It is a privilege to say that I have seen sunrise and sunset all over the world. There are many places I’ve not yet visited, but among those I have, the natural phenomenon of dawn and dusk are often spectacular.
There are a few which stand out in my mind as particularly special, like watching the sun set in Aberaeron (Wales), in Antigua and behind Launceston Castle in Cornwall. At the far end of the night, watching the sun rise from the sundeck of a superyacht in Ibiza, from an ancient temple in Siem Reap (Cambodia) and from a pagoda in Bagan (Myanmar) will always stay in my memory.
One sunrise in particular I managed to watch at 4.53am from my bed in Groggy the campervan by simply opening the curtains at the side window; it was mind-blowing. I had found a quiet lane adjacent to the field where the 5,000 year old arrangement Stonehenge stands imposing on the horizon and, as the morning mist hung low across the floor, the sky turned a collection of pink, orange and yellow.
Stonehenge makes up one of the most famous Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments, which was constructed among a much wider pattern of geometrical trenches and banks. The true purpose of these enormous stones is currently unknown but theories include rituals, worship, healing and community. Most importantly, perhaps, is their arrangement in relation to the sunset of the winter solstice and the sunrise of the summer solstice.
The indescribable sensation of Pagan connection was shattered pretty dramatically at 10am by the hundreds of tourists trawling the path that encircles Stonehenge, taking infinite selfies and dawdling in large groups. Not bitter…much.
But even with these fellow tourists and photographers around me, nothing could detract from the impressive structure in front of me. Stonehenge represents a tangible link to our ancestors and the most ancient version of Britons. Becky Jo’s Great British Tour would not have been complete without a visit to this cultural icon.
Right before my eyes was a physical part of my history. My ancient ancestors had once stood where I was standing and would have gazed on the very same towering monument. It was a humbling and thought-provoking experience. I wish I could have been there when they were constructing each renewed version of the mercurial stone structure. I must remember where I parked my DeLorean.
In that moment, I felt closer to the B.C. visitors of Stonehenge than I did to the palimpsest community surrounding me with their audio guides and selfie sticks. Still, when in Rome!
This realisation led me to think about how we fit into different communities and why we don’t fit seamlessly into every social circle. Who are ‘your people’? Do you find it easy to integrate yourself in any group or clique? Why are some people reluctant to welcome outsiders into their faction?
I believe that you can glean a fair amount about an individual from the company they keep. The other humans with which they choose to surround themselves reflects on who they are as a person and can speak volumes to an external witness.
With the exception of meeting other lone wolves, as a solo traveller it’s sometimes tricky to make friends because if you’re not assertive, you’re unlikely to have much luck, but if you’re too forward you can come across as over-enthusiastic. This is not natural behaviour among Brits.
For the most part, I have found people to be very welcoming and friendly but there have also been a few individuals less keen to open their hub up to strangers, even for a short while. Others, meanwhile, have just taken a little longer to warm to the idea of giving a stranger a chance.
I recently enjoyed a night out in my home town as I was passing through for a fleeting visit. Among my troupe of drinkers were family, honorary family, friends from school, recent acquaintances, friends of friends, friends I’d met travelling and my godfather.
Some knew each other, some didn’t know many and some didn’t know anyone else there, but it didn’t stop them socialising like no one was watching. I feel very honoured to surround myself with the likes of that newly formed clan and I hope that any external witness would judge me on the quality of all those nutters I call ‘my people’.
And the sunrise was sensational.