Now that I have been retired for 18 months I have had plenty of time to think about my life, where I have been and where I am going, in both a literal and metaphorical sense.

I have spent a large amount of that time outside, because I am now able to do that. This is in stark contrast to the year before I finished work, where like many people, I was at home more than ever, stuck at the kitchen table in front of the laptop. We didn’t go into the university at all for 6 months of that year, a fact that seems unbelievable now.

It is especially strange as my job used to involve so much travelling. To and from work every day, two days a week out doing placement visits, and sometimes even to places like China, which I was lucky enough to visit three times for work.

A large part of my professional life, as a teacher trainer, and working on an early years degree, was encouraging students to reflect on what they were doing. It was an essential part of their assessments, writing reflective journals, summarising what they have learnt. I have spent hours teaching people how to reflect, using theoretical models.

My novel, which I have been spending lots of time working on recently, has as one of its main characters a newly retired teacher who is passionate about embroidery, (not an autobiography I promise!), who spends a lot of time reflecting about her new life and the contrast with her old one.

So what have I learnt? I have always loved being outdoors but have realised that it is absolutely essential to me to be out, seeing hills, clouds, rivers, the sea. I know I am very lucky to have been able to travel extensively, but am just as thrilled by the Peak District that I spent 35 years living next to, as Cyprus or Spain. A beautiful forest or sky can be found anywhere, most of these pictures were taken in accessible parts of the UK.

I have learnt that I love being by myself. As a teacher you are always surrounded by people, you talk to them all the time. There are many days now that I don’t talk to anyone at all. I stay alone in my house in Spain, or my van, or the apartment I am staying in, and I am perfectly happy being by myself. After so many years of talking, talking, talking every day, I was often sick of the sound of my own voice. The silence in my life is wonderful.

I have confirmed that I am a creature of habit, even in a new place I like to quickly create a little routine for myself. That may sound strange given that I am travelling so much, and constantly changing things but essentially each day comes to have a similar structure.

I also know that I am still very goal oriented. However, the life that I used to have was all about completing targets set by others, and how I could make that work. Mark eight assignments today, prepare two powerpoints by Wednesday, write 4,000 words of your doctorate at the weekend.

My goals are now directed towards my crafting, my novel and general self improvement. That last one makes it sound as if I think there is a lot wrong with me 😉 but by that I mean studying, such all the courses I have been doing, and improving my fitness by walking, cycling and swimming.

I have learnt that other people consider me very brave, to learn to drive at such a late age and go off in a camper van, to travel alone so much. That has surprised me, as I consider what I am doing as very normal. Millions of people travel all the time, and the fact that I am technically on my own doesn’t really concern me as I am always surrounded by people on the planes, trains, buses, roads and campsites. I always work on the basis that people are generally kind and someone would help me if I needed it.

I have learnt that I need to work on being more flexible in my approach to the future. I used to be a big fan of the 5 year plan, but a bit like when governments try it for the economy, life often gets in the way. The situation with Brexit, visas, political events, and post Covid situations, have meant that I am not really sure where I am going to be next year, or the year after. And that is ok, if a little mind blowing to someone who always knew what she would be doing at every point in a year!

I am not sure where I will be in the future, but do know that it has to involve lots of opportunity to be by the sea, or moorland, or in the woods, or just anywhere that is not a building. My life has become focused around the line from one of my favourite poems, ‘Leisure’, by William Henry Davies. He had a very unconventional life, so if you are interested in finding out more, follow the link.

The poem starts , ‘What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare?’

This post has been illustrated by some of my favourite stand and stare moments over the last 18 months. All those moments where the place that I am in so beautiful in some way I could just stay there forever, standing and staring, watching the clouds or the sea.

Thank you to all of you for reading my blog posts, and for all the lovely comments and likes that I have got from you. It means so much to me to have this blog, and to know that other people enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it. I hope that you also get time in your lives to appreciate what is around you and just enjoy being where you are.

I have been exploring ancient Paphos today, and have an exciting coach trip planned for tomorrow, so will be back soon to share all of that with you.

Meanwhile have a good rest of the week, have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.