No Scheduled Departures: Adventures in 2021

Emily Woodhouse Big Adventures, Comment and Opinion, Living Adventurously

Some weeks ago, I wrote out an entire blog post announcing my first big 2021 adventure challenge. The next week, it was still sitting in drafts. I then wrote out an entire new post, in the complete opposite direction. It then became one of the many loose leaves of paper floating around my house. This week I have identified it at the single sheet on the office floor next to the radiator, under the cushion. Here is its contents.

I’m Opting Out

Only last week, I wrote out a post revealing the big UK expedition I’d hoped to do as lockdown eased. But after spending half a day going in circles looking for accommodation at the end of April, particularly ones that will take a single person for just one night at either end of my expedition… I quit. I mean, I don’t actually quit. But I’m opting out of planning and announcing and all that nonsense for 2021. As the famous saying goes, the only way to win the game is not to play.

This might seem like a bit of an over-reaction. Sure, I could move the expedition into a later month. I could do it in the summer or any number of other crazy things. But the truth is: I don’t want to. I’m fed up of plans changing and moving and falling through and… heck, it’s been a year now. I have so much other stress going on in my life, that I just can’t handle the faff any more. It’s simply not fun. So I’m opting out.

The Great Escape

I though that I’d be desperately itching to get going again as soon as I can. And on some level, I definitely am. Oh please let me sleep in a tent again. I don’t know how people manage to sleep night after night in a bed and keep a regular sleep pattern. I kid you not that a couple of days ago I was lying in bed, curled up under the covers saying, “Let me go!” out loud to the room. Because, like everyone else, I can’t sleep… and I’m starting to take it personally – like the world itself if bullying me.

That’s an extreme example. But I feel like I’m finally crawling into the city at the end of a huge expedition, caked in dirt and sweat and blood. It’s that feeling of exhaustion and of making it back to safety. And in those times, as in now, all I want to do is lie on the sofa and have a hot shower. If you could do both at once (and eat chips and pizza) you’d take it. You just want to relax.

And for me, planning a big adventure to look forward to is not fun right now. Because I’m still on this rollercoaster obstacle course that has been the past year. It’s still not over. Planning or committing to something now feels like reaching the end of your two week hike, only to be told all the buses are cancelled and you have to walk another 100 miles. Sure, it could be a fun adventure in the right frame of mind. But in that moment, I’d probably choose a 2 hour bus ride.

Crawling to the Finish Line

We tend to go on adventures (out of choice) because we want to experience the unknown. We want to feel some extra risk or danger or a different place or any sort of newness. We want to live life on the edge a little. But right now, just normal living is already living life on the edge. And don’t get me wrong, I’ve certainly fantasised about quitting everything and running away from it all. I’ve done it before. The simplicity of having a single, linear objective (like a long distance walking trail or “cycling to Switzerland“) is very appealing. As is having days which simply involve eating, moving and sleeping.

But, it would be reckless for me to pack it all in and run away now. (Voice in the back of my mind says, “No, you could do it. You could escape. It is an option.” And maybe it is right.) If I haven’t sorted things out by the end of June then maybe I will. But presently, there are some big things I need to sort out to regain stability.

So, all that to say that I’ve decided I’m not going to pre-announce or pre-plan anything big this year. This is my way of regaining control, I suppose. Plus it’s certainly not like I’m not going to do anything. I mean, I’m already signed up on a Press Trip to Switzerland in July, the furthest date in my diary by a long shot.

Spontaneous Local Fun

What I am going to do is lots of little adventures that require basically no planning on my part. I’m going to have spontaneous, local fun. It’s going to be fantastic. Because if some other part of my universe decides to just fall down without warning, I can attend to that instead. Skip the camping trip, patch up disaster. No problem.

Behind the scenes, there is a long list of local routes, walks, cycles etc accruing on a shared Google Doc. In my head it’s called Project Devon Adventure, in which I get to spend the summer with friends ticking off every named path, way and route we can get our hands on. Plus some unnamed things we thought it would be cool to do too.

There are also a few UK summer adventures, as in actually leaving the county, brewing in my mind. But they’re more like far-distant fun ideas than actual tangible plans. I’m happy to let them be for a long while yet. If you’re curious, one of them most definitely involves a bicycle, because it’s already been 2 years since the Rhine (what the?!).

So there it is friends. I’m sure that there will be a big summer of expeditions and adventures for us to follow in 2021. But I’m going to kick my heels back and take this one off… while I attempt to complete the illusive quest of Sorting My Life Out.