There was a time in my life when I couldn’t imagine not owning a passport. The thought of not having a passport filled me with anxiety and seemed like a plot from a nightmare. However, I am no worldly traveller. I have not trotted across the globe. I chose to go straight to university and not join my friends on a gap year backpacking across Asia. I am neither a confident, nor a frequent flyer. The last time I was on a plane I had a panic attack. As an adult, I have rarely had the means to afford regular trips abroad or holidays away. However, owning a passport was still so important. It meant the freedom to roam. The freedom to fly. The freedom to flee. Before the global pandemic crept into our lives, my boyfriend had decided to take me to Paris for my 30th birthday. He booked our flights, but we were hesitant to book accommodation because news of the pandemic was just beginning to become increasingly serious. As we all know, the pandemic grounded us all, lockdowns were enforced, he and I did not see each other again for many months. Now my dusty, dog-eared old passport is no longer in date. It’s just a very shiny, bad, plastic photo that lives in my desk drawer.
I still believe having a passport is essential, but I no longer feel worry or fear that mine is no longer in date. We have swapped daydreams about holidays abroad for adventures in and around the UK. Making the most of this country and the varied bounties it has to offer when it comes to holidays, activities, adventures, fun-filled days out, road trips and even excursions that are close to home. Whilst exploring things to do and outdoor activities, we have decided that our holiday is going to be spent walking the Cotswolds Way over 10 days in June. I say ‘we’ but really he is the true adventurer, and I am rather unqualified for the task. What I do know is that the ingredients that make Dorset Adventure Park such a great day out, also apply to what would make a great adventure for anyone. There is a reason why Dorset Adventure Park is one of the best water parks in the UK. A visit to the water park is so fun because of all of the swimming, playing, leaping around outside, defeating obstacles and racing through the mud trail. Even just spending a morning or an afternoon being active in the outdoors gives your mood, energy and heart such a boost.
When searching for things to do outside near me, I decided that I wanted to roam away from the coast paths I have grown-up walking, as well as the many yet to tread. This was not purely due to wanting a change of scene and a lot more to do with just how very, very steep parts of the southwest coast path can be. Whether it is due to the lockdowns, a discovered love of cooking, having a job that requires me to be a lot less on my feet or being in my thirties, I am just not as fit as I used to be. I wanted a wild adventure that gave me the same fun challenge of the obstacle course, whilst feeling attainable and not immediately daunting. So, we settled on the rolling fields of the beautiful Cotswolds. Will it turn out to be hugely hilly? Oh, I hope not. ‘Undulating’ is the word that seems to be bandied about. I think that sounds rather nice and inviting. Challenge accepted. In life, we are drawn to the thought of achieving a goal, overcoming challenges and conquering obstacles. It fills us with pride, joy and fulfilment. Schools, families and companies on team building days choose to come to Dorset Adventure Park because it is so fun and empowering and deepens bonds when you complete obstacles together.
The other obstacles will be the repeated days of walking many, many miles. I like a ramble, a potter, a stroll, even a hike. However, I have never walked multiple miles for more than two days in a row. Equally, I have never camped more than two nights in a row and absolutely never carried any camping equipment on my back as I trekked. All of these will be my obstacles and challenges. The miles, the weight, the load and the living arrangement. Currently, I sleep with an essential oils scent diffuser, white noise soundscapes, an eye-mask, three pillows (two for my head and one for cuddling – obviously), a duvet and a weighted blanket. I’m like the Princess and The Pea. Sometimes even all of those lotions, potions, soundscapes and podcasts still don’t cast their magic spell and insomnia wins. Defeating the demon of insomnia is one of my goals for those ten days. Hopefully walking hundreds of miles, being out in the fresh air and carrying the weight of our equipment will be far more effective than even my most favourite lavender oil.
For ten days we will swap the weight of the world for the much simpler, measured and condensed weight of our adventure. Life can at times feel like we are juggling everything and can’t afford to drop a single ball. The news can be so repeatedly heartbreaking and demoralising. The life-goals we set ourselves can feel further and further out of reach as we all adapt to whatever curveball comes our way next. Yet, for those ten days our focus, our lives, our aims, our goals and our obstacles will simply be to follow the path in front of us. Holidays feel so good because it is a vacation away from all of those other commitments. A holiday adventure or activity outdoors is even more so. By going back to and immersing in nature once more, you find the freedom to stop sweating the small stuff and the big stuff. You sweat from the summer sun and from exercise. It is not the clinging, clammy caress of anxiety, but the salty kiss of the simple life and the satisfaction of leaping over each stepping stone and bouncing over the obstacles in your path.
Words by Olivia Lowry