What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!
Recently, I began to look through my pipeline of trip reports that await completion, and one thought struck me. It seems that my outdoor outings are bedevilled by qualms following interactions with other people. That then means that I leave it a while for emotions to calm before writing full accounts. There is always some censoring that one can do, but it is the prospect of reliving an imperfect encounter that can hold up things, even if it should be the cathartic that moves one beyond the experience.
There are various kinds of these at work here, and the pandemic caused a few spells of awkwardness. One example was when there was a gate that was opened to me that I possibly should have helped to close, given that there was frisky livestock in that field and some overenthusiastic dogs. Fears of contracting infection overruled all of that, and also messed up the giving of directions at one point earlier this year. It also messed up interactions with others, one of whom then thought I was being standoffish and rude. When fear is used to get everyone to be careful, it takes time to move beyond it afterwards.
These things weigh on the mind of a sensitive and shy individual who does not want to have his fumbles on view to others. Getting disoriented on other people’s land is one of them, and it got me shouted at by someone on a quad bike quite a few years ago. People generally are helpful, though, but a lot can be read from a tone of voice. Even there being a loud barking dog next to a public right of way can be off-putting, leading one to think that it was kept there for a reason.
Conflict is one thing that I like to avoid as much as possible, though that can be trickier with multi-user areas and misuse of rights of way. During the pandemic, many off-road bike riders began to use public footpaths, and this led to something of a stand-off this past spring. While cyclists may want access to all public rights of way, there is something very liberating to use one where you do not have to think about being knocked over by someone else. It can be the case that off-road cycling becomes a menace to other outdoor enthusiasts and takes away a lot of the relaxation and enjoyment that should be offered.
While one should be fully present out of doors, there is the possibility of lapsing into daydreaming and then walking past someone who knows you. It becomes more difficult when neither of you have met for a while, and they recognise you without your recognising them. So, when you walk past them, then they might be offended by it. Sometimes, the passage of time might mean that both of you have changed so much that there is nothing much in common any more, so a conversation may not work anyway.
At the heart of all this essentially is fear, mainly that of upsetting others. Clearly, no one gets it right all the time, so there is a need to accept what happens and to let go of any worries that arise. It not only can delay writing trip reports, but it also can forestall outings if not kept in check. Still, there is a positive energy in all of this because it can motivate one to go to quieter places so that solitude can work its restorative magic.
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