Unlacing my shoes I have cursed myself as an idiot: it’ll be cold, I’ll get mud between my toes... And without fail I have emerged a wild swim as a new man
I still remember a snippet of wisdom from a book by veteran travel writer Dervla Murphy. She said that she never regretted going for a swim but often regretted not doing so. And she is exactly right.
I have swum in rivers on days when I am in a foul mood, or in a great hurry. Unlacing my shoes and preparing to swim I have cursed myself as an idiot: the water will be cold, I’ll get mud between my toes, I don’t have a towel to dry myself, I don’t have time for this.
And without fail I have emerged from the water a new man, bouncing and invigorated by the cold, my mind recharged and refreshed and caring not a hoot that my hair is wet and I am five minutes behind schedule.
I have stood on beaches and looked out at cold, brown, uninviting oceans and tried to justify my wimpish excuses for not taking the plunge. And I have learned over time that it is always worth the first bracing shock and that even the briefest of swims (I define a swim as completely submerging yourself) will probably be the highlight of my day.
But I am writing this piece today not as a therapy piece. I’m not here to argue my case for outdoor swimming being the simplest antidote I know to impending depression, stress, or taking yourself too seriously. Today I am thinking about wild swimming on your travels.
I try to swim on every single trip I go on, whether that’s an overnight work trip to Scarborough (I slept on the beach in preference to the hotel laid on for me, and I dashed starkers into a pre-dawn autumnal North Sea), a long expedition in the high Arctic (jumping through a hole in the ice into the Arctic Ocean), or – less masochistically – swimming out into Lake Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan at sunset to really appreciate the beautiful view.
My point is this: travel is about experiences, hoovering them up, storing memories and lessons that will help you be a fuller, better, wiser person.
And I promise you that taking the plunge, swimming in a river that looks too cold, or a lake lit only by moonlight will definitely be a memorable part of any trip.
I’ll be back to defend myself in the comments section...
Love travel quizzes, events and competitions? Then sign up today for free so you don’t miss out!