The Mission: A Friend in Scotland – Glasgow, Fort William, and Ben Nevis – July 2015 (and 2014)
25 minute read
It was bumper to bumper on the M6 north-bound and I was only three hours into my trip towards Scotland. The sky was clear, the sun was beaming, and my windows were rolled down as Muse’s album Drones was playing on a continual loop. As the iconic riff of Psycho boomed its way out of my speakers, three girls sat in the car next to me were imitating a threesome of head-bangers in response to my choice in music. I glanced across, flashed a smile of appreciation to their efforts, and then turned my head forwards to face the back of the Renault Clio that was currently blocking my path. As a bead of sweat trickled down my temple I got to thinking about how I found myself here.
Prior to Lossul.com I’d started another project. I’d started it with quite an ambitious theme, and it was big, it was bold, but it ultimately fell flat on its face and failed. But if this hadn’t happened then Lossul.com would never have been created. This experience, along with other failings that I’ve experienced in life allowed me to see these things for what they truly are; lessons. Failure is a test to see how much you really want what you say you want, and it allows you to see what you’re doing wrong, what you need to change, and how you need to adapt. And it’s with this knowledge that I was able to see where the project fell apart. But the real flipside is that this process of trying and failing actually allows you to fine tune your way towards eventual success. And so after a few months spent licking my wounds back at the drawing board, Lossul.com was born.
Today I was heading towards Fort William to climb Ben Nevis with a friend I’d met just once before; the previous year, as part of my first project.
Right from the moment I woke up this felt like a good day. Everything about it felt right. Mind you, it did actually feel quite wrong having my alarm set for 6.00am on a Sunday morning, but the sight of the sun streaming in through the curtains and the sound of the birds singing was enough to fire me into life. It was a beautiful June morning and I sprang out of bed ready for what I hoped was going to become an historic day. I don’t mean historic in the same vein as England winning the World Cup in 1966, or Neil Armstrong taking man’s first step on the moon, or even the creation of the ‘selfie-stick’, but historic for me on an individual level.
Following a hearty breakfast of American style blueberry pancakes (complete with a side of bacon and swamped in maple syrup), orange juice and a super strong black coffee, I gathered my things together, left the house and sauntered my way down the garden and through the gate. Just before climbing into my car I paused and leant against the bonnet and took a moment to reflect on exactly why I was doing what I was about to do. For far too long I’d been leaving the house in a morning following the same old routine like a man on auto-pilot. It was time to shake everything up.
Today I was heading down to Caversham in Reading to see my good friend Adam who I’d first met on my birthday in 2004 while travelling in Thailand. At the point of meeting Adam I was only three days into my trip, was still quite naïve to backpacking, and had not yet made any friends. I’d moved on from Bangkok to a place called Kanchanaburi which was situated some eighty or so miles to the west of the capital. It was on my second day there that I ventured out to the stunning Erawan National Park to visit the multi-tiered level of waterfalls. The mini bus that took me there carried a total of twelve passengers and was made up of couples and travel buddies, but there was one other solo traveler there that day. And that was Adam. We quickly paired up and shared our stories, and Adam (who was already a few months into his eleven month around-the-world journey) had an immediate impact. In the space of that one day he helped me to settle into the backpacking lifestyle and I went from feeling lost and clueless to feeling excited and eager about the weeks that were to follow. And it is for this very reason why Adam was my first choice for getting this mission of mine started.
The concept of my project was this. I would visit a friend (in this instance it was Adam) and then that friend would ‘refer’ me to somebody that he knows (and who agrees to take part) and then I would make contact with them. Once contact had been made and the ice had been broken I would then visit this person and hang out with them doing whatever it is they enjoy doing most. It could be for an evening, a day, or even a full weekend. The only rule was that they had to be situated somewhere within the UK mainland and so it meant I could be venturing anywhere within England, Scotland, and Wales. Once I’d visited this person and hopefully convinced them that I wasn’t a complete lunatic, they would then ‘refer’ me to another one of their friends and I would visit them too, and then they would refer me again, and so on, and so on. The intention was that I would get to meet all kinds of new people, do all kinds of new things, and travel all over the UK; and then I could write about each trip, each person, and each place. Yes I know, it sounds crazy, but maybe I’d been influenced way too much by such concepts as Dave Gorman’s Googlewhack Adventures and Danny Wallace’s Yes Man. The only problem with this plan was that it was entirely dependent upon the involvement of other people and their willingness to make new openings for me, and this is ultimately where the whole thing came crashing down.
