As a travel writer, I’d spent a lot of time in natural and often wild landscapes around the world. My encounters with those I met along the way, particularly indigenous people or other locals who live in low-impact ways rooted in nature, felt transformative, as did the more immersive journeys I went on.
One trip in particular stands out as a pivotal moment. It happened about a decade ago, when I found myself alone on a remote jungle path. I hadn’t planned it that way: I’d been abandoned — too long a story to tell here — by my guide. At first I was livid, for it was a three-hour walk to the next camp: it promised to be a long, sweaty hike. After a while my anger evaporated and I began to feel fearful. Who knew what dangers lurked in these wilds?
As I walked my fear began to ebb away to be replaced by a feeling of elation. I became aware that all around me was a living, breathing community, and that I was a part of it. That separation between me and my wild environment melted away. I felt carried along, euphoric, supported, safe. It might sound sentimental but that’s how it felt. Every tree, flower and bird seemed to sing out at me. Why had I not noticed this before?! It might sound sentimental but I can still vividly recall the sensation. When I reached the next camp I was jubilant. That walk not only made my trip, it had felt fateful and life-changing.
For the first time, I’d experienced a truly conscious connection with nature. I’d gone beyond observing and admiring the landscapes I’d walked through to something deeper. I began to experience real feelings of empathy and kinship with the natural world. Above all, I felt truly alive. Keen to explore this communion further I ended up on solo nature quests in the Sinai and the Pyrenees, which grounded me in my relationship with nature — and myself. After all, we too are part of the ‘wild’ community, we just sometimes forget that.
Back in Britain, I hungered for creative ways to connect with nature, ones that I and others who aren’t naturalists, wildlife experts or hardcore adventurers might relate to. For engaging with nature is also about our artistic, sensory and emotional responses to the landscape, about animal-human connection, and about experiencing the sacred in nature, as those from indigenous cultures have done for centuries.
Discovering these experiences, over a five month period of travel across Britain, has been a joy and the book features 26 of them. Wild Times is a part-inspiration, part-practical ‘how to do it, who to do it with’ guide. Each chapter is devoted to a single experience that can be done on a day out, a weekend or a short break. There are also tips for bringing a bit of the magic home.
In the book, the quirky and unusual rub shoulders with the more traditional. If you’re into the arts, for instance, why not have a go at making paints with earth pigments, which you collect from cliff caves on the north Yorkshire coast? Or maybe you’re looking to amplify your sensory connection with the earth in a more gentle way? If so, you’ll find chapter on a barefoot walk in the Brecon Beacons, led by the only woman to have run shoeless across Wales.
If you’re an animal-loving non-rider, you can read about – and then experience – the art of horse whispering in Devon. And if you like the idea of talking to plants, and learning about their healing properties from them, in Gloucestershire, then check out the Wild Medicine chapter. Or perhaps you’re the more reflective sort? If so, there’s a mindful beach walk in Anglesey just waiting for you, or a vision-quest inspired nature retreat with two superb guides. I did it in Wiltshire, but you could find yourself doing the same in another magical spot. And your tastebuds will water at a forage and feast (with a culinary twist) in a Leeds country park.
The above is just a sampling of what’s in the book. Of course, planned adventures go hand-in-hand with more spontaneous wanderings in nature. Above all, the book is for anyone seeking new ways of expressing love for the natural world and this land – and themselves.
£14.99, Brandt Travel Guides
Don’t miss this fantastic offer:
Bradt Travel Guides is offering readers of Kindred Spirit a special 25% discount offer on Wild Times. To claim your discount, please purchase via the Bradt website (www.bradtguides.com) and enter code KINDRED25 at checkout.