I went into University today, the first time since the start of my second year. I didn’t need too, I could have done everything on line, but I wanted to feel like a student again, wander the halls and sit in the library, browse books, print off loads of stuff that I will probably never read and buy a coffee in one of the Uni cafe’s. Quite simply, I wanted, indeed had a irrepressible need, to feel as near to normal as I could.
So, how was the Uni experience? It was like walking through a ghost town, the halls were empty, the library as silent as any librarian could ever wish for and if I had encountered tumbleweed blowing through the corridors, it would not have seemed out of place. But the solitude could not detract from the feeling of being once again in a place of study. I loved every second of it, browsed a wealth of knowledge packed into the library shelves, logged onto the computers, wrote emails, saved documents, studied course handbooks and timetables and, for a brief moment in time, felt like I had won the lottery. In short, it was glorious!
Yes, there were restrictions, hand gels, mask requirements, one way systems, NHS Track and Trace scan codes everywhere but it couldn’t take away from that feeling of doing something that linked me back to a pre Covid-19 existence. Something that made me real happy. Life has changed, there is no denying that, Covid-19 still dominates our everyday. I read with trepidation today an article highlighting the possibility of a two week mid-October “circuit breaker” lockdown as Covid-19 cases once again accelerate, seemingly out of control. At times it’s hard to see when and how this will ever end but life, as it must, does go on and we adapt and learn and invent a new normal to try and make sense of it all.
In 2018 at the age of 55, I gave up a way of life that just didn’t make any sense to me anymore, the hustle and bustle of modern everyday life, the 9-5 clock watching work experience that drove me finally to breaking point. I wanted something simpler, more profound and sustaining, I wanted to experience the beauty of the world before we, as a civilisation, finally destroyed it. I wanted to travel, strip everything back to it’s bare minimum, find out exactly what it was, or indeed what it wasn’t, I needed to make me feel alive. I wanted to find my happy.
On my 2019 travels I learnt I don’t need very much at all, for me simplicity is the key. A motorcycle, a tent, food, water, a map and a desire to head off to places I have never heard off in the pursuit of better understanding the world and my place in it. I marvelled at the beauty of the French countryside, the grandeur of the Pyrenees, the majesty of the Swiss Alps, the magnificence of Florence and the visual historical overload that is Rome and, in Venice, was greeted with the most spiritual sunrise I have ever witnessed.
I knew that on that trip I had found two key components essential to finding my happy, a love, indeed a need to travel and a desire to better understand the history that has shaped our perception of the world we live in. Whilst travelling Italy I contacted the University of West England (UWE) and was successful in getting myself enrolled onto a BA History degree. Plans were drawn up to tour Spain in 2020 to learn about her heritage, history and marvel at the beauty Spain has to offer but alas, who could have known how 2020 was set to turn out. Covid-19 changed everything for everyone, everywhere and in a remarkable short time period.
Plans have had to be adapted to the environment we are currently living in. Spain fell by the wayside and I went back to work (April through to September) and was grateful for every working day I was given. Ironically the very thing that had previously mentally dragged me down was now my saviour. Lockdown had left me isolated in a room in a rented house that very quickly felt like a prison. Work gave me a wayout. I went into work everyday, had routine, had people to speak to, had a sense of purpose just when I needed it most. It got me through what could have turned out to have been a very bad period indeed.
It also reinforced that I made the right decision back in 2018, by the end of the 6 months working I was right back to where I had been in 2018. My working days as such are over, I cannot go back to that on a long term basis, so my prerogative now is to find a new way to fund the things I need to but in a way that fits in with my desire to travel. I have time to work that one out and I have a few ideas to play with.
2020 can be considered a write off but plans are already afoot for 2021 and further motorcycle and tent adventures. In the meantime I have spent a couple of weeks enjoying the delights this country has to offer and the delights are many, camping in the Peak and Lake Districts, ride outs to Snowdonia, exploring the Oxfordshire countryside and enjoying the Brecon Beacons, all of which will appear in future posts.
These are strange times, there is still a lot of uncertainty, but whatever you are up to I hope you are well and that life doesn’t hold you back from chasing your dreams.
Love and hugs