This is what I call them. These trips, when I go away in my car alone and I do this thing where I choose to ‘go where I will’.
No fixed plan.
My plans form in a kind of organic way. Some of them have notions beforehand that develop into options, then only sometimes into actions. Others are completely spontaneous and others are somewhere in between the two. Decisions made on my inklings and urges, fantasies and on weather forecasts. Or on something someone said. Or a sudden yearning for something like driving eight miles to a shop for one of the best pies I had ever had – to get one again. Then an onward journey beyond the pie shop that took me somewhere else. To ancient stones and to a lighthouse where the land ends and the wind has free reign.
Or just to stop in a layby and crawl into the back and sleep for two hours in the middle of the afternoon. Or pause by a river and stay all night there, all cosy inside as the rains drenched the land and swelled the river to a dramatic wild torrent below me, suddenly it was no longer a place to bathe!
Or to drive off in the predawn light, finding a high spot from which to watch the dawn over Snowdonia and walk up a grass slope scattered with a million rainbow diamond dewdrops glittering at me as I pass and then find the perfect spot, from which to glory in the sweep of the dawn and the mist lying like a soft sea in the lowland fields and marshes below.
The qualities and experiences of these journeys include, spontaneity, freedom, peace, solitude, the unknown, joy and what I can probably best describe as magic.
When we were children many of us believed life was full of magic, or at least that magic was possible. Later we learned that it wasn’t so. But guess what?
We were lied to.
The world is full of magic.
One of the reasons I often prefer to encounter the world alone is because most people, when they go together, for a walk or a journey, unconsciously collude with each other to maintain the ordinary, the usual. Which, while it can be enjoyable, companiable and delightful in many ways, is sometimes good to get a break from, as it can distract us from the beauty and the magic all around us. My aloneness seems to transform the journey into something very different.
I become my Wild Lone Self. Answerable to no one. No one to observe me but my own self. No one to evaluate or influence my decisions, unless I choose it. No one to interrupt my reveries, my joy, my peace, my love affair with the beauty all around me, my own unknown and extraordinary adventure.
I am going to attempt to tell the story of how I do it, on both inner and outer levels, to share the practicalities of how I physically do this, and possibly an inkling of the magic too. Who knows? Keep your ears eyes and noses open for it!!
Then maybe later I will take you on a trip into the story of one of my adventures.
Perhaps I should begin with why, or should I say an attempt to explain why. Why I do this thing of going away by my Wild Lone Self.
Bear with me, I am figuring this out as I write. I will see if I can list the reasons as I think of them.
I have a love of freedom.
I have a love of the land, of the natural world, of this beautiful extraordinary trillion billion faceted jewel of a planet I am living on.
I love Unknown Adventures.
I love Journeys.
I love walking barefoot on the land and swimming in the wild waters, naked if there’s no one around.
I love the sun on my skin and in my eyes.
I love gazing at it all, photographing it, sinking my hands into soft mosses and feeling the movement of the trees in the wind, listening to the sounds that travel through them. Feeling the air on my bare legs. Lying on ancient rocks, standing in the still water in a deserted cove at the lowest of the low spring tide for 20 minutes, relishing the drama of how very, very low the tide is and seeing if I can experience the movement of the water down or up my shins while a small hermit crab tickles my toes.
I didn’t know I was going to do that until I did.
Cooking outside. I love cooking my meal on a rock, a riverbank, a wall, a concrete block by the beach put there years ago to stop the Germans landing, my tummy leaned up against the warm concrete and a pleasant breeze on my bare back.
I love sitting in the back of my car – tailgate up wide open with a glorious view along the beach to the mountains beyond, brewing up my coffee, open aired yet sheltered from the wind, after a delicious early morning dip in the wild western UK breakers.
What else do I love about going away by my Wild Lone Self?
Mmm let me think …
I am not always alone. There is something I call Chance Meetings and Encounters… though I really do not believe anything in life is chance, but more the incidence of co creation, the multiconnected matrix of everything that intersects constantly in every experience, every nuance of life… but perhaps I digress. Or maybe not.
