The Good and Not So Good of 2021

My daughter playing in a downpour along the Shonai River.

Above – the most memorable moment of 2021. Playing with my daughter in torrential rain.

Time for some reflection on 2021. This usually stays private for the pages of my journal but I’ve decided to do a version for this website. I’d like seanbreslin.net to evolve and encompass more of my life and be more authentic, not just an edited-for-web outdoor adventure edition.


Good Books

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce – The story of a man who walks the length of England to visit a sick friend. Books very rarely bring me to tears but this did.  

Four Thousand Weeks: Time and How to Use It by Oliver Burkeman – This is a genuine life changer, up there with Your Money or Your Life. Four Thousand Weeks is roughly all the time we have. Use it wisely, abandon most of your dreams and goals to focus on the ones that truly matter.

The 1918 Shikoku Pilgrimage of Takamura Itsue – A young woman walks Shikoku when not many Japanese women were doing so. Witty, insightful, and a delight to read.

This Life: Why Mortality Makes Us Free by Martin Hägglund – I’m struggling with this book, it’s too philosophical for me, but the two main nuggets have given me something to think about. The first – If an eternal heaven/god/whatever existed then life would have no meaning. It is the fact that life comes to an end that makes it so meaningful. That leads to the second idea – We should be assessing the value of our lives based on how much time we have to do the things we wish to do, not on money or social status, etc. Want to spend a Monday morning with your young child in the park? If you can do it without having to sacrifice time (your life value) in order to work for money to live then you’ve succeeded. I need to reread this book though to understand it better.

Good Hikes

Solo hikeMt. Hijiri. If I could do one solo hike again in 2022 it would be Mt. Hijiri in the Minami Alps. I’ve never felt so isolated in Japan and it was the perfect antidote to modern city life. A three hour drive into the mountains, a 6km bike ride on gravel, followed by 4 hours of hiking to the 3000m+ summit. I can’t wait to do it again.

Family hikeAshihama in Mie prefecture. The location of plans for a proposed nuclear power plant which were abandoned after the Fukushima disaster. I first hiked here back in 2013 with a friend and it’s perfect for a family hike with an edge to it. It feels remote but Nishiki Port isn’t that far away and there are usually fishermen scattered on rocks in the bay. It’s a great place for wild camping, too. 

Good Walks

The Kiso-ji. All of it except for Magome and Tsumago which I find too touristy as well as any section running directly alongside Route 19. The Kiso-ji was quiet, beautiful in places, and it felt good to have a goal that wasn’t based on numbers or distances. Breaking it up into sections and walking it in different seasons was also rewarding. I’d like to walk it in the opposite direction in the near future and talk to more people.

Most Memorable Moment

Playing with my daughter outside in the middle of a torrential downpour in mid-August along the banks of the Shonai River. Everything about that moment suggested staying indoors would be the wiser option but I trusted my instinct, grabbed my Leica M6 (also not a wise decision in the rain), my mountain bike and we went out. It was the best hour of the year and it happened just around the corner.

Fitness/Exercise

I’m very happy with the amount of mixed exercise I did this year – plenty of walking, hiking, and cycling. Until mid 2019 exercise consisted of riding a bike and an occasional hike but that has been gradually evolving to include more running. In 2021 I averaged about 60-70kms of running a month. Not bad, although running still feels like a chore compared to cycling and hiking. My cycling numbers were way down on previous years but for the time being there’s not much I can do about that due to the Little One. Besides, playing with her in the park everyday or at our recent trip to Legoland Japan is exercise.

Restless

My newsletter. I never thought I’d write one and never thought for a minute that people would stick around to read it. But I was wrong and they have. Thank you if you read it.


The Not So Good

Overall the year has been a good one and life is more varied and enjoyable but there has still been a few issues that need change or improvement.

No Travel (to the UK or Hokkaido)

My father is sick and my family and friends in the UK are yet to meet our daughter in person due to Covid restrictions. I thought that would be changing imminently but now with Omicron widespread I have no idea when (or even if in the case of my father) they will meet her. This worries me a lot but there’s little I can do about it but wait until life is back to some form of normality. I no longer care about travelling anywhere other than within Japan, the UK, or Australia.

No Bike Packing and Less Cycling

I want to increase the kilometres I ride in 2022. I doubt they’ll ever get back to the days of 1000kms per month no excuses but I want to increase them by 20% over 2021. That should be possible now that the Little One is ever-so-slightly more independent. I want to go bike packing again too and put my Curve GXR to better use.


Thank you to everyone that’s read this website in 2021. Have a great New Year and see you again in 2022.

Get in touch – email me. Perhaps subscribe to Restless too?

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