Over the past few years, city living has left me craving a more natural way of life. The faster the internet gets and the more we are able to automate our daily tasks, the bigger our disconnection becomes and the more lost we feel as human beings.
Whilst I do my best to stay connected to the natural world, the often-overwhelming unbalance of city-dwelling fills me with the need to escape once in a while. To escape to a place where communication is not perpetual, where technology is yet to permeate everyday life and where my connection with the earth feels unbreakable once again.
This summer we made a conscious effort to spend more time exploring on home turf, taking short breaks that give our minds and bodies time to reconnect with their natural surroundings. Despite the only thing separating me from this beautiful part of the country being a mere four-hour drive, this summer was the first time I’d actually made it down to South Devon - it won’t be the last.
Words and photography by Katherine Heath | @katherineheath
Jagged rock formations, sloping pastures dotted with small towns, and water so clear it was hard to believe we were still in England, the South Devon coast brought back happy memories of weekends spent surfing in North Devon during carefree, teenage summers. The landscape is dramatic yet familiarly soothing. Where we stood - looking out to the west where land meets sea - felt like home.
As soon as we departed London I felt a weight slowly lifting. As the roads grew narrower and quieter I felt my mind slow down and return to the present moment - it was one of the first weekends in a long time that I felt myself fully switch off from work, life and everything in between.
Travel, for me, has never been about seeing specific places or making my way through a list of must-sees. I would rather climb a lesser- known mountain for a peaceful view of Everest than climb Everest itself with hundreds of others. Travel for me is exploration, exploration of both earth, culture and mind. It’s about the way you feel and the joy you take from even the most trying parts of the journey.
Whether it’s exploring the wild depths of Canada or simply meandering the English coastline, when outdoors there’s a sense of mindful connection that is hard to ignore. Time outside, for me, strongly correlates with happiness. Time outside is what holds greatest value my life.
Whilst I firmly believe that there is no such thing as bad weather, the unbroken sunshine was welcomed with open arms. I have always felt drawn to the sun - the warmth on your skin simply cannot be replicated by man-made machines (despite our best efforts) – and to my delight, it shone relentlessly throughout our visit. We rarely ventured indoors (only to sleep).
The cottage we resided in was set back from the coast up a narrow, crooked lane that just about permitted access by car. The land gently inclined as you departed the shore, which meant the east-facing garden looked straight out to sea over soft fields and swaying tree tops.
The short walk to the beach was guided by tall hedgerows and trees that offered welcomed shade in the midday sun. We rose early each morning, wandered down to the shore and swam before the rest of the world was awake. We would then make our way back to the cottage – salty and content – grind fresh coffee and enjoy a slow, simple breakfast in the garden.
These mornings reminded me of the importance of taking pleasure from simple, everyday tasks that, these days, we feel the need to speed up.
“Never let the state of waiting be in your mind. Just do something else and do it by intention.”
A highlight for me was spending almost the entire trip barefoot – my feet were filthy by the time we left and my body felt deeply in tune with nature’s rhythms. I’ve never enjoyed wearing shoes and if I didn’t live in a city I would rarely do so. It struck me how little we are able to live barefoot in the lives many of us lead these days, and although at the time it was saddening realisation, I’ve since felt inspired to create more opportunity for barefoot living in an attempt to strengthen my connection with the earth.
As a child, my happiest days were those spent outdoors, little has changed. Even then joy came from scrambling over rocks, playing in the waves and watching clouds go by.
The day before we left, we decided to walk east along the coastal path to a small, semi-secret inlet where a tiny stretch of sand was only made accessible at low tide. The walk was 15 miles in total - we traversed varying terrains and gradients as we traced the rocky shoreline - and a steep, dusty scramble down to the little patch of sand we stopped at for lunch and a cool off in the water.
This trip helped me discover that I don’t have to go far to put distance between myself and the things that can cause stress in everyday life. Avoiding technology, living intentionally and spending time outdoors all bring back a sense of calm and help me to gain perspective on what’s important in life.
Slow travel, near or far, has a way of bringing you back to you.