SUITCASE’s Editor-in-Chief Kate Hamilton introduces the new issue.
I spent my teenage years in Dorset, surrounded by rolling maize fields, craggy coastlines and heathland bordered by hedgerows. At the time I was convinced that there was nothing there for me in the countryside, and I longed for the energy of the city. But now, after years of living in London, I find myself yearning for the sight of green fields and the feel of fresh air.
Tensions between the wilderness and urban life are addressed in Amy Liptrot’s book, The Outrun. In her account of recovering from addiction on the Scottish Orkney islands, she writes: “I craved horizons and the sound of the sea, but when I walked to Tower Bridge again London took my breath away.” The buzz that you get from a city – from the feeling of existing alongside millions of other souls – is undeniable. However, the natural world can restore and inspire us, and in our screen-filled modern existence it is important to make time for the wild.
Following in the footsteps of Liptrot, Dolly Alderton – the former Sunday Times dating columnist – escaped London for a solo trip to Orkney for the Wild Issue in order to write her debut book in peace. After spending her days exploring mythical stone circles and otherworldly sea stacks, she returned home buoyed up by fresh air and fresh ideas.
And what better tonic for a frazzled mind than a long and rambling walk? Whether it’s part of a camping trip through the mountains in Colorado, on a sweltering safari trail in Kenya or a sandy beach sprint in Zanzibar, there’s something singularly purposeful about the mechanical motion of putting one foot in front of the other.
One of the biggest thrills associated with the wilderness is the feeling of stumbling across uncharted territory. When our food editors visited Portugal’s west coast – a land of sleepy fishing towns, hidden wild swimming spots and young wineries – they couldn’t believe their luck at having it all to themselves. Meg Abbott asked: “Surely we weren’t the only ones basking on the silky sand with miles of yellow flowers shivering on the hills around us?”
In Sri Lanka, however, it has been 100 years since British colonial forces began taming acres of lush forest and jungle into manicured tea estates. A century later, and Sri Lanka’s blend of Ceylon tea remains the country’s most important commodity. The region is popular with travellers, overflowing with borders of hibiscus, hydrangeas and lilies, and there’s even a chance of spotting a leopard.
The sensation of being alone in the face of wilderness can create a certain vulnerability that no city could ever recreate. Namibia, for example, is a desert country so sparsely populated that you can drive for a whole day without seeing a single human being. You are only ever one flat tyre away from disaster. Here, rather than trying to “tame” the country, or superimpose glossy safari experiences, travelling across this rugged and remote land is about engaging with issues such as conservation, habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict.
This issue is a celebration of the wilderness – of its ability to heal, to inspire, and even to evoke fear. In this age where our every movement is tracked and logged, it can feel like the greatest luxury to visit places where human footprints have left no discernible trace. We hope that you feel inspired to swap the city lights for starlight and to walk, perhaps aimlessly, as you breathe it all in.