Free Nights - a guest post by Jon Doolan

As part of an ongoing project, I'm encouraging Mums, Dads, kids, carers, and adventurous significant others to take the stage and share what makes #dadventure matter for them, whether they get out on their own to recharge and rebalance, or with the family, to nurture a love of the wild and to expand horizons.  Please get in touch if you'd like to share your story. 


Recently, I found myself on a school-night #microadventure with a number of likeminded souls, and having realised quite how likeminded one of them was, asked if he would mind penning a guest blog for


And here it is...


Free Nights by Jon Doolan

We all know that juggling being a parent and being an adventurous soul can be a struggle. That’s why, when you get a free night, we need to go all out and embrace it in its entirety.

We have a pretty conventional child care plan. My 2 year old daughter is in nursery three days a week and with in-laws the other two. The fact that the in laws live an hour and half away means that the little tyke is carted about like a Parcelforce delivery that keeps getting returned to the depot. This isn’t the way it will always be but it’s the way it is right now.

So I need to make the most of any free time I get.

And Tuesday night is THE night.

I’m not going to climb a mountain on a school night. I’m not going to cycle round the world. I’m just an ordinary guy who has to go to work each weekday like a lot of people. Being a teacher doesn’t help with morning briefings starting at 8.30 and after school sports fixtures sometimes going well into the early evening.

But not this Tuesday. Cut to me in a non-descript sports hall urging my year 7 cricket team to their first victory in a fast but manic indoor match. I am counting the runs to victory. Each over is passing relentlessly one by one until the final wicket falls. I bundle the kids out of the door and onto the minibus in double quick time. A nip back to school with the kids revelling in their success in the back of the bus before yanking my ‘go bag’ from the boot of my car, quickly switching to hiking boots and jogging to the tube.

I sit looking around the tube at the rest of the commuters as they clamber aboard at Canary Wharf. Where are these people going with their Barbour jackets and Hilfiger scarves? What drives these suits with their patent leather satchels and grim faces? What motivates them to become sardines in a tin racing through the underground of London? Do any of them think the way I do? I wonder if any of them will be doing what I’m doing this evening.

We all do a depressing impatient congo out of the station at Waterloo and that’s where I see him.

Dave Cornthwaite, Adventurer.

The founder of YesTribe standing with a swish green jacket on and blue sunglasses poised on his ginger hair. He looked ever the rugged adventurer apart from the black satchel at his feet. He’s doing a product test for a penknife company who have branched into clothing and bags. Is this a typical day’s work for an adventurer?

So why was I meeting Dave Cornthwaite, he of the Yes is a doing word hoodies and Expedition 1000, under a clock in the middle of Waterloo station? Well, I’d decided to say ‘YES’ to an invitation on Facebook. An invitation to go for a wild camp. With a whole load of strangers.

I’d told someone at work I was doing this and they turned to me flabbergasted. ‘If a kid came up to you and said that they were going to meet people they’d met on the internet and sleep with them in a forest, what would be your advice?’ Looking at it that way it does sound a bit nuts.

But it was brilliant. The few of us jumped on a train that shot us into the countryside where we met more like-minded campers and headed into the woods. After an obligatory game of Frisbee, with the setting sun casting beautiful orange beams through the boughs, we entered the woods. After a stroll along trails and through bracken we found a space to through down our bivvies and string up some hammocks.

The guys and girls who gathered round our small campfire were all fantastic people. Such positive ambition and drive. From the bearded biker who was planning to ride round the world to the teacher who had jacked it in to become a Go Ape instructor. The office girl who had spent the weekend completing a 24 hour canoe challenge to the development worker helping families become more self-sufficient and eco-friendly in India. From the Sierra Leone charity fundraiser, to the dad who had just started writing a blog about taking his two boys on adventures (This very blog!). Such an eclectic background but all here for the same reason, to grab a piece of adventure in the middle of the week.


As we sat around the flickering firelight sharing our stories and ‘Passion Projects’ (as Dave calls them) the positivity that emanated off of everybody was palpable, like the flames were fuelling the fire for adventure in everyone’s bellies. We snacked on crisps and roasted sausage rolls over the burning embers (we’d all forgotten to bring marshmallows) and talked long into the night.


As I lay snuggled in my bivvy gazing up at stars that glowed between the branches above my head I couldn’t help but beam a massive smile at the distant heavens. This is what is should be like every Tuesday night.

Until the alarm beeped at 6am and I reluctantly squeezed myself out of my warm, cosy bivvy, packed my stuff swiftly and headed back to the train. Back to commuter hell.


The rising sun lit the tops of the eastern clouds with a bright yellow glow. Every cloud has a silver lining. Yes, I have to get up early. Yes, I’m on the wrong side of London. Yes, I’m a bit smelly from the smoke of the fire last night.

But what a wonderful night with some amazing people!

What a glorious morning to be awake in a wood in the middle of nowhere!


What a brilliant #microadventure!

My advice to any parent out there - if you get a free night you can’t really beat sitting round a campfire with positive people in the middle of the countryside.


If you would like to go a similar #microadventure keep an eye on the YesTribe Facebook page.

 (Words by Jon Doolan, pictures a joint effort)