Manic May Microadventures

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…

Trails at dusk #bikepacking #microadventure

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A last minute night outside… #bikepacking #microadventure

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Good morning #microadventure #bikepacking

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Good morning #microadventure #bikepacking

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Morning dew #microadventure #bikepacking

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Morning! #bikepacking #microadventure

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My England! All mine! Well, apart from the odd cow. And the farmers, I suppose. And… #microadventure #bikepacking

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Rhubarb. #bikepacking #microadventure

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Yellow #bikepacking #microadventure

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Squeal….! #bikepacking #microadventure

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Breakfast time #bikepacking #microadventure

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England. Bank holiday Monday. #bikepacking #microadventure

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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…

South Downs Way #bikepacking #microadventure

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I declare this patch of earth #home for the night. #bikepacking #microadventure

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I've escaped London… #bikepacking #microadventure

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Ultralight cook kit. The watch is just for scale. #bikepacking #microadventure

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Dinner. #bikepacking #microadventure

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Alcohol. But not for the stove. Got that sorted, @bestbeforedead ! #bikepacking #microadventure #surly

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Morning… #bikepacking #microadventure

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Here comes the sun… #bikepacking #microadventure

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Morning sky… #bikepacking #microadventure

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Quite a bit of morning dew… #bikepacking #microadventure

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Wheat #bikepacking #microadventure

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Lush #bikepacking #microadventure

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Danger. Remember this place, @bestbeforedead @welshdebbie ?? #bikepacking #microadventure

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Sheeps. #bikepacking #microadventure #sheeps

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Life is good. #bikepacking #microadventure

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#surly #ogre #bikepacking #microadventure

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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 🙂

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5 Comments

  1. Chris,
    I know what you mean about the year rushing by – past the summer solstice already is a bit o a mental challenge. I think that part of the problem is that its also termed by some as the start of the summer, well it was 9 degrees in Aberdeen yesterday which is a bit depressing – long, languid summer evenings – oh yeah. As for avoiding the trap of spending the week waiting for the weekend – a bit hard to avoid for a youth like you but a week long weekend is good when it comes!

  2. I’m glad to read this, and it brings back great memories of our trip on the SDW (so long ago now!) I have my first Aussie bike trip planned for this weekend, it’s frightening how quickly the time escapes from you when there are competing pressures on it, but I’m hoping to take inspiration from other people – better people than myself – and get back to doing more of what I enjoy. I do miss the idea of camping out in the UK though, and not worrying about sharing space with deadly snakes or crocodiles!!

  3. Snakes and crocodiles! But in the UK you do have ticks and adders if that helps? And over here we have sandflies (but it’s winter now so none about.
    It’s those small short semi-spontaneous trips that can stand out more than those long journeys sometimes because they are on your doorstep and within easy access of your front door, by train, by bike.
    It’s all in the mind.

  4. Know how you feel, I spend every other weekend commuting back to France for about 30 hours. I seem to do more in those 30hrs in France than I do in a weekend in the uk. At home it’s washing, cleaning, shopping and ironing 🙁 looking forward to the day I had in my notice and move to France permanently, lot less money but even better less stress, 480 days and counting 🙂

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