Is Getting Outside a Long-Term Fix?

My inspiration for this post was found in a recent and brief online conversation with Alex Roddie on social media. Alex raised the idea that getting outside is being marketed as the simple ‘be all and end all’ solution for a world of people’s personal problems (as I understood it).

This is not something I’d previously considered but immediately, I felt a response and realisation growing within me that has provided the impetus for this piece of writing.

Many thanks to Jo for this image.

I am not going to challenge any suggestion that spending time outside is good for our psychological well being. Escaping a heavily polluted grey space, sitting in a park, climbing a hill or mountain, taking a trip along a river; there is nothing unhealthy about any one of these activities.

My personal journey and passion for walking and exploring the great outdoors began in August 2012. I was a simple dog walker before this but wanted a greater sense of ‘adventure’ and meaning in my life. So, I slowly started heading out alone; boldly moving forwards, after several months of painfully waiting for someone who was never fully prepared to join or encourage me.

I had to do it alone and I gradually gained many benefits from doing that. Without feeling as though I was adding much to my interpretation of a social circle, I soon joined a local Ramblers group, where I could meet other (hopefully) like-minded people and continue exploring new places with them.

2014: my first solo camping trip and exploration of the Jurassic Coast.

Fast forward another couple of years and I would find myself leaving the more familiar home counties to explore districts further afield. Camping for the first time, travelling solo, with freedom and liking each experience; hungry for my next long weekend away.

Somewhere between 2014 an the present day, I feel as though I ‘peaked’. Because, as much as I do still like walking, leading group walks, spending time in other areas and climbing new mountains, there is only so much happiness that I can gain from repeating this action on a limited basis. Walking probably accounts for less than twenty-five per cent of my life on an average annual basis. It goes without saying that work (and the need to pay bills, tax, etc.) consumes a far greater portion.

2015: a return visit to Dorset and another coastal adventure.

While I have certainly gained a lot from this very healthy past-time, I know that I have honestly also grown to use the activity as a form of ‘avoidance’ from the greater challenges that I live with on a daily basis. Walking, hiking, rambling… It has never been able to cure me of any ailment that I’ve been unable or unwilling to address myself.

Since making these changes in 2012, I’ve been able to feel better about how I spend much of my free time, having felt isolated and confined to home workshop and working environments for much of my former adult life. My social life has grown and continues to do so. I’ve found another passion to write about, where woodworking appears harder to attain right now.

But in my work – that time-consuming necessity of life – I am deeply dissatisfied and have been this way for too many years.

Circa. 2013-2014.

Regardless of whichever job I’ve had and wherever I’ve worked, my working week has often begun (usually on a Sunday evening) with a feeling of dread. Yes, many people will be able to relate to this. But time and again, I’ll go through phases where I’ll find myself physically and mentally unable to get myself out of the home and in to a place where I do not desire to be.

These same feelings will haunt me throughout each day and return each evening, which Friday becoming the only anomaly. Sometimes Saturday evenings are also filled with a slight sense of contentment.

I went through all those years of school without any clear direction, dream or desire for a career, moving forwards. I had no intention to go to university and study any form of a degree. I enrolled on a Carpentry & Joinery course at college to keep myself busy, to learn a trade to fall back on and, while I do not regret the time spent learning here, I have failed to move on from this temporary fix.

Several years ago, I was going to do a college course in this-or-that. I did a short fiction writing course once a week in 2012… But now, when those thoughts arise of learning something else, changing careers finding a career and the necessary time to be invested; I push it all aside and look ahead to my weekends. A time to feel free and to breathe. Enduring the struggle of a passionless graft inbetween.

Walking has become a way of avoidance for me. I keep my eyes shut for five days each week, only to open again on a sunny Saturday morning. By the time Sunday night falls, I’m shattered and wanting only to hibernate.

From the help I’ve had professionally and through talking to close friends, I know that there is a very good chance that I could greatly improve this situation by researching, setting out a plan and following a path towards an operative pursuit where I may look forward to each day, the challenges on offer and perhaps even feel comfortable and proud to tell people of what it is that I do.

I’m living a life that is unfulfilled and repeatedly walking away from it doesn’t help as I always have to come home.

While I do not wish to ever find myself in a ‘living to work’ situation (some employers seem to expect this of their employees), I know that I will actively look and hope to fill this void in other ways… Means by which I may not be comfortable sharing publicly at this time and that’s largely because it would detract from the point of this post.

Loneliness is something I have suffered with for many years. I could trace it back to half my lifetime ago and even before that. Feeling hollow in one aspect of my life and being, I will look to enlarge and emphasise other facets; ultimately leaving myself with a deeper perception of lonesomeness and uncomfortable solitude.

Simply changing from one job to the next probably won’t cure me in an instant, even if it is a step in the right direction. But I feel I must start working towards that change instead of repeatedly walking away.

Thank you for reading and thanks also to the people who I feel close to in life. For your support and your friendship.

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Author: Olly Parry-Jones

I live in North Somerset, close to the Mendip Hills and I enjoy spending time outdoors. In particular, going on long walks and camping across the summer months. I also get around to explore other parts of the UK. In 2018, I hope to find a new workshop because I miss woodworking and no day-job will ever provide the same sense of satisfaction as making your own. I have two blogs: Olly Writes (woodworking, DIY, baking) Olly Outdoors (walking, hiking, camping) You can also find me on YouTube and Facebook (where I have respective channels and pages for each blog). I'm also on Twitter and Instagram (@OllyPJ).

4 thoughts on “Is Getting Outside a Long-Term Fix?”

  1. Thank you Olly; a very honest and interesting read. Made me think too. I grew up hiking and camping, took it for granted; went off to university and did not do any outdoor activities for many years, moving from the north to the south. I too developed depression and anxiety and (cut a long story short) one day just got up drove to the Peak District ( no proper gear) and hiked, it did help me enormously. Hiking and camping does give me a break and escape from job I hate, like putting a plaster on a wound but never really fixing it. Would be good to live in a world where there were more options than being forced to work in such rigid patterns; good point you raised, a lot of people live to work and seek their identity in a job, employers and the general population seem to expect this of every one these days. Good article Olly, did strike a cord with me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Gilly, thanks very much for your comment. I’m pleased to hear that my words resonate with you. I sometimes write these things and wonder whether more than a few people might understand.

      Thanks also for reading.

      Like

  2. You’re right to point out that walking isn’t an instant cure for all our troubles. As my mother in law once pointed out, you can go travelling and leave your home behind, but you can never leave *yourself* behind,

    This was another moving post, Olly, and sorry you haven’t yet found a fulfilling money-earning job. I read somewhere that one ingredient of happiness is to feel your life has a sense of purpose. Many jobs, sadly, don’t give us that sense of purpose. Hope you find a way forward soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ruth, that’s a very true and fairly well known statement you’ve shared. Why does it seem okay to say that ‘travel won’t fix you’ but few will consider the risks of regular walking and a similar form of avoidance?

      This is it. What I do has no meaning or purpose for me. I get paid… That’s it. I gain nothing more. I do not believe in or feel passionate about the end product.

      There are so many, many jobs out there just like this. I do feel as though I sometimes try to plug that hole with hopes for romance. It may be the same for many people as I’ve also had a decent response privately to this post.

      I have some ideas and intentions on future steps but no clear vision of the path beyond.

      Like

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