Portals to adventure

I have always loved not living in a city. I think if I did, it probably wouldn’t be as bad as I think it would be. Working in the city is enough for me and I can accept the lack of green space, the bustle of people, the various social problems and the constant stream of man made noises, because I get to leave every night.

Sometimes living in a town can feel like a cage too though. For me, there’s nothing better than escaping, even if for a few hours, somewhere rural, quiet, maybe somewhere I can find space and solitude. In the towns I have lived during my life, I have always done this; looked for escape routes out, like it’s a maze. It’s interesting how in some cases, I had to pass through portals where suburbia ended and guaranteed space began. I have yet to find one where I currently live, although on my regular run, I head out into the countryside, usually in the darkness of evening or early morning, and I run past the last lampost of town. I pass under it and then watch my feet as they and the tarmac beneath them get gradually darker and darker.

Where I used to live, one of the exit points was an underpass beneath one of the relief roads. Once I was through that, I was into a magnificent park. Then through that and I was on a single track lane. The most difficult decision then was ‘Which way, left or right?’ It was a great way of shrugging the town off, leaving all that hum and concrete behind, being full of hope and excitement for what I might find.

It just goes to show that if you don’t have the means of travel, the budget or even the time, but have the desire and imagination, you can do this within a few miles of your front door. A good idea to try is the five to nine challenge. This is one for the summer really, unless you have the gear and are really keen. It’s where you finish work at five, and see where you can get to and back from by nine PM. This could be walking, running, cycling. A really adventurous twist on this could be swapping nine PM with nine AM, throwing in a wild camping spot and then arriving at your place of work as if you’ve been home. It all depends on where you live I guess.

I’m sure everyone reading this can think up adventures to have on their own urban doorsteps. Such a world of possibilities, a plethora of wonders to see and feel down every footpath, on every tree and stream. I’m going to set myself a small challenge to find a portal out of town, explore it for an hour or so and see what I can discover.

Modern toss (and the art of Shinrin-yoku)

Despite feeling exhausted on Sunday morning when I woke up (a couple of hours before my alarm), I knew I needed to get out. I set out running just before six, heading off in the bright sunshine, heading in one direction – out of town.

It may be a modern human condition or something deep within us from generations gone by, but a lot of people feel the need to get outdoors to relax, escape and deal with various stresses. It is widely known that green is a relaxing colour, and I can’t help but feel this is deeply wired in us from when greenery surrounded us more than it does today.

Two miles in, and the houses are getting fewer and fewer. Hedgerows appear, copses, circling swallows and insistent skylarks. By the time I get to the woods, the silence and the low morning sunlight flooding in makes me stop and just sit. I sit down on a fallen tree and just soaked up the surroundings, immersing myself in nature and the feeling of breathing in the new day, replacing the negativity.

During the 1980s, the Japanese developed Shinrin-yoku, also known as forest bathing, which involves taking in the forest with the senses. You can either sit, or walk in a forest and soak everything up, just as I did. It doesn’t involve any high intensity exercise and has been proven to be very successful. A 2-hour forest bathe helps you to unplug from the working day, laptops, phones and other modern day distractions and stress enhancers.

It is predicted that by 2050, 66% of the planet’s population will live in cities. With cities and towns getting bigger and bigger, this is not too surprising. I always imagine cities like giant octopuses, spreading their tarmac tentacles out into the countryside, swallowing it in chunks and expanding their concrete mass as they go.

I know I will always favour the outdoors as therapy. It works for me in many ways to cope with modern life. Plus it’s much more interesting than 99% of what’s on television and spending hours reading silly blogs online. Oh, hang on…