Down this road that never seems to end, Where new adventure lies just around the bend. So if you want to join me for a while, Just grab your hat, come travel light, that's hobo style.
Maybe tomorrow I'll want to settle down, Until tomorrow, the whole world is my home.
These are some of the lyrics to the song Maybe Tomorrow, also known as the theme tune to The Littlest Hobo TV series and film, written by Terry Bush and John Crossen. Whilst I love the song for its nostalgia and country music roots, the words strike a chord with me and connect to a wilder part of my heart.
I grew up at a time when childhood was spent mostly outside, in the fields and hills surrounding my home. I was either 'up the tip', which was a huge grassy mound of coal slag, 'down the dingle' where a stream and trees provided magical nooks and crannies to build dens in or I found myself sat in the open green space of 'the Lambeth' with its buttercups, daisies and dandelions. I played with friends, or simply by myself, always finding something to do outdoors.
I would often come home late, cold, and hungry; but very happy. This love of being outside extended even further on summer holidays - 6 weeks that seemed to stretch out forever. The later evenings, sights, smells and sounds of summer meant play time could last from morning till night, only returning home when I needed something to eat. But there was always one week away with my mam, usually spent camping on the Gower Coast in Port Eynon. This, for me, was extra special - the thrill of sleeping outside, under the stars in a flimsy canvas tent was the ultimate in adventure.
Camping has remained a love of mine. As a teenager, I would sleep in the woods with friends in nothing but sleeping bags on damp earth, waking up sodden by the morning dew and groggy from very little sleep. Even now, if I can put a tent up in the garden I will. There's nothing better than a cuppa first thing, looking out onto the world through the zipper door of your temporary home.
When I was single in my twenties, I decided if I didn't marry, I would travel with a one-man tent and pitch up wherever the wind carried me. I have poured over stories about brave women who have travelled solo around the world like Rosie Swale-Pope, swam oceans like Diana Nyad, or come of age running through the wilds of New Zealand like Anna McNuff. Now I watch Ben Fogel's New Lives in The Wild with my husband, and we often dream of just packing it all up and in and finding a cabin in the woods to live out the rest of our days.
But. The call of the wild can easily be hushed or drowned out. I am a fickle contradiction. I love the outdoors, but hate being cold. I want to swim in open water, but hate being cold and wet. I fantasise about sipping a hot drink from my flask, whilst watching the sunrise from a mountain top, but I hate being tired (and, of course, cold!) These contradictions dog me. I want to be a carefree spirit, free of consumerism. But at the same time, envy the glossy haired, fake tanned, botoxed beauties of the Real Housewives of Cheshire! I want to wear comfy clothes, that don't restrict me (read t shirt and leggings) but feel guilty that I'm not put together enough! I even used to wish I was a P.E. teacher, so that I could wear jogging bottoms to work!
But. The call of the wild is relentless. It whispers through the rain and wind. It calls from the hills around our home and makes me restless. It is an inner yearning that needs to be listened to and acted on. Cabin fever sets in, an uneasy twitch that makes me fidget. I start to pace inside the walls of my home, getting more and more grouchy and crabby. Soon there's nothing for it, I must get out. Preferably alone, into the countryside behind my house and be in the wild.
For all my contradictions, I know I feel more myself when I am wind swept and outdoors. My tendency to see things in black and white, either or, is softened and I come back to myself. Walking, gardening, or playing outside not only clears the cobwebs away, but also the "ideals" or "norms" dictated to us by society of how we "should" be. The natural world acts as a compass to help us find ourselves again and our true north. It's as though all my cells breathe a sigh of relief and the tension in my muscles slips away.
I plan to embrace more of the spirit of the wild this summer. My hope is to instil this into our children and see them play freely in the hills around our home. Whilst I may not swim oceans or run around the world, I can travel beyond my front door more often. I'll finish with more of the song I started with. It really captures my thoughts on this - the adventures that await when we are willing to journey and step outside our comfort zones. Who know what's around the bend in the road?
There's a world that's waiting to unfold,
A brand new tale no-one has ever told.
We've journeyed far but you know it wont be long;
We're almost there, we've paid our fare with a hobo song.
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