Chance Meetings and Encounters. I like the poetry of that phrase. And I savour them. These moments. I meet people. Sometimes it is the minimal, a smile and hello or a casual remark about the weather, the day, their little dog, how the water was. Anything. Sometimes more. A conversation, maybe laughter. Or they tell me something of their life and I tell something of mine. Sometimes snippets, sometimes more than that. In each one of these encounters something is given, something received. There is an exchange. Then we go on our way.
They are like precious jewels on a thread.
One day I told a man from eastern Europe about how big steam trains used to pass along this path running right by the old hotel he was staying in, right where we were standing, three or four yards from the windows, and how as a child I was once a passenger on the train as it passed, like a great iron dragon taking me and my granny to the coast… to a place I loved. Enjoying his surprise as I evoked the power of those sudden moments as the great engines thundered past between the inn and the wate
Another day and another place a beautiful vibrant woman served me tea and cake. I was the only customer in the café and she told me about her life. She was strong, and tired. Our hearts met. I felt a quiet awe in the face of human survival, endurance and the power of love, as we laughed together and swapped stories.
I once met a woman who had just come out of the sea as I was going towards it – on a vast empty windy beach. In our shouted conversation as the wind buffeted our words, she invited me to stay in her home anytime. ‘If you go to my village just ask for me, they all know me,’ she said. Perhaps one day I will. Maybe we will meet again. Maybe not. It matters not. But the warmth of her impulsive invitation matters and it stays with me, warms the cockles of my heart whenever I remember it, and that wild wind, her little dog running madly around the creamy expanse of wet sand and barking. And the cold clear refreshing waters I entered, naked, after she left. Then the wide sweep of the land, the silver sand reflecting the light and the deep turquoise sea was empty again. Only my wild lone self and the seabirds remained.
These memories are all part of the gathered treasures of my adventures, my meanderings, my travels with my Wild Lone Self.
Precious extraordinary encounters.
There is a quality to taking a journey in solitude. I am somehow more sensitised to everything that happens, to my own self as well as to the world around me. There is a greater intensity to my experiences. Greater joy. A more intense perception of beauty. A far greater connection to nature and the elements – the presences of the places, of the life in the life I encounter, and also the rock, stone, air, water, light, the elements as well as the elementals. And of the sun, moon, stars and the cosmos.
My physical senses are also enhanced by solitude. The feeling of walking into cold clear Northern waters and feeling the bite of the wind as I emerge, the sun’s warmth as the clouds move aside and the body’s response of standing tall and wanting to stretch out my arms and join with all of it. And later the snuggled warmth as I drink hot chocolate in my own ‘nest’ out of the wind and relaxing with the beautiful cold turquoise sea view outside, enjoying my retreat into warmth and relaxation.
In this highly sensitised state the interactions with the personality and the ego that accompany my self can also be highly intensified. The process of making decisions can get interesting when the personality starts to offer some of its less helpful input. Procrastination. Unfriendly or unhelpful self-evaluations (criticisms) can elbow their way into the adventure, attempting to sow doubt or even anxiety.
But over the years I have got better at withstanding and letting go of those moments. Reclaiming my innocence and understanding of the perfection of my meandering, sometimes stumbling, curiously wondering wanderings. Though recently my self-feedback system did suggest, usefully, I believe, that it may be good to get better at not driving further, at night, when tired! Amongst the dreaming and wandering, it is also very good to be practical!
The practical. The arrangement that enables me to wander off without a plan, taking what I need with me.
The Practical and the care of the Physical.
What is my setup?
What comprises my vehicle, my shelter, my home from home on my travels?
The current vehicle is a 15 year old moderate sized estate car, I like the old Ford Focus because everything goes down to completely flat in the back with just enough length for me to sleep stretched out full length. I am five foot ten. Plus there’s no raised lip at the back door so it’s comfortable to sit on the rear edge. A smallish car such as this doesn’t have space to pack chairs or tables and suchlike. I prefer more space and less things wherever possible. So a back end that also works as a sitting spot is nice to have.
I have very seldom in my life paid more than three figures for a vehicle. When one breaks irrevocably or is no longer economic to repair, I go, usually these days onto FB marketplace and find another one. They last me one to three years.
