As a 6 year old I fancied myself an explorer. Not the blanket-fort-in-the-living room kind of explorer (although this too was a favourite activity reserved only for rainy days), but a real explorer forging through what my brother and I pretended were virgin forests of the New World surrounding our summer home at King Edward Bay. It was that lovely duality that children master so effortlessly, of knowing something isn’t real but fully embracing the make-believe anyway. We knew we weren’t truly discovering anything, but I distinctly remember the thrill as if we were. With the rest of the household still asleep, my brother and I woke early, climbed from our sleeping bags on the back porch, and gamboled off into the forest to play explorers with nothing but the cool forest and the deer trails to lead us before returning to the warmth and breakfast aromas in our country kitchen. We reveled in those summer days unfettered by schedules, schoolrooms, and city life. We were enraptured.
I was 11 years old the summer I discovered Tolkein’s stories and I devoured the Hobbit and the following Trilogy in short order. Part of the story’s magic for me was the meticulously detailed map at the front of every book, complete with hand drawn mountain ranges, swamps, plains and rivers. I loved the maps. It fueled my joy of the story as I followed the characters along on their adventures, flipping back to the map mid-sentence to see where they were, imagining what it must look like, where they had been, and where they had to go.
40 + years later I have by chance re-discovered these childhood joys. Last year a friend and I spent a week walking a point to point route along the North West Cornwall path, heading out each morning with nothing but a packed lunch, water, a map and the address for our next B&B. I realize my excitement was in part a product of my childhood King Edward Bay explorations combined with my pre-teen fascination with maps in make-believe lands. And although we didn’t stumble across a single dragon (other than the cranky pasty clerk in St Ives), I felt a little like one of the characters in the Tolkein Trilogy. I pretended a little that I was discovering the landscape for the first time. I let my imagination run, my stride lengthen and we rolled with the rhythm of the Cornish countryside.
I was so smitten with our Cornwall trip last year I am returning in September leading a Positively Fit group of four walkers for a week’s trek from Padstow to St Ives and then will continue on for another 6 days with my walking mate from last year. It is a holiday that nails the restorative qualities of a good adventure at any age: physical exertion, brilliant scenery, good food and a deep sleep in a comfortable bed at the end of the day. Perhaps most importantly this holiday brings out the child in me who has always loved a good adventure with just a hint of make believe.