Why We Need To Blaze (Or Meander Or Putter) Our Own Trail

Cycling to work whenever possible (which essentially means any day it’s not torrential rain), reminds me to blaze my own trail in other areas in my life.

I know that my bike only goes about 30mph on the fastest downhill on the way home, and over the whole journey I average around 13mph.

This means I can’t and don’t try to compete with motor vehicles for speed, instead puttering along at my own pace, enjoying the scenery, the fresh air in my lungs, and the wind on my face.

Sometimes it does rain, and the combined spray from the road and droplets from the sky refresh my face in a way that can’t happen when I’m in a car. It’s exhilarating. 

I get to enjoy the scent of freshly cut wood as I pass the local timber yard, something I never do in a car as I pass by too fast.

On colder days I layer up and wear gloves, and try to find that happy medium between going fast enough to keep warm, but not so fast the icy wind makes my cheeks numb, and my eyes water so I cannot see.

It’s all part of the experience, doing it my way, a less conventional way than the dozens of other commuters in cars that pass me along the way.

(Before I pass many of them again in town when they’re waiting at junctions and traffic lights.)


The cycling reminds me to photograph my own way too.

Not with the latest, fastest, highest spec cameras like those in a certain popular camera club, but usually with decade old used digital bodies that only cost the equivalent of a meal.

It reminds me to continue to find the music I enjoy, and whilst I’m a sucker for a killer pop tune, most of my adult life I’ve sought out far more offbeat backstreets of the music spectrum.

Currently it’s mostly Eluvium and selected works by Alan Silvestri and Ennio Morricone.

And it reminds me to keep doing my own thing in my own tiny corner online too.

So I continue to ignore the mainstream InstaTwitFace social media circus, and slowly, steadily, furrow my own field here with my 35hunter journal, with friends like you for company.

We each have to carve our own path, to find what lights us up and calms as down, and helps us feel purpose and make meaning in our lives.

And as I’ve described here, once you do it with one area, it helps you to encourage and build other areas of your life too.

How do you blaze, meander or putter your own trail, with photography or indeed anything else in your life? 

We’d love to hear, so please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

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24 thoughts on “Why We Need To Blaze (Or Meander Or Putter) Our Own Trail”

  1. I just deal with it as it comes.
    Demands of life and bad weather have curtailed my shooting for a while, but the cameras are ready for me when I’m again ready for them.

      1. I mean, how long do you have to go without you taking a photograph, before thinking you were missing so much you needed to take more assertive or radical action than usual to make time to get out with your camera.

        I guess I’m just thinking of people who say they’re having a couple of weeks or a month off, then it turns into three, six, 12 months because they lose the flow and discipline entirely.

        This would be a fear of mine.

      2. Well I always have a camera at hand in case I see something that needs snapping, but when it comes to deliberate action (artistic photos) they have to wait until I can. Even being retired doesn’t give you all the freedom you want.

  2. Hello Dan,
    My current photographic path involves shooting with a digital camera four years old, film with cameras I longed for in my late teens and early 20’s and developing the resulting negatives. I post once a week and see no need to be distracted by social media.
    What’s really important is that I’m enjoying every minute.
    Music recommendation Chiaroscuro Kevin Kerrigan

    1. Andrew, thanks for your thoughts. Fantastic to hear you’re enjoying your photography, surely this is the main aim for all of us.

      Thanks for the music recommendation, will check it out.

  3. Glad you’re appreciating that quite a lot of life is missed by trying to ‘save’ time while you’re travelling through it Dan. Only to be wondering why you still don’t have enough of it. Cycling does encourage a more Zen-like appreciation of time and life overall I think.

    As far as doing my own thing goes… yep, I think I can say that I do. I do Twitter, more for finding and reading stuff than showing off, but have jettisoned the rest of the socials – including that odd MeWe one I was trying. My photography and other writing entertains me enough but I don’t let any of it fool me into thinking it’s anything more than just entertainment and worthy of more than a diversion when I feel like it.

    1. Agreed about cycling, Bear. Initially when I began commuting (about 14 months ago), I was in more of a race/competition mentality. I guess because it’s a journey to work, and because I work on a flexitime arrangement, 15 minutes lost waiting in traffic (in a car) would mean 15 minutes I’d have to make up being in the office later that day/week, so I would want to get in as quickly as possible. This thinking just carried over to the bike.

      But the great thing is, with a bike my journey is almost exactly the same time every day, as I’m not caught up in the queues and so on, and take slightly different, lower traffic deviations. So after a while I eased off on the competitive approach and just enjoy cycling more, even if it’s wet or cold. I love the freedom, and being the tortoise amongst hundreds of hares.

      I guess I forget with social media, it can be a very useful tool for discovery. There are blogs I follow mostly for the other places they lead me, rather than the writer’s own work, I enjoy those new avenues. There are times I wonder about having a Twitter account again just to share things I find. But it’s not worth being back in the whole circus for me, the following/followers race, the ads, the pointless noise, the politics, and so on.

      What happened with MeWe, I know it looked promising for a while?

      The best fit I found was Google+ in the early days, when it seemed more intelligent, for want of a better word, than Facebook and Twitter, more logically organised and always felt a more spacious and elegantly design platform, more calm.

