfast is a fantastic city with so much to see that it made perfect sense for my first mini-adventure to have a cycle in the city.
Adventure, in my opinion, can be doing anything you love to do, that pushes you a little and challenges you. It doesn’t have to involve zip-lining across a vast expanse or doing a Steve Backshall and scaling the sheer face of a Venezuelan Tepui (although that would be awesome!) Just find something you like and do it! Adventure is a very personal thing – for some people it can mean extreme sports, for others it is exploring nature and for others it might mean something totally different – that’s all ok, just find your passion and pursue it! For me, it’s being physically active in the everyday and going to new places.
So, first stop on my 1 hour mini-adventure was the world-famous St. George’s Market in Belfast city centre where I bought fresh vegetables to make a curry for tea (useful to have a basket on the bike!) I had a lovely chat with a local jewellery designer and had a great time wandering around the many stalls sampling some produce and admiring the many wonderful products on display. I only stayed for about 15 minutes, bearing in mind my time-challenge and the time it had taken me to cycle into town, but because I had gone early on a Friday morning the market wasn’t as busy as it would normally be on a Saturday or Sunday, so I could move around quickly.
From the market, I cycled on around the outskirts of the city centre to enjoy the cycleways and take in a few of the local sights.
The key to mini-adventure is to keep on moving, while remembering to pause every so often to appreciate your surroundings.
So, with that in mind, I cycled onwards towards the Titanic Quarter while staying alongside the water. This gives you a great vantage point for taking in the dockside of Belfast, with views across to the famous Harland and Wolff cranes and on a clear day, Cave Hill.
I stopped off at The Belfast Bakery Company in the Titanic Quarter for a coffee and something delicious to eat, I used my time there to do a little writing, fulfilling another one of my passions.
My 1 hour was up! Time well spent I think. And, as I mentioned earlier, Belfast is a super city with lots to see and do. There are museums, city tours, great restaurants and markets to explore but even just taking 1 hour to cycle around and admire the buildings, sculptures, harbour and coffee shops I had great fun and got some exercise too.
I had some lovely conversations, great food and coffee, all the while supporting local businesses which can only be a good thing. I am truly fed up with looking at my bank statement each month and seeing that big supermarkets have taken the bulk of my money – enough is enough!
I have discovered that it is possible to fit in 1 hour of doing something I love into my everyday. I am off home feeling happy and energised, ready to cram in a few hours of study prior to the school pick-ups. The rice krispies on the floor may have to stay where they are that little bit longer but I can cope with than in the name of mini-adventure!