Into the wild

Last Monday morning I dragged myself out of bed, mindlessly drank a cup of coffee and managed to shove my hair into something almost resembling a topknot. I probably didn’t bother to look in the mirror before heading out the door (a risk I don’t normally take unless I’m really fed up). As I sat down at my desk, I felt a reluctance. The walls seemed claustrophobic, and I had an urge to get outside, out into somewhere bigger.

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48 hours earlier we had been driving across vast expanses of Icelandic landscape. Dramatic mountains, flat endless fields, frozen lakes, crunchy lava rocks, incredible colours… and barely a single other soul to have to share it with (once we left the main tourist trail). When we did see other people, they just highlighted the scale of it all. The normal everyday couldn’t compete. It had become smaller, part of a bigger whole.

Now, I have a confession: I don’t actually relish the idea of travel.

New places, new cultures, new languages. The thought brings me out in a cold sweat. Unfamiliarity usually makes me uncomfortable, but this time I felt an unfulfilled restlessness which surprised me. I have often found that travelling changes my perspective, especially when I’m not expecting it (or wanting it to).

Getting out into the wilderness, the unknown, reminded me how I rarely look further than the small patch of world I come into daily contact with. I felt alive, conscious. Connected to something. Breaking the pattern, catching hold of life for a moment before it bustled along on its busy way again.

The internet and its endless news lends us the illusion that we are connected to the world without effort. It feels accessible, knowable… small even. I often don’t realise that I am disconnected and removed, rarely bothering to raise my eyes from my own feet. Shielded by a screen, I consume pixels and sound bites that I carefully choose.

Maybe part of the reason I shy away from travelling is that my comfortable perspective is much safer staying at home. But I need it. I need the unknown. I need the wilderness. Not just to regain the sense of adventure that I so easily lose between the 9 to 5, but also to remember my place in it. It strips away the distractions and the safety nets. It forces us to look up from the routine. To notice, to be aware. It gives us time to be curious, time to be intentional, time to appreciate.

It probably won’t take long for everyday life to swallow this eagerness and restlessness. The well-trodden path of the mundane soon draws me back in. But is escape really the only way to get that change of perspective?

I allow most of life to slip quietly by like a stranger, unnoticed. It’s as if I believe I’m a cog in a machine that is dependent on my constant turning to function, and I can’t break out of my own little circles. But we aren’t cogs, we are designed by the great architect, creative, imaginative, to be creative, individual and unique ourselves. I find it so easy to forget among washing up, wifi and unanswered Whatsapp messages.

But we don’t need to jump on a plane to remind ourselves; a culmination of small things add up too. 10 minutes spent doing something that makes me a bit more tuned in to something that isn’t myself, to be curious, to be present. Walking a different route to work, getting outside, spending time with someone we don’t know so well. I have been surprised to find that when you break the routine, you create cracks that God’s still small voice can speak words of life through; challenging, changing and beginning new things, right where we are.

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