If the average life expectancy in the UK is 81 years, that means we have around 29,500 days to make the most of. We all know that a good sunrise or sunset is one of the most beautiful things we can see, but how many have we actually seen? Of those 29,500 opportunities, how many will we actually take?
For me, that answer must be pretty low. I’ve seen a few amazing sunsets, mostly by chance, but I’ve only ever made the conscious effort to a see a sunrise once. Like a lot of people, I’m too comfortable with the fact that the sun will set again tomorrow and there is, seemingly, always another chance to see orange and pink skies.
We’d had a long day, our first full day in Dorset, and we had done a fair amount of walking. Exploring places like Corfe Castle in the morning and taking the cliff top walk to Old Harry Rocks in the afternoon. We had both caught the sun, it had been a hot day with clear skies. My forearms were a light shade of pink but the back of my neck was glowing an angry shade of red. Late afternoon we had gone back to the lodge where we were staying for a few days, to rest and apply after-sun. Michelle napped on the sofa while I cooked us dinner. The plan was to visit Durdle Door and watch the sunset there but as the afternoon turned into early evening those plans seemed to be on the verge of being pushed back until tomorrow.
Michelle was tired, she had done a lot of walking for someone who is six months pregnant and the added heat had drained us both of energy. After our dinner our overwhelming urge was to relax and do nothing. Michelle wanted to watch ‘One Born Every Minute’ and I wanted to sit with a cold towel on my neck and enjoy a beer.
We’ve all been in this situation dozens of times, right? Our best laid plans are pushed to one side for the sake of a comfy sofa and an hour or two of staring at the TV.
We had all but decided that we were going to go the next night instead when I was hit with a sense of urgency.
“No, let’s go now” I said “It’s 20:15, we will make it just in time for sunset”
I knew that Michelle was up for it, even though she probably needed to sleep.
25 minutes later we were pulling up into the Durdle Door car park, ready to walk down the steep gravel track that leads to the cliff top viewing point of the famous arch way and coastline. The sky was already showing soft pinks and oranges so our timing was perfect.
As we reached the bottom of the track we were faced with Man O’War Bay which was absolutely stunning with the soft coloured sky behind it. There were maybe 20 or so people around, most with tripods and expensive looking camera gear. It was no surprise, it’s a beautiful place and an Instagram favourite.
We walked a little bit further until Durdle Door was within sight. This is what everybody was here for, this natural limestone arch just off the beach.
I was instantly glad that we had made the effort, but felt immediately guilty that I didn’t make the effort more often.
I often talk about New Zealand and how incredible it is. I spent 400 happy days there and saw some of the most beautiful places on the planet. I hiked up mountains, swam in lakes, road tripped to glaciers and photographed Auroras. I did all of these things because I made the effort to do all of these things. I didn’t put them off, I didn’t say “Let’s photograph the aurora tomorrow night instead” because I knew that was too risky. I almost always made the effort to do what I wanted to do because I knew my days in NZ were limited and the opportunity to do those things was not infinite.
I remember many things about my time in NZ vividly, but I do not remember feeling tired. I do not remember missing anything on TV. I do not remember the times my legs ached at work from quickly hiking up a hill the evening before. Those things are not important.
If we are lucky, we get 29,500 days, that’s a much bigger number than the 400 days that I spent in NZ, but I should apply the same principles and have that same sense of urgency when it comes to making the most of my days.
I will not remember feeling tired and I will definitely never regret missing anything on TV for the sake of an adventure.
When the opportunity arises, say yes to sunsets.