      But as we know it didn’t gain the traction Google hoped (I read an article the other day about successive changes in the team leading the platform, some of them far more interested in it than others, so it became a kind of unwanted child being passed around the family) so it folded. Not sure at this stage I’d be interested in anything else – I love how blogs work, as a writer and a reader.

      1. Yes, MeWe is still there and picking up people from other services that have folded (Kik? Never heard of it before but I think it was a Canadian thing).

        It actually works fine and it isn’t a personal information selling service like the others but I guess I’m not suited for being social!

        I mean, there’s a lot of specialised groups for all ‘sorts’ of photography for instance, but once you’ve posted a pic, you get god knows how many ‘Like’ type emoji’s (gawd, I hate emoji’s but they love them there), perhaps a ‘nice photo’ comment or two and that’s it, no discussion or expansion.

        So, in the end, it’s just another opportunity to feel good about how liked you’ve managed to be. I tried some other angles and interest groups for mixing but there was really little point in trying so hard in the end. My account is still open there, no harm in it being so, but little impetus for me to go there often.

      2. Sounds just like Instagram with all the emojis! I don’t really see any point in sharing a photo if all you get is a string of silly emojis. Likewise, why would you comment like that on someone else’s photo, unless it is just one of hundreds you’re visiting that day, and leaving the same emojis on every one, in the hope they will visit you back and do the same for you, thus inflating your perceived “popularity” on that particular site. All seems so vacuous and pointless to me!

        Can you imagine the equivalent in real life – I’ll publicly say I like you, if you publicly say you like me, even though privately I couldn’t care less, and I know you don’t either. But at least we look better the outside world, who, er, probably couldn’t care less either!

        I love the deeper engagement of blog posts, where people actually do that old fashioned conversation thing…

  4. Cycling has improved my life in so many ways. When I lived in the city it was a great way to socialize and get out of town on weekends. More recently it gave me so much confidence and well being. I never thought I would one day be able to ride 100 miles or do multi-day tours but I did. People said I couldn’t commute year round in our hostile climate, but I did that too. I cycle less these days, but I went for a ride today and it was heavenly.
    On another note Dan, where do you get your music these days? I used Spotify for a short time but got rid of it. What a scam.

    1. Jon, thanks for your thoughts. I remember before you speaking about your cycling adventures. To me riding 100 miles would be unbelievable, but I guess with enough training and practice I got get there. Shows tremendous commitment and dedication on your part. You must have been very fit – and still be!

      I do love the multi-faceted rewards of cycling. Low environmental impact, low cost, independence, increased fitness, slower pace, and how it overall just improves your perception and appreciation of the outdoors, which inevitably improves wellbeing, physically and mentally.

      Can you tell me more about Spotify and your rather strong comments? I have started using the last couple of weeks. Initially I was very impressed – I always thought much of the music I like would be too obscure, but it’s delivering so far. The player (the Android app on my phone) is very simple and intuitive and just seems to work. I love that it can cast to our TV via the phone too, which is hooked up with my perhaps 10 year old Denon hi-fi, which is great when I wanted a better sound range than just ear buds or a couple of Bluetooth speakers (Ultimate Ears Wonderbooms). It’s good to have just music on in the family living room sometimes rather than the TV, I’m trying to encourage this more.

      I’m on the free version and have been anticipating the ads, but they hadn’t appeared. Then yesterday, part way through an album of relaxing music for my morning yoga I had a grating ad come crashing in, then another. So I guess they give you a trial period of a couple of weeks with no ads, to enjoy the full experience, then start slipping the ads in to remind you this is the free/trial version.

      Because I like the app otherwise, and feel far happier paying the artists for their work via Spotify than seeking out tracks on YouTube, I’m probably going to go with the paid version. £10 a month seems reasonable (about the cost of one album via CD/MP3) for the amount I use it.

      Would be interested to hear your thoughts though, as I said.

      1. Dan, I really wanted to like Spottily, but I found it very vexing. I should say that my bad experiences were several years ago, and I’m kind of an old crab and not as comfortable with tech as you are. I signed on for the paid service right off, my co-workers at the time all used it and liked it, so I was all for it. I immediately found the U.I.to be a big enough issue that I canceled my service in the first week. I called and they were very nice, but really tough about giving me a refund. The following month the charge once again appeared on my bank statement, so another call to customer service. Oh, they were so sorry, etc. Again the following month, and the month after that. To make a long and boring story short, I would up having to contact the anti-fraud department at my bank before the charges stopped. I’m sure my experience was a fluke, but it left a bad taste in my mouth, and I wouldn’t use Spottily again in the future.

      2. Jon, thanks for explaining. I can see your frustration and reluctance to use Spotify again. I’ve found the UI really good, simple, and logical, so they must have improved it over the years.

  5. This is wonderful to imagine you biking your way through the English countryside before things get woolier or maybe the whole way is through scattered towns or pleasant UK version of suburbia. Do you always ride right there on the street or do you have the option of dedicated bikeways in places? We live in the central city and biking is a bit…..er, hectic. But in general Seattle is quite a good town to cycle in. Good eye here for some small autumn quirkiness.

