Getting Away From It All | Pushing the Wave

Getting Away From It All

Travel, 30 December 2022
by L.A. Davenport
A Walk in the Mountains
A walk in the mountains
This week, the last week of the year, one word has kept popping up in my mind: Escape.

Here I am, up in the mountains, away from city life and all I can hear out of the window, apart from the odd passing car or truck, is the regular if slightly mournful clanging of cowbells as the herd that lives in the field below forages in the semi-frozen, wind-blasted grass.

All around us, the peaks, some snow capped but not that many for this time of year, climb up into the sky, reaching for the infinite. There are houses, even a village or two, within sight but it is mostly nature. I would say raw nature, but it is managed, if not by the clanging cows then by the mountain goats and sheep that are farmed here, and all that goes with that.

It is what one might call idyllic, and I suppose it is. We have ‘escaped’ from our daily routine-filled, pollution-stained, rush-around lives and gone down a gear or two. We are letting the world around us dictate the pace rather than trying to bend everything to our will and desire. It is relaxing to a certain, time-limited extent. But we know, like all escaped prisoners, that we can only be on the lam for so long before we are dragged back behind bars.

Or at least that is how we are told to see it.

It is winter, so I am naturally bombarded with emails offering me the chance to escape to the sun, to the beach, or an exotic location, all accompanied by images of silhouetted beautiful people running into the sunset, or into the sea, or off a cliff (usually into the sea). I am meant to imagine myself there, and to yearn for that.

In other words, I am supposed to long to escape my apparently humdrum daily life and believe that my lived existence is somehow inadequate. How could it be adequate? It is not sun-filled. I am not on a beach, drinking cocktails on a sun lounger while smiling benignly at an air-brushed fictional partner. I am not jumping perpetually off a cliff and into the sea.

I am, ordinarily, getting up with an alarm clock, getting myself and others ready, following a timetable, answering emails, finishing projects, worrying over deadlines, fretting over unfinished tasks, and trying to keep a household running, all before making dinner and going to bed too late, and then starting the whole thing over again.

We have been told over and over again that that is not enough, that it could never be enough. That that life, as it is lived on a day-to-day basis, is unsatisfactory and we should strive for something more.

But that is all a lie.

I know that because, for my grandparents and their forbears, life was to be lived in the moment. And I know they thought that because they told me often enough. Don’t worry so much about the future, it will come, they said. It is the now that counts. It’s what you do today that matters. The rest is unknown. Enjoy what life brings you.

They told me and they told me, but I clearly didn’t listen, as it took years of therapy for me to reach the same conclusion and several more years on the couch to put it into practice.

This ‘mindfulness’ of my ancestors, although they would bristle intently at the idea of using such a word, is partly related to the spectre of death, which was a much closer and more everyday threat to them than it is for us. As such, it moulded their perception of the future as more remote and potentially unattainable than we would see it.

The reality is that we, in recent generations, have been increasingly bombarded with a collective marketing ploy since the day we were born, which is to tell you that working for a living can only be endured, that enjoying time at home is boring, and that understanding and appreciating the world around you is valueless compared with doing exactly the same thing as every other person: aspiring to a sun and beach holiday at least one a year in a far flung country that can only be reached by aeroplane.

And what’s so special about that dream? Not a great deal, in my opinion. Let’s break it down:

  • Do we have to have a tan? No, and I’d rather not, thank you.
  • Do we have to lay around all day on a beach doing nothing? Absolutely not. After all, there is no culture or humanity, or even pleasure, on a beach once the initial swim has been taken, only the emptiness of the horizon.
  • Do we have to fly several hours in a plane to stay in holiday resorts with thousands of other people from the same country or even town? Of course we don’t. It’s an entirely reductive idea.
  • Do we have to value everything that is foreign as more exotic and therefore better than that which we can find at home? No, the idea is ludicrous. What we have is different but equally good and should be celebrated as such.

I am not against holidays, of course. I love exploring a new place and a new people, and experiencing cultural and culinary experiences that are unknown to me. It enriches me to be there, and enriches my daily life when I come back home and look anew at my life. But I think we have to be aware of why we are doing things and what underlies the choices we make, and what that implies about the rest of our existence.

Aspiring to escape our day-to-day life to go to a foreign clime to allow us to be better able to bear that daily life is as meaningless as going to a remote location to learn how to meditate. Anyone can meditate in a silent forest or empty desert. It’s doing it while surrounded by the quotidian that is the hard part, and it us the same with getting away from it all: Taking a holiday to better enjoy our daily life is not going to enhance our daily life but simply make us feel worse about it. We have to learn to step back and ‘escape’ while being at home, while living the day-to-day.

After all that, what of my escape? I am enjoying it, and the change of air, both literal and figurative, is appreciated, but ideally I can bring some of it back with me and not simply think that the only way of slowing down and having a change of perspective is by going halfway up a mountain.

We can but hope.
I am in a reflective mood not only because I am away in the clouds, but also because it is the end of the year, and a new one approaches.

It’s only a change of day, and a small change of date, considering we’re only adding one to the total number of years since the birth of Christ, but it is hard to not to think back over the year and mull over what we have achieved, or not, and what we might do better, or do more or even less of, in the coming twelve months.

Personally, I don’t like to make resolutions as I think it only adds to the pressures that we put on ourselves. But I do like to set myself a few targets. I haven’t talked about my writing much in this weekly column so far, but I have been ruminating a lot over the past few months on what I would like to achieve with that in 2023.

Certainly I have two manuscripts that I started quite a while ago and want to finish at least in first draft, and I want to develop two other books a lot further, with the aim of preparing them for writing.

I have other projects on the go too, one of which is musical and about which I will almost certainly be talking here at some point in the coming months. Another is something I will keep under one of my many hats for now, but hope to reveal soon.
In the meantime, I wish you and yours a wonderful start to the new year, and I look forward to seeing you on the other side.
© L.A. Davenport 2017-2024.

0 ratings
Getting Away From It All | Pushing the Wave