Now we’re stepping back out into the world, adventure is closer to home than usual. We’ve traded far flung corners of the world for days spent exploring our own back yard, discovering wild swim spots and corners we’ve never thought to walk round, to day trips and nights under canvas.
For the next few months we will follow a happy tribe of Millican wanderers as they explore what it means to adventure everyday.
Words and Photography by James Bowden | @jamesbowdown
The Midsummer Map
In one of the rooms in our house, we have two walls dedicated to maps, hung in a random selection of wooden frames. Maps of places we’ve been, maps of places that mean a lot to us and maps of places we want to go. It is a brilliant place to ponder and dream. To dream of far away and exotic places is a most enjoyable way to spend time, for me it can be a meditation of sorts. I often trace my finger along the coasts of northern Iceland, or the west coast of Tasmania and think about planned adventures yet realised and of adventures yet to be planned.
Companion on the trail
Fraser the Rucksack 32L
"Along with Dillon (the dog) Fraser The Rucksack was a perfect walking companion. I wanted to pack simply, so I knew I didn't want to take too much. Fraser seemed to fit in everything and even when I thought it was full there would be another little pocket I could stuff a Cliff Bar or dog treat in!"
Mind surfing these maps, I’m usually lost in thought whilst my one year old daughter slowly empties the lower rungs of the bookshelf opposite, which so happens, to house our stack of self help books and Ordinance Survey maps. The maps and books usually lay strewn across the floor for most of the day before being gathered up and stuffed randomly back on the shelves in the evening, ready to be pulled back out the next day. One day whilst gathering up folded maps of the Orkney Islands, Portugal, and Norway I stopped and unfolded one ‘OS Explorer Map 102, Lands End, Penzance & St Ives’ the map where we find our home, nestled in the bottom right hand corner of the map, five hundred meters inland from the south west coast path.
With the current situation of global pandemics and inevitable recessions, those far flung adventures start to feel even more out of reach. Holding the OS Explorer 102, the map started to feel quite full of possibilities, of places I’d never been. It felt a bit strange that I knew more of the north west Icelandic coast, than the one that sits within walking distance from my house. I thought about my work schedule, yep, that was clear, very clear. Other plans?, nope, officially I think we are still in lockdown, so socially there was nothing. I asked my wife, and she blessed my idea with, ‘why not go now?!’ I tried to come up with a reason why I should plan to go in a few weeks or months time, but there just wasn’t any. I didn’t need to search the flight bookings site for cheap tickets, I didn’t need to ask of others availability, nor look for accommodation options. ‘yeah, I guess I could go now’ I muttered. A little rush of adrenaline poured through me as completely tuned out of the current conversation and my mind went into planning mode.
A few days later, when I’d finally figured how to fit small tarp, every flavour of cliff bar, an extra long titanium spork and ziplock bags of food rations for my dog Dillon into my bag, I had nothing else holding me back. I waved goodbye to Hannah and Billie at the gate, picked up Dillon’s lead and headed off across the fields. It was June 20th, and just before leaving, I had grabbed my well thumbed copy of Laurie Lee’s ‘As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning’
I strolled out over the fields, feet instantly soaked with the morning dew, and I thought about the book I had just grabbed. Unlike Laurie, I was only heading out for a few days, not years, and I had a rough idea of when i’d be home, Laurie had not. But like the book, it was midsummer and it was morning. As I was walking though the garden gate and across the fields, our house started to get smaller behind me while the prospect of an adventure lay up ahead. After 10 minutes we got to the coast path and turned right, there wasn’t much navigating to be done, the map stayed tucked away. Just keep the sea to my left and walk till we get to St ives, roughly 56 miles.
The next three days, the dog and I walked along the coast path and hardly saw a soul. A normally well trodden route, the path was completely deserted as the rules of national lockdown had kept tourists out of Cornwall. We slept on the ground, beneath the stars or huddled together under the small tarp. We woke soaked in dew, with slugs in our hair. We swam at deserted beaches and were attacked for our lunch by starving herring gulls. There was a hot and muggy night sleeping next to a lighthouse, its swooping beam swiping across the tarp, and a waking before dawn as a small sailing boat tacked close to the rocks. The two men illuminated in by the cockpit light, unawares of us watching from our sleeping position a few hundred meters away. We slogged up short but steep hills and then down into deserted coastal hamlets. There were stinging nettles and almost blisters. There was exhaustion, sore shoulders and thoughts of home comforts. I marked spots on the map that need to be revisited and then there was the final walk into St Ives, and a cold beer at the end, drank on a bench by the harbour.
From the end of the walk, it was only a short car ride back home and the usual routine was swiftly picked back up. At dusk, watering the vegetable plants I noticed their growth and quietly thought about the last few days, about how not being able to travel has allowed me to see what is right under my nose. It had been all the adventure I would normally search for in far away places, studying those exotic maps and dreaming of the physical toil, the solitude and discovery. But, the difference was I just walked out the back door of our little house and turned right at the coast.