“Journeys like artists are born and not made. A thousand differing circumstances contribute to them, few of them willed or determined by the will – whatever we may think. They flower spontaneously out of the demands of our natures – and the best of them lead us not only outwards in space but onwards as well. Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection……”
These are the words of Lawrence Durrell, from his book, Bitter Lemons of Cyprus. He has my agreement, the beginnings of a true journey are often born within.
In my case the call, usually begins without conscious thought. More of an intuitive spark. My own personal journeys cycling or otherwise, have on several occasions started out of a crisis. Once in a while, catastrophe or messiness in life, requires a period of escape, in order for us to become strong enough to endure or manage a situation.
Being in a deep state of introspection, surrounded by mountains, trees, lakes and wildlife offers substantial healing and inner growth. Grief and loss are perhaps the hardest and most complex of human emotions to cope with. Nature can be an unconditional support at such times, literally a rock to lean on. No matter what happens in life…..the trees, mountains, lakes, rivers, sea, sunsets, sunrises, stars and moonlight are close to being medicinal, and will always be there for us.
No false promises, platitudes or harsh words from that favourite tree! Whose branches are strong and supportive, as the fluttering leaves rustle and whisper their greetings.
Once upon a time, I fled with my bike and tent, to the Hebridean Isle of Mull.
It was late September. Wild, stinging squalls blew in off the grey Atlantic. Some days my bones felt like ice and tears flowed too often. Railing and shouting at the injustices of life, while biting headwinds pummeled the bike, literally dragging my ailing willpower, back to the surface. Staying upright on that narrow track, under the imposing black Ben Mor suddenly became crucial, there was no more time for self-pity.
The secret sheep fold I camped in that evening, welcomed this human presence like an old friend, protective and nurturing. An ancient jigsaw, of embroidered lichen stones passed no judgement, they have witnessed much and stoically accept everything.
Crouching over the roaring stove, stirring bubbling porridge, enclosed by friendly stone walls, felt like a gift from heaven and a respite from the impossible. Such small moments are more important, than we often know. Perhaps in retrospect one realises, ‘Yes it was exactly what I needed at the time’
That particular journey to Mull, was instrumental in renewing my inner resolve. On returning to civilization, the situation I’d left behind was tackled with new energy and clear senses.
Another journey, undertaken many years ago, made a huge impact on the well-being of my two sons and I.
A couple of weeks after our rather unsettling house fire, there came a moment of inspiration. Without hesitation, a huge rucksack was packed. We caught a train, plane, ferry and bus eventually arriving, dusty and travel-worn, in the southwest corner of Crete. As we emerged out of the rickety bus, an elderly Cretan man, curiously asked where we’d come from.
“England…. with these two?” he questioned, pointing incredulously at the boys! I nodded my head in affirmation.
“Bravo, bravo, bravo” and proceeded to slap me heartily on the back! It appeared that a mother bringing her eleven-year old and seven-year-old, over such a distance with no pre-bookings, had caught his imagination! (It was a long time ago!)
April is low season in Crete. Luckily, only a handful of other foreigners were wandering the streets and inhabiting the guesthouses. Which suited us perfectly.
Each and every day we lived in the moment. Over those two weeks, we basked under cloudless blue skies, paddled in windy surf, went snorkelling in warm clear waters, foraged under smooth rocks, ate sumptuous picnics by the Libyan sea, collected wild flowers, pink shells and grainy white sands. We set our clock by the huge ferry, as it went to and fro, from the picturesque harbour.
To my sons delight, the local wild pelican wandering the sea front looking for treats, became our morning best friend!
In the cool evenings we perched on the peninsula arm, gazing with wide eyes as a creamy moon rose in the west, whilst simultaneously a blurry orange sun slipped down into the east.
Gloriously, healing, fiery sunsets.
We returned to North Wales rejuvenated, sun-baked, smiling….replenished with the pleasure and wonder of life. Very ready to face the next phase of the aftermath.
I would love to hear any stories of a journey, that has made a difference to your life. If anyone would like to share one?
* Thanks to Sarah Phillipson for the Lawrence Durrell quote.