Wow. This year is flying by. Spring came and the days stretched out. This should be a summer of weekends outdoors, of long, lazy evenings before the sun goes down. But as much as I try to fight it, it’s easy to succumb to the bad habits that seem to come with a ‘proper’ job – even one where I enjoy the work. Longer hours in the office. Eating lunch at my desk rather than outside. Getting home so late that the evening is squeezed into just a couple of hours. Needing to use the weekend to recover from the week, catch up on sleep, do some jobs.
I can’t wait for the weekend, but then without realising, the weekend becomes about doing all the things I can’t do in the week. The daily life admin that needs to be done, rather than the stuff that I actually want to do with chunks of ‘free’ time; the stuff I promised myself I would do more of, from my tent in Spain. Then the week begins again, and I look towards the next weekend. And so, I wish my year – my life? – away.
I realise that I am lucky to even be in a position where I want to work less and can somehow actually imagine eventually making that possible. And that I can work in a way that potentially lets me save money for periods of time off and trips in the future. And that I genuinely enjoy the work that I’m doing at the moment, and like and respect the people that I’m working with. I am very lucky, and very privileged compared to the vast majority of people on this planet. But I resent that it feels like such a battle in this industry, this country, to get balance between work and the rest of life. I resent that somehow it feels normal, or expected, for work to totally dominate, and to always come first. It feels like we’ve totally forgotten what is important in life, or that we think that we can focus on that next week, next year. Today, this week, we must focus on work. But this week becomes next week, this month becomes next month, and so it goes.
In London, particularly, getting out into the wilds for just a day or a night at these busy times can feel like a bit of a mission. But it’s at these times that I need it the most, and that the impact of little trips is most beneficial.
So despite cancelling a long weekend trip away at the start of May (yes – due to work), on two subsequent weekends I doggedly headed out of London by train at around 6pm on Saturday night, towards the South Downs. An hour later, I was riding along the South Downs Way for a while, searching for somewhere to camp before dark, and the following morning I rode on for a few hours before hopping on a train to be back in the city by midday.
On both occasions I nearly didn’t make the effort. But each time I was so, so glad that I had. Sleeping under the stars. Beautiful sunrises. Fresh air. Empty trails. Exercise. And back in London for Sunday lunch.
The first trip was from Hassocks to Amberley, finding a place to sleep near Devils’ Dyke. Here are a few things I saw…
Two weeks later I slept just half an hours ride outside Winchester, before riding on to Queen Elizabeth Country Park, and taking the train back to London from Petersfield. That evening, and the sunrise the following morning were absolutely beautiful…
Eating pizza the following week in South London, a good friend asked me where I had pitched my tent on that last weekend. When I told them that I just slept under the stars, they looked at me with confusion, and perhaps a little despair. “What, like a homeless person…?”, they said.
I somehow struggled to explain how good it was, how beneficial, how natural. How much it resets things, brings perspective.
If only they knew 🙂