Breaking the Mould: Alex Mason

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Alex Mason did the thing so many of us dream of – she quit her life in London, for a life of adventure. Taking a sabbatical from work, she headed out to complete the Pacific Crest Trail, walking 2,653 miles of the West Coast of America. But this sabbatical soon turned into the rest of her life and she’s since walked nearly 10,000 miles across the US and New Zealand, climbed a 6,500m peak in the Himalayas and rowed 3,000 miles across the Atlantic, to name just a few of her achievements. We spoke to Alex to hear more about her drive for adventure.

I’ve always had the desire to travel, I just didn’t realise I could make it a lifestyle choice rather than a 2-week holiday here and there. In 2015 I was working in London as a graphic designer. I would leave my house at the last second, walk in a daze, void of thought, stand in ‘my spot’ on the platform waiting to sit in ‘my seat’ on the train. Years would pass by in a loop, repeating a pattern like the changing of the seasons. I felt unfulfilled. I felt lost.

One day, I saw a post on Facebook about the Pacific Crest Trail. I had never heard of it. I had never heard of long-distance hiking and never dreamed you could walk across a whole country, let alone one as big as the USA. I began to have crazy ideas about being able to do it, but there were so many reasons why I couldn’t. This little spark of an idea was floating around my head, interrupting my thoughts at every opportunity. That little spark turned into a raging fire in the pit of my stomach, obscuring my ability to think about anything else until I could no longer ignore it. I began to realise that all the barriers I put in my way could be overcome: my journey started by telling one person about what I thought I could do – and it led to taking a sabbatical from work.

It was pretty daunting, actually preparing for a trip of this scale, one that I’d never undertaken before and had zero training for. But there are thousands of resources out there. Blogs, Facebook groups, YouTube videos, you can find the answer to pretty much anything. Sometimes it can be overwhelming! The nice thing about the adventure community is that they are a friendly bunch and if you reach out to them through social media they are always happy to help; they love talking about their adventures! It was a bit intimidating, it was a big thing to do and I was worried about not liking it after all the preparation and planning and sacrifice that had gone into it.

The first 20 miles of trail sucked me in, tried to kill me and then spat me out. I lay on the ground, exhaustion flooding my body from my head to my toes, and yet I couldn’t sleep because I was buzzing with life; every part of me more alive than ever before. After 8 months of physical endurance, sleeping in the dirt and waking up to the undiscovered day ahead, the time came for me to go back to work. But as I walked into the office I felt like I had just stepped back in time; absolutely nothing had changed, everything and everyone was exactly the same as I had left them, the only thing that was different was me.

That was when I quit my job. I knew the adventure life was for me.

I think what really changed my perspective, was the realisation that you shouldn’t feel a responsibility to be loyal to a company: a company who will replace you in a heartbeat. Don’t let fear hold you back, it very rarely ends in disaster – things always have a way of working themselves out. I didn’t even do a lot of training for the Pacific Crest Trail and not much more for everything else I’ve done. In hindsight training would have probably made everything easier, but it shouldn’t be a reason not to do it, especially with long endurance events. The fitness is often very specific and you gain your fitness as you go. I try to make sure that doesn’t hold me back in what I do. Your mental strength is as important as your physical. Anyone can do it if they are able to put their mind to it.

One thing that really drives me with my adventuring, is the charity work I do alongside it. On the Pacific Crest Trail, you’re finding your own water and planning your day around staying alive. It made me think how that isn’t a choice for some people. And for me, that was something I really wanted to try and help to change. I know use these opportunities to raise money for a water charity, in the hope that if I walk thousands of miles for water, one day other people won’t have to.

I completely understand that doing what I did, quitting a “normal” life and heading out into the unknown is a completely terrifying thing to do. But it’s so important to remember not to fear failure. I am a bit of a perfectionist, hate being bad at anything or getting anything wrong. But my life improved when I realised I could use failures to my advantage rather than fear them. The first step in any adventure is to tell someone. Often the hardest thing to do is to admit to someone else that you want to make a change, once you’ve put it out there it becomes a lot easier to make the next step.

People often ask me “why?”. And I wonder – why not? I’m not anyone special. I am just someone who believed in herself.

To read more about Alex’s adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail, click here.