Ok, so that’s a bit of an exageration. True, I did hitchhike once on the trip, but the person who spotted us by the roadside happened to be someone we’d met earlier that day – does that count? And roadkill pheasant was indeed present on the fire, but I only managed one bite before the thought of it lying in the gutter covered in petrol and flies got too much for me.
So no one’s going to be turning my story into Touching The Void 2: Survival in the cruel cruel cotswolds any time soon. But I like to feel my time on Climate Rush’s On The Run roadshow was still a headfirst dive into off-grid living, surviving amongst the elements with an often-empty stomach, a distinct lack of clean clothing and – worst of all – no laptop or fully-charged phone. We travelled through the cotswolds and into Bristol with three horses and two carts, walking or cycling along the road. At night we would squat some land, hunt for water and cook over a fire before snuggling up together (all 16 of us) in our make-shift canvas tent.
And it was gorgeous. Living in the city we rarely experience a connection with nature: the tap provides our water, the radiator our heat and sainsbury’s our food. The closest encounter I’ve had with nature whilst living in London is probably the time me and a friend drunkenly laid down in the road trying to entice a fox to come sit with us, plying him with cheese and onion crisps and dregs of warm beer. The city is a strange little manmade bubble, this mechanical system which we work in, buy our food in, sleep and play in totally cut off from nature and the elements. Except it’s all just an illusion, of course – all the raw materials which create our little bubble world originally come from nature. We are still completely reliant upon it, no matter how much we may try and create our own little world seperate from it.
I often think about how odd it is, this system us humans have created and live in. I mean, I’m glad I don’t have to run around after my lunch with a spear in my hand, and that I can get antibitotics and healthcare instead of dying from an infected tooth at age 35, but the artificialness of our existence still gives me a vaguely unsettling feeling when I take the time to think about it.
So back to walking through fields, foraging berries and camping under the stars: it was so refreshing to re-connect with the world around us, the natural world which we are so dislocated from. And there was a real sense of adventure and excitement, just heading off into the wild on foot. We’ve gotten used to thinking we have to travel to the peruvian andes or the indonesian jungle to experience those feelings. I never thought I’d feel in the midst of an adventure whilst crossing the A403 bypass just north-west of Bristol.
I was just glad that if any of us got trampled by the horses, fell down a hedgerow ditch or got a spot of food poisoning from some less-than-fresh roadkill we could just nip into the nearest country pub and phone an ambulance to come save us.