Before the lockdowns that made the world close up, Andy Wasley was a goal-orientated hiker, whose sole focus was often getting from A to B. But the pandemic—and the new habits and expectations it created—has made him slow down. Just enough to smell the birds, hear the birds, and even identify them…

My need for solitude runs deep. It’s why I hike long distances: I need the mental freedom that comes with a single-minded focus on getting from A to B, alone with my thoughts and my map, a long trail and a distant goal. This feels as necessary to me as water.

In early 2020, I’d been planning a second attempt to hike Scotland’s rugged and tough Cape Wrath Trail, a three-week solo trek that—I hoped—would satisfy my thirst for solitude. Of course, lockdown put an end to those plans. It also shrunk my space for exploration to my busy patch of suburban London.

It’s only a year on, after returning to hiking, that I can see how the past 12 months have affected my attachment to solitude—and, above all, my attentiveness to nature. Lockdown forced me to explore myself and my near-abroad in ways that, I suspect, will change the way I hike forever, and for the better.