“We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!” (JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit)
So yesterday I went on an adventure. Not a trip to Alaska such as my neighbours are currently enjoying, or even a trek to some misty mountains such as I used to enjoy with my husband. This adventure involved a drive of less than two hours to the city of dreaming spires, where I had arranged to meet up with a friend who I hadn’t spoken to in over twenty years.
If you have been following my blog for a while then you will understand what a challenge this was for me. I chose to drive to a city that I did not know. I chose to spend time with someone outside of my immediate family. I chose to do all of this on my own.
Naturally I planned as for a military campaign. Maps were googled, routes and alternative routes noted, car parks checked out along with buses and exact charges, so that I could ensure I carried the correct change. I was nervous but determined. I felt like a right woose for finding it such a big deal.
In the event all went smoothly, even the weather smiled on me, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with my friend. It was interesting to see Oxford, even if it did seem stupidly busy and full of people. I guess I am not a city person. We walked, explored, had a delicious lunch in a lovely, old pub, and we talked and talked and talked.
Each time I do something like this I wonder why I do not make the effort more often, yet time and again I find reasons to stay at home. In many ways it is easier for me to go off on such adventures on my own. When members of my family are with me they will often criticise my nervousness, which exacerbates the problem. On my own I can check and double check everything without fear of irritating. I can miss a bus to walk back to my car and check that I locked it, thereby enjoying my day out more, knowing that all is as it should be.
So many of my friends live lives filled with travel and activity, I love to hear of their experiences. I keep my life sheltered in comparison, exploring little other than my little corner of the world on foot. I reach out via the internet, but it is not the same. I cite cost and family commitments, but suspect that these impediments are not as insurmountable as I sometimes suggest. I am making excuses, even if only to myself.
The adventures that my friend talked of involved sea water kayaking along uninhabited coastlines, remote mountain skiing, encountering bears in their natural habitat, finding wolf prints outside his tent. As someone who is scared of cows and off lead domestic dogs I would not wish to indulge in the activities he enjoys, but it did make me feel that I should be able to find the courage to at least leave my home more frequently.
In many ways though I found it easier to explore a city where I would know nobody. I like to be invisible, to go unnoticed. My fears revolve around criticism and letting others down. Too often I feel that I am not being whatever it is that they want of me, and I react by trying not to be anything at all.
Meeting up with an old friend I could relax. We were meeting to catch up with each others lives so I could be what I am, it was that which he would be interested in. With no expectations to live up to, and no plans to spend time together regularly (although hopefully we will get together again before another twenty years have passed) I could be myself.
I would rather spend time alone than feel obliged to act a part. Being able to relax in such fine company was fun though. I have interesting friends; it would be good to spend more time with them.