Wherever I am, however happy I am, whatever exciting or brilliant or sad or lonely or fulfilling activities might be occupying my day to day life, I have always got a little sneaky corner of my eye on the next time I can get away and explore somewhere new. It is, I think, a 21st century, and very privileged, affliction- to be always thinking about how, when, and where you can get away for another adventure. But here we are- I am a working woman who is aware that there is a whole world out there; to see, to smell, to learn about, to eat. .. it's hard to un-know that knowledge once you've acquired it.
When I think about all the places in the world that I haven't (and might never) see, it gives me that desperate, swooping, tingling, aware-of-ones-own-mortality feeling that makes me want to drop everything and get immediately on a coach.
I'm aware of course that this kind of travel-fanaticism is the reserve of relatively comfortable people. It is easier to fantasise about all the places you might go and explore in the next few years when don't have to think carefully about your own survival on a day to day basis.
But there is also this- a yearning to go to new places, see new things, bear witness to and explore places that are not my home, is also a hunger for learning, knowledge, history, language (and of course, food). And I am learning that this hunger can be indulged close home, as well as in faraway adventures.
It turns out that I don't know England as well as I thought, and recently I've been pushing myself to go on more little adventures. There are limits to getting away to and exploring the whole world at large- money, time, responsibilities, and ecological considerations too. But I refuse to accept that if money is short (which mine totally is) that means the part of ourselves which is curious, searching, wants to learn new histories, wants to take that triumphant lung full of air at the top of a hill as you see a whole new view for the first time, has to be quelled too.
So, I've been exploring little England with the eyes of an adventurer. The lakes, coastal paths, dales, downs, moors, the more you look, the more there is to see. When I got back from Vietnam in 2011, I went immediately to visit friends in West Yorkshire. I was in that decompressions period where you’re not quite ready to go back to real life after a few months away, and I’d also been hightailing it away from some pretty Serious Shit when I’d scurried onto a plane to Sri Lanka four months earlier, so I had a few niggling trepidations about what I was returning home to. So, as a stop gap, I made a detour and ended up spending a few mornings yomping across the Yorkshire moors talking my friend’s kids to school.
There’s something really spooky and magical about the light in West Yorkshire and, as someone who was born and raised in South Yorkshire, that is a really hard thing for me to write. But it’s true, it is completely breath taking- somehow even on the grey days it has got this completely iridescent, incandescent quality that kind of gloams through the clouds, and the sky feels all at once completely enormous, and close enough to touch. Anyway, all of this is to say that I was standing on the moors at 8.15 in the morning, less than 50 miles from where I grew up, gawping at the sky and wondering how it could be at that I had just spend a considerable amount of my savings missioning across the globe in order to find magical and breath-taking places to clamber around and explore, when all this was right here, punching me right in the guts with its beauty.
I am not advocating that no one ever need travel abroad again. But I do find it a comforting notion that adventure and exploration, wonder and wanderlust, needn’t be solely passions of people who are rich in both money and time. There is wonder in the swoop of a south downs ridge, the starriest sky over Bodmin Moor, the wild donkeys at the side of the road in the New Forrest. Adventures can be made with a tent, a rucksack, a week’s bar tender pay in your back pocket. Next month, after a little bit of saving up, I’m buying a transit van. I’m going to throw a mattress, a calor gas stove and some boxes of wine in the back, and see just how much of the nooks and crannies of this island I can discover for myself.
Sally Jenkinson is a poet, writer and performer who lives and works in Brighton, but she grew up in Doncaster (South Yorkshire), where they say poem like this: ‘poym’. Her second short collection of poems is forthcoming in May 2016 with Burning Eye Books. For more information please visit her website here.