Adventure is a little closer than you thought.
Surfing is my escape.
I'm not very good and I don't do it very often but it is something I dream about on a daily basis. Past experiences with wonderful friends in gorgeous locations has made surfing synonymous with peace in my subconscious. I see waves in savasana in Yoga and picture the endless blue of sky and ocean when it all gets that little bit too much. Surfing involves being out of control (that wave is coming right now, get the f*ck on it!) but being ok. It's one big metaphor for riding out whatever comes your way, plus there is something hellishly cathartic about being beaten up by the sea. Saltwater up your nose is never pleasant, but I always emerge in the whitewater grinning in the knowledge that I'm alive (just).
So you can imagine my disappointment when a trip I'd been counting down to was cancelled the day before I was due to set out to Cornwall.
The temptation to wallow in my own misfortune was there and I very nearly resigned my weekend to wallowing under my duvet with jars of peanut butter. However, having been in a room with some pretty inspiring people at the Tales of Adventure talk recently, I decided that a peanut butter internest was not the way forward.
Doing something that in hindsight was pretty bloody nuts, I emailed Dave from the talk and asked if there was anything going on over the weekend. 10 minutes later I was invited to a 'wild' camping trip. Camping... with strangers. Camping...as in mosquitos and awkward toilet encounters. Camping...when the closest thing I had to a tent was my floral shower hat. What else could I say but 'yes'?
Approaching Liverpool St station on the Friday evening my heart began to flutter. I'd rushed out and bought myself a 30L backpack and sleeping mat in my lunch break earlier but I felt it was fairly obvious that I was a complete n00b. In fact, the closer I got to the station I began to feel less Lara Croft and more Dora the Explorer. Except Dora is five and already trounces my exploring experience.
I reached the destination and found myself at a crossroad. To my right: a group of strangers headed to the relative wilderness of Hertfordshire. To my left: Costa and the incredible temptation to have a coffee and wait for all this adventuring madness to blow over à la Shaun of the Dead.
I told my self doubt to get over itself and after a short train ride found myself surrounded by green landscapes and budding new friendships.
The mood of the group was easygoing with many others also on their maiden camping voyage. There were no formal introductions or instructions but I was far from uncomfortable. In fact in a world of titles and responsibilities it was really refreshing to not know who did what and when. I was out of control and I kind of liked it.
When we picked a spot my bed was ready in 4 seconds flat. How? Bivvy bags.
Yes, I had to Google it too but a bivvy bag is essentially a bag for your sleeping bag. Bag-ception if you will. Dave had been kind enough to lend me his and, with the summer being uncharacteristically temperate, there was no need for a tent. Result.
The camp pulled together as dusk set in and the community spirit deepened in unison with the deepening blue of the sky. Already the fresh(er) air and natural light had seen my shoulders open up as whatever vulture of stress that perched on them took flight. We sat and ate together whilst discovering each other's passions and dreams and, better still, discovering how we could help each other achieve them. I heard my own internal conflicts regarding life choices, next moves and muddled directions fall out of other people's mouths; I immediately felt less alone.
The experience was already worth it for me just to get outside the concrete boundaries of a busy city, but as the stars began to wink above us the personalities of the group began to shine too.
Like the talk previously, I was suddenly surrounded by incredible people. One member of the group is running 15 marathons in 2015, another running the coast of the UK to help others. Some, like me, were still working out where their passion will take them. Thanks to being surrounded by so much positivity, suddenly an undefined future didn't seem like such a bad thing.
I fell asleep watching two satellites transverse across the sky as the stars watched me watch them. I remember thinking about how much I miss by simply not stopping to look. I remember promising myself that I would look more.
I awoke staring at the same sky, now dappled with soft clouds and a golden shimmer from somewhere behind me. I'd missed dawn completely but had woken up and spent 15 minutes in the pre-sunrise darkness just sitting and letting my breath fall in time with the soft ripples of the long grass behind me. I was at peace. In a field. Surrounded by strangers new friends.
I woke up like this.
The morning saw the group share coffee before dispersing back into the city. It had been less than 24 hours but everything had changed again. I was internally congratulating myself on challenging myself and was already wondering what was next when the subject of a Cornish SUP adventure was raised.
That infamous three letter word was out of my mouth before I'd thought it through and the countdown to my third adventure in as many weeks began.