I make my way through the heaving crowds of Soho on a sweaty, hot summer London day. I've been inside and sitting down all day, and the hectic jumble of people on the streets next to honking traffic are irritating me. The station is busy with commuters finishing their day at work, but it's easy to spot my crew - hiking boots and backpacks stand out in the metropolitan crowd. We join the packed train south of the city, and in just over an hour the concrete jungle has been replaced by rolling green. Our station lights up the screen, and we don our packs and alight for adventure.
Passing single-file through the wooden gate leading to our footpath, set under leafy trees and between yellow fields, we are transformed from city to nature. Busy days are forgotten, replaced by sunbeams and singletrack. It's a gentle afternoon hike to our campsite, but it's enough to refresh and invigorate us. The stress I felt from my day earlier is not only gone - it's irrelevant.
We roll into our campsite and get to work - so to speak - setting up our tents and starting a campfire, delighted to be lacking modern amenities and living outside for a night. There's such a simple satisfaction to it. Arriving on foot, building a campfire, pegging in tents. In the world where most things we need arrive at the press of a button, it's a remarkably pure pleasure to turn a blank field into a homely campsite.
There is perhaps no better nourishment for the soul than dinner cooked over a campfire, except, maybe, for the roasted marshmallows that follow. Huddled around licking flames we share tales of adventures and ideas for the next ones. The clouds above us let a few stars shine through, and thankfully no rain. It's a great night to be outside. We crawl into tents later than planned, and fall asleep to the soundtrack of wind blowing through the trees above us. No engines, electricity, crowds, or white noise of the city can reach us here. Just pure nature.
An early sunrise and birds chirping are the perfect alarm clock to stir us in the morning. Tents are folded away and bags repacked, and a gentle stroll through the forest soon becomes a sprint to the train station. We giggle as we leap down a forest trail, hoping to catch our 7:01 train, but not really caring that much if we don't.
We make it to the station on time, and sidle between suited commuters, only now becoming aware that we smell of campfire and forest. An hour later, at London Bridge, we join the crowds arriving for work, and go our separate ways into the human sea, everyone getting where they need to be (some thankfully in offices with showers).
It's not a grand adventure - not quite gnarly, epic, or particularly out there - but it's an adventure nonetheless. For less money than we would have spent at the pub and in the same amount of time, we got out of the city, hiked in the woods, cooked over a fire, and slept outside, proving to ourselves that adventure can fit into our busy lives, and even if for only one weekday night, we can all get together once in a while and get there.
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