I have tried to acquire as much freedom as possible, to become self-liberated.

Lartigue

We all have to make them at one time or another. They are an inescapable part of every adult’s life. I am talking about big life changing decisions. The circumstance that gives rise to these impactful moments vary greatly. Some happen randomly, some are a deliberate decision of our own making and some are a consequence of others actions.

Whilst there has not been much commonality in how these pivotal moments arrived in my live, I have been constant in how I deal with them. As an emotional animal avoidance and procrastination is a necessary part of my process, reflecting the relative scarcity, weight and emotional cost to my psyche.

My efforts in procrastination leading up to the summer of 2018 had been positively olympian. History had taught me that sooner or later I would have to face reality, the process for which dictates complete withdrawal to nature.

It is in nature that my mind finds the space to disengage from the trivia that accompanies much of daily living. There is a certain necessity in pitching a tent, finding water and cooking your own food. As time stretches between necessities, I think and feel; there is not much else to do.

Which partly explains why, on my way to photographing a litter of Jackal pups, I am distracted by hues of ochre, sienna and champagne pink announcing the sun’s imminent arrival. Whilst the jackal pups can be heart meltingly cute, in that moment I was drawn to a pallet of colours worthy of Turner’s brush.

Out here you take what nature gives. The moment is stunning: I make one image as the sun rubs against a lone acacia tree. It is towards the end, as the sun leaps into the sky in a stunning flare of colours, that I make my decision. The weeks leading up to it had been draining. This morning a liberation. I felt both lite and free. The sun also rises.

The road trips I make could not be more different. They are carefree explorations of people in their spaces. The only deliberate act being that of getting in the car. Days can be languid or packed depending on my energy levels.

The only constant being the hunt for the best cup of coffee around. Which is why I found myself, during the summer of 2020, ensconced at my favourite cafe sipping lattes and contemplating simple, yet tasty, sandwiches. The coffee is more than passible, served by a friendly mother and daughter team who got to know my routine by day two.

There is much to like here. The sun, beach and ocean is but one part. A spot bustling with enough humanity to hold my interest, but not repel it. The quiet comfort of a well established habit and our host’s welcoming manner and smile. Such moments, and others still, make travelling both pleasant and memorable. And, of late, they have become scarcer still as Covid-19 rippled through our lives.

On a per mill basis coffee is a posh habit compared to, I don’t know, say drinking at the local pub. And the effects of excessive consumption could not be more different. In another time and place these side effects were a useful compliment to the exhausting pace to my life. Since taking time out I have rediscovered the aromas and flavours hiding in a well brewed cup.

My eyes linger on rushing waves completing the tide’s invasion whilst my mind ruminates on the pleasant aspects that accompanied the pivotal decisions of my life. Into this setting intrudes a distinctly high pitched nasal accent. At first I try to brush it off as, I am sure, is everyone else. But the whine grows in pitch, becoming impossible to ignore over the pleasant drumming of the waves:

“How can a latte cost £3.5? Back home it costs $2.95!”. Our host remains patient and conciliatory: “We are on a remote beach of a small island off the coast of England.” Followed by more whining. Our host, again: “This is not Starbucks. I select and blend the coffee beans myself.” Yet more whining, louder still. “Should I hold the milk, Sir?”

I raise my cup in a silent toast to our host as my attention shifts back to my ruminations. The first decision was made whilst backpacking across mountains. The second, whilst backpacking through a desert. By 2018 I had simplified matters through the simple expedient of paying someone to take care of necessities, a luxury afforded me by time and dutch sensibilities.

I know, not quite Thoreau in his hut. I shove the uncomfortable parallel to the recent scene aside by consoling myself that Thoreau did not have to deal with hungry cats the size of small cars or angry buffalo the size of small buses that would mow you down between mouthfuls of grass. And don’t get me started on hippos and their utter distain for BBQ fires.