My current car cost me £750 just over a year ago. An 07 plate with a genuine low mileage. A few minimal scuffs on the bodywork and dog hairs in the back (it had been on a farm apparently) kept the price down. Good sound mechanics. Cleaned up great. My previous one was £600 and ran beautifully for 3 years. That was the one that took me on my wunnerful midsummer adventure to the Western Isles for the first time in my life!! But that is another story I will begin soon. Or later.
Back to the car. I have a very comfortable bed. An old three inch deep foam ‘base camp’ Thermorest that no longer seals, so is a little firm and a little soft, topped with a three inch deep memory foam, which is very soft and very warm. They fold up into thirds during the day and are comfy for sitting, lying or leaning on. A pillow and a quilt and other ‘warmies’ go into a furry cushion cover for the daytime. I have no patience for unentangling myself from a sleeping bag to get out of bed in the night and a trip made for pleasure should never cause bad sleeps or aching bones! Minimal kit and maximum comfort is the intent!
Having the ‘right kit’ can really make a difference to the comfort, safety and convenience of all those things we humans need to keep us warm, cool, safe, fed, cleaned and serviced. So can the quality of the space. I can get quite obsessive and fascinated about kit, systems, finding good ways to do stuff and so on. I have what I call an ‘engineering mind’. By which I mean I have practical, spatially aware abilities and I love discovering better ways for systems to work and space to be optimised for maximum space, comfort and convenience. It’s a kind of fascinating game to see how good I can get it all.
So, what do I have? I have my very comfy bed and coffee pot but have no need for a plate or bowl as I happily eat out of the pot. My kitchen is in a bag that can be easily carried outside onto the riverside, beach etc to cook.
My system is that almost everything lives in several bags that I lined with boxes. The ultimately flexible system as everything can be easily moved around to change how I am using my space according to wind direction, comfort, what I am doing and where is the best view!
Kitchen bag – contains a tiny stove and windshield, tray and everything for cooking and making drinks.
Water bag – contains several water containers. Smaller and easy to handle.
Miscellaneous kit bag – my bag of useful things.
Chill box – The chill box is a recent acquisition and still on trial. Seems good though after its first week away with me. I can plug it in when driving, I have a Tupperware box in there that contains the ice cubes I buy on my way to keep things cool when not plugged in. The top is flat and is a useful desk table space I have so far used to place my tablet for an away from home zoom training. That was in Dungeness recently. It worked well. I had a nice view from the car and was connected to a world-wide group for 90 minutes while away in my car. How brilliant! I love finding out what’s possible!
Food bag – contains any food not in the cool box
Facilities bag – contains whatever I need to use when a toilet is not available.
Bag of warm and outdoor clothing.
Shoes/boots, stashed in footwell
Large umbrella – storm-proof and sunproof, very useful as an awning or a shelter under which I have cooked and eaten outside in the rain, sheltered completely.
Squashy bucket to put wet things in etc.
Blinds & curtain for the windows.
I think that’s about it.
Organisation is vital or chaos ensues, then the space feels smaller and things cannot be found when needed!
For instance. I sleep with a small head torch around my neck and also the car key on a lanyard. It’s just easier and safer. I am not a nervous type and not given to fear and anxiety but my common sense decrees when sleeping in strange places to lock the doors, cover the windows thoroughly and to keep the key and the light around my neck on retiring to bed and my flip flops handy for stepping out in the night.
Always knowing where the key is, is important, both day and night!! Always knowing where the light is, is vital at night so I keep it in my purse bag in the daytime too so when night falls, I know exactly where it is. These kind of systemic details keep me safe and comfortable so I can relax and enjoy my time away by my Wild Lone Self and not waste time looking for things or fretting about losing them!
I have chosen the boxinabag system I formulated because it gives me total flexibility. I can put everything at the back, front or side of my space. The boxes line the various cloth bagforlifes I use and make them stable and easy to pack and find things in. Also if I want to park up inconspicuously and leave the car in the daytime I can put everything behind the back seats under a black cloth ‘backshelf’ I made so that it looks like there is nothing in the car.
Now. What was that trip I made on Midsummer 2021?
Well there is the story but perhaps for today I have said enough.
HAHA. It seems that that story will be in the second instalment.