I am a planner. I’ve been like this my whole life, I planned everything to the detail, down to when I’d brush my teeth, calculated precisely so I’d be right in time for school. As much as I like planning, over the years I have found the joy in changing my plans, or ‘re-planning’, when something occurs that messes up my plans. My original plan was to travel through the UK counter-clockwise. I’d start in London, move north along the coastline to the Lake District, visit Scotland and then work my way down along the east coast. However, travelling to England involves notifying J – who I’ve known for many years now and our relationship grew until it evolved into something brother/sisterly – and when he said that I’d be so close to him for his birthday, I decided to alter our course and turn the plan upside down so that I could visit him on his birthday. Six years of a special friendship and never one birthday spent together sort of demanded this and I didn’t mind at all.
So when we finally managed to shake ourselves free from the blissful embrace of London, we’re back on the train and heading towards Norwich. It was the first long-distance train ride that we did, but definitely not our last and also, most definitely, not our longest. When finally arriving in Norwich, J’s there to pick us up and while it’s slightly awkward because we haven’t seen each other for a few years and we’re still so familiar with each other, it’s also comfortable and good to see him again.
J drove us to our new, temporary home – the camper van the three of us stayed in years before and we both instantly recall those fond memories of being eaten alive by mosquitoes during our long evenings of smoking and talking as night settles in, the conversations we had and the way J would bump his head against the door frame time after time after time. For a few days I had the field to myself and I am quick to entitle it ‘my kingdom’.
I’ve always known I was a bit of a hermit, a solitary soul, but it seems to fit me as well. There is a certain peace found in this kind of life. It’s quiet, so quiet that even all the voices in my head are deemed calm and silent. I have everything I need and the only thing I could wish for was some WiFi. It’s funny how our lives seem to revolve around having things, buying things, owning things. I guess that’s the irony of it – it always remain ‘things’. It’s never specific, never something, never truly defined. It’s an ongoing rat race for that one thing that will change the thing into something, but it’s a continuum of nothing, really.
I wonder what would happen when you spent your time like this. Years in solitary. Would this calm eventually transform or evolve into peace? I cannot help but wonder and my mind wanders to the stories on people that have lived their lives like this. I’ve read about them, I know they exist. And I get it now – I really do.
Mace and I spent our mornings running before breakfast, enjoying the bit of sun we’re often granted before heading out to venture and explore. We pick flowers during our strolls and trespass farmer’s land as we get lost. We allow ourselves to be lazy and lie in the grass. We drink endless amounts of tea while studying and then the outside world beckons. Come out and play. We walked the 1,5 hour to Burgh Castle, amazed and annoyed at the same time – they call Norfolk ‘little Holland’ and while I already know why, the similarity between the Netherlands and this area is astonishing and I don’t like it one bit. But it’s England, and they still speak English to me when I buy my groceries, or when kids are picked up by their mothers and ask for candy, or when I speak to the neighbours in my kingdom. Life is slow here and oh so wonderful.
As the days move on by slowly, there’s plenty of time to think and put things in perspective. The nomad life was rubbing off on me, but something is stirring deep within and I couldn’t ignore it anymore. There’s an incredible urge, a drive, to move forward. To get going. I like planning and I like details. But routine is one of my worst enemies and one morning, reading the newspaper just bought from the local supermarket we walked back to after breakfast, which came after a run, and I feel as if I wake up. Things seemed to fall together and into place and I felt like the universe was sending me a little nudge. “Go put yourself out there. Break free from these blessed reigns of comfort and start chasing the uncomfortable. Look for hardship. Put in the work.”
I realised that while I adore this life, I’m not where I’m supposed to be yet. I don’t want to say goodbye to J, the conversations that we’ve had, his family that feels like a sort of family of my own, but it’s time. I sorted out my travels and found a place to work near Scarborough. We left on Tuesday, which gave me time to sort out my affairs here. There was time to say goodbye – to J, his wonderful, wonderful family, to this place – and then Beccles said its goodbye to us too.
An early evening walk, the night before we left, we found ourselves walking the beaten track, familiar with the way the dirt road curves and we’re dipped in a low, gold glow of the sunset and I ran my hands through the flowers and plants by the side of the path. I stopped and closed my eyes. I suddenly realised how incredibly lucky I am. The cold of the storm over the past few days is wrapped around my fingers, the sunlight trying to warm the skin on my face, surrounded by nature with my dog by my side. I have been so lucky and there is still so much awaiting us. I always feel as if there’s not enough time for me to do all that I really want to do, but in that moment, it feels like there is. And I convince myself. There is enough time. And it all will come.
Sometimes it just takes a little while before time starts to fit you.