The past few days have been tinged with the highest highs and middling to lows; the most beautiful and most hideous.
It continues to be a dawning realisation that being away from civilisation, from amenities fills me with joy. And yet I constantly have to convince myself of it. It always somehow comes as a surprise. It’s like I feel a magnetic pull towards the things that make me unhappy- like shopping centres and plastic, facilitiy-brimming campsites (in fact both of these things do unlock the key to the delightful experience that is not having every fibre of your being boiled alive, the former containing air conditioning and the latter, occasional swimming pools, or at the least a cold shower. Let it be known that I am not afraid to stroll unashamedly into a shopping centre and feign interest in whatever appears in front of me just to steal cold air).
A few nights ago, driving down the coast of Croatia in what had begun a gruelling 200km drive (cruely extending itself to 300, once we realised the tricksy Satnav had decided it wasn’t interested in going where we wanted to go) in the midst of some of the most desolate and arid landscape I had ever seen, I finally cracked and pulled into deserted looking campsite on the side of the road, miles away from our planned destination.
Such beauty in the almost wilderness. Finally away from the crowds of the coastline we had been travelling down. And for one night, the stress of the recent few days in hot cities, surrounded by bolshy, obnoxious tourists dissolved. I was at home. Falling into crystal clear water, finally away from people.
The heat has become an endurance test. One that we’re not winning. Either anger or inactivity, or both, win overtime.
I learned so many lessons during the past year there has been a continual sense that I have finally fought my battles, that I have won, that I am finally learning to live. And in that sense of finality, at times I have become so overwhelmed by myself I must have been unbearable to be around. I tried to grasp onto this feeling with such vigour, the emphasis shifted from actually immersing myself in the joy of feeling again, to the sense of achievement felt by feeling it. And there, in the sense of achievement, lies the danger. Because battles like these aren’t won. Lessons aren’t learnt. They are taught, and heard and acted upon in their immediacies and then broken and then taught again. Continually. Old habits are tricksy. They sneak back in when your back is turned, when your guard is down just for a moment, when you are still riding the high of the last fight conquered. How many times must I learn the lesson that I’m still learning, that this learning will never end. It seems so clear when you find a morsel of an answer, a fleck, a reason to enjoy life again, a pastime, an action, a project, an involvement, a unity that makes your heart sing. But how easily this clarity is forgotten. How quickly it falls by the wayside to make way for another slip, another fall. An old habit disguised cleverly as a new one, the same issue rearing its head in a new way.
It seems almost impossible to unite myself with the closeness to nature I found at Embercombe on the road. How do you find a desolate, natural paradise that hasn’t been infected with tourism, in a guidebook? I’m not sure travelling is what I expected. I don’t feel immersed in culture, in nature; I’m not sure exactly what I expected to find here, why I had to do it, all I knew was that I needed to. And where does that leave me? What am I searching for? And how can I find it if I don’t know what it is?