    Sharing musical tastes is always a little risky but we seem to have satisfying overlap. I’m glad you mentioned Eluvium. My oldest and I are studying in adjoining rooms on a peaceful Friday night just being homebodies. He’s evaluating the latest Minecraft update and I’m forming certain opinions of the pictures I took today 😉 while Pianoworks plays in the background on the stereo (it’s a satisfying introduction so far, thanks Dan).

    Blazing, meandering, puttering…..i’m not sure where even to start. Probably more puttering than not.

    1. J, thanks as always for your input.

      We live in a fairly small village, so semi-rural. We’re in between two towns with around 23 and 30k populations. My cycle commute goes into the smaller town, so a quiet smaller village road, then a fairly fast (60mph limit) main road for about a mile then in town I weave through three or four back streets where possible. It’s only about a 3.5m journey altogether. I ride on the road, though there is another way I can go that has cycle paths next to the road some of the way.

      Generally the roads around here are very car-centric. There are buses but they’re rarely even half full, and whilst you see a fair amount of cyclists, I couldn’t for example ride into town with family (ie young kids), or rather I wouldn’t feel safe doing it. If we were in a city with dedicated cycle networks we’d probably cycle together far more.

      I know there are plans for cycle routes as part of the redevelopment of the larger town to the south, but I can’t see them being of much appeal even when done.

      There are a few pleasant cycle routes further afield, along disused former railway track routes, that cars have no access to, but the nearest is perhaps 12 miles away, so getting the family bike collection there isn’t really very practical. We could try harder, and buy a dedicated rack perhaps and take two cars, but it seems to defeat the purpose, driving 12 miles to then cycle just a few, then drive home again.

      I generally ride on my own, and starting from our house there are a number of country lane routes and loops with fairly low traffic, very pleasant scenery and the occasional ancient church to photograph along the way. These ventures, I imagine, would fit your images of me cycling freely through the English countryside…

      If you head here – https://goo.gl/maps/SgpDV79CGojLCWAcA – switch to street view and have a meander, you’ll get the idea, this is one of my favourite churches to photograph.

      On the music front, Eluvium are a long term love. The first album I bought was Copia in 2007 and it remains elegantly magnificent. Even better is False Readings On, which is probably my favourite so far. Takes many many listens to unravel all of its subtle delights. I don’t have every record though. Nightmare Ending is very good, but quite different in that it’s quite sinister in tone and most of the tracks have singing/speaking. Worth a listen though. I have been listening to Pianoworks very recently on Spotify, and it’s good but I prefer Copia and False Readings On which are probably more towards the ambient drone end than flirting with modern classical piano, on the aptly named Pianoworks.

      In a similar vein, all time favourites are Labradford (Me Media Naranja and E Luxo So), Stars Of The Lid (Tired Sounds, and And Their Refinement Of The Decline) and Brian McBride (When The Detail Lost Its Freedom). All quite majestic, and interlinked in fact with band members crossing over and collaborating.

      1. Interesting, my day job involves close work with maps (history of buildings, ie what was built when) and I have come to love them too. Google Street View is a massively useful tool for this work, and hugely interesting for exploring places I’ve never been to, and I’m never likely to.

        Let me know how you get on with Eluvium. I’m listening to plenty of Max Richter again lately too, including an incredibly ambitious 8.5 hour album called Sleep… But not all at once!

  6. On the cycling topic, generally the whole UK is car-centric, in fact in Europe, probably only Denmark and the Netherlands have woken up to the fact that towns are better for people without cars. Coincidentally, not much of an oil-based economy in these places either.

    It is weird how people protest about installing cycling infrastructure in their towns and cities, referencing a perceived wounding of the traffic capacity or somesuch red-herring, and then pile a family car up with bikes and kids and go off to somewhere pleasant to ‘cycle safely’, as a day out activity that could be so much more everyday and enjoyable if they weren’t tied to their cars to get to ‘safe’ places so much.

    I can easily do a 80-100km loop around my home – with only crossing a dual lane road rather than having to cycle on one – but I do despair at the treatment cyclists get even on these single carriageway lanes.

    Cyclists don’t have to buy any fuel, or insurance (although in practise a lot of us have it through cycling organisations). That gives you the reason why UK Governments do not prioritise them; no one powerful can be lobbied or paid off by people who make money from cyclists.

    1. Yes we are one of those families who load up the bikes in the car to drive somewhere safe to ride! Though there are local routes I’ve been mostly with just our daughter (just 11) that I feel safe enough on.

      Cycling makes so many sense on so many levels – especially with ebikes now. I know they need some “fuel”, ie a couple of hours charging every 30 or 40 miles, but it’s vastly better than a car, not to mention all of the other benefits.

      Sadly, I think you’re right about the last point. There will surely come a crunch point in the future though where cycle (and pedestrian) only towns and cities will make more sense (and cost less) for everyone, the Government included.

    1. I think it probably fell from a tree above and the stalk of the leaf got caught in a gap in the fence.

      Perhaps the photographer intended great symbolism. Perhaps it was just a pretty scene to shoot. : )

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