In 2017 Martyn set himself the challenge of visiting every UK national park in one year. In this blog, he tells us more about why he did it, how it went and what he learned during his exciting year.

Last January my sister turned THE BIG 30. And to mark the special occasion we decided to take a family trip to Scotland. And WOW what a place to begin, big skies and spectacular views.

First up, we headed to Conic Hill, overlooking the beautiful Loch Lomond. As we scrambled up the 361 metre hill we were met with a stream of "HAPPY BIRTHDAY"s in deep Glaswegian accents. (What you need to know at this point is that it has become a Lowder family tradition to wear your birthday balloons where ever you go). This will be a day that will not be forgotten anytime soon and meant much more than a bottle of expensive perfume or another pair of shoes for the back of her cupboard.

I didn’t know it at the time but this was the start of a year of my UK national park bucket list. What started as a family trip ‘north of the wall’ turned into 12 months of 15 national parks, 43 travel buddies, 800 miles cycled, 1 broken finger and A LOT of rain.

Experiences over things

I have always liked the outdoors. No matter where I am, I always look for an excuse to take to the mountains – raincoat, water bottle, and a decent pair of shoes – check!

What has really caught my attention this year is our obsession with stuff. We have more stuff than ever – more than our parents or grandparents did – and we still continue to buy more and fill our homes with all of this stuff we just don’t need.

This is why is I feel well connected to the GAP mission. Promoting experiences that replace the time we spend obsessing over unimportant, little things is what I value. Taking the time to get outdoors and spend time with family and friends is good for the soul. It gives me time to recharge and focus on the important things in life. This year I have caught up with old friends whilst tackling blizzards in the Cairngorms. I made new friends whilst climbing my way across the Peak District and taken some all-important me time whilst camping on Exmoor.

Switching off

What I enjoy the most about getting outside and leaving London behind is switching off. I would never rush off to find  good internet connection or be concerned if I couldn’t be contacted 24/7. It is a great feeling and makes me appreciate the UK’s remote wilderness.

It is great to get offline. To not be checking my phone for notifications or scrolling through the latest new releases on Netflix. Now don’t get me wrong… I enjoy watching Peep Show until the early hours of the morning or scrolling through Instagram on my lunch break.

Phones are a great way to take photos, keep in touch and find your way when you’re lost however like with everything it is important to consume in moderation. I’m now trying to limit how much time I spend staring at a screen, and spend more time living here and now in the moment.

And in the end…

As I look back on an fulfilling year, I have come to realise that what I value can’t be bought off the shelves or delivered to my door the next working day. I recharge and get my energy from spending time outside. Spending the time outdoors with my friends and family instead of buying the latest ‘must have’ item (that will likely end up in the bin) is not just more sustainable but it costs less (or free) and means more.

Feeling inspired?

- Check out our top 10 tips for ways you can get outdoors and feel happier.

- Watch our latest vlog to see Abi try and test our tips!