Sitting inside Caversham’s The Griffin, Adam and I discussed the idea over a beer. He loved the idea and straight away he claimed to have somebody in mind who he could contact.
“Leave it with me.”
And on that note we carried on enjoying our beers and catching up with all that had been happening in our lives since we’d last seen each other.
The following morning as I set off back towards the Midlands, I remember feeling in incredibly high spirits. The sun was still shining and the roads were open and flowing. With the possibility that a new adventure was about to begin, life was feeling incredibly exciting. I felt as light as a feather, like I could walk on air, and all my sensations were hyper-sensitive. I could feel my heart beating in my chest, I could feel butterflies in my stomach, and it even felt as though my peripheral vision had opened up.
It really is amazing. How powerful the feeling is when you take control of your dreams.
I remember looking all around me and wondering what lay beyond the horizon, what I could find, and where I could go. I glanced at the cars around me and became curious as to who everybody was and what their stories were. I saw a truck with two long-haired guys in the front with surf-boards in the back, and I wondered where they were going, and how long they’d been friends. I saw an elderly couple who were both laughing and who looked really happy, and I wondered how long they’d been together, whether they had any grandchildren, and about the lives they had led. And I saw one young woman driving a jalopy filled with bags and suitcases, like she was carrying all her worldly possessions with her, and I wondered what her story was, where she was headed, and what her plans were. I turned back to face the road and to continue my journey back north. And I was smiling. I really couldn’t stop smiling.
It was still bumper to bumper on the M6 and I’d managed to roll forwards some twenty or so meters in the past thirty minutes. I was now queued next to a couple who were having a bit of a domestic and he was accusing her of being responsible for them being stuck in traffic. Apparently her indecisiveness over what shoes to wear that day was the reason for all that has ever gone wrong in the world. I decided to roll my windows up and turn on the air-conditioning instead of eavesdropping in on their argument (although to be fair, it had been really amusing).
The day after my visit to Caversham I received a text from Adam which simply stated:
“The mission is on. You’re going to Scotland.”
My stomach turned and I felt sick. I was really excited to be getting ‘the mission’ under way, but at the same time I was incredibly nervous. I was heading off to Scotland to meet a complete stranger. What was I thinking? Was I an adventurous person open to new experiences and challenges? Or was I just a complete idiot? Maybe it was a bit of both.
Details were swapped and I was put in touch with Matt from Cumbernauld near Glasgow. Adam and Matt had first met in Australia a short time after we’d met in Thailand, and if Adam had recommended him then I had complete faith that he’d be a great person to hang out with. Matt and I arranged a date to visit in early September and agreed to spend a Saturday together. But as September rolled around and I set off for Scotland on the Friday morning, Matt rang me and invited me to have dinner with himself and his family that evening and get things started early. I was starting to feel a little overwhelmed by this generosity. The man had never even met me and yet here he is inviting me into his home to have a meal with his family. But I very gratefully accepted the invite.
And I’ll never forget that first drive towards the far north. That day had gifted me with beautiful weather too, and there was one particular moment that will always stay with me. At some point along the A74/M74 corridor there is a stretch of road in which there is a hillside covered in wind turbines. The sun was slowly lowering in the early evening sky but there was a haze which created a soft orange glow on everything that surrounded me. All of this came together as I was listening to Black Label Society’s Catacombs of the Black Vatican album and the perfectly mellow Angel of Mercy kicked into life. It was as if the moment had been gifted to me with the pace of the song fitting in perfect unison with the rotation of the blades. It was one of those perfect moments that is gifted to you every once in a while and that you know will remain with you forever. It may sound cheesy, but it reminds me of the final words of Richard at the end of the movie The Beach.
“I still believe in paradise. But now at least I know it’s not some place you can look for. Because it’s not where you go, it’s how you feel for a moment in your life when you’re a part of something, and if you find that moment…it lasts forever.”
After almost an hour of crawling traffic on the M6, things had finally got moving. I’d taken a short break and was now outside the Charnock Richard motorway services sat on the bonnet of my car drinking a coffee. I spent my time enjoying the sun and watching the scores of people milling around me, and then I text Matt to let him know I’d been delayed but was back on track and was on my way. I finished my coffee, climbed back into my car, and continued my journey north.
I’d checked into my hotel in Castlecary and text Matt to let him know I’d arrived. Twenty minutes later Matt text me to let me know he was waiting for me outside in the car park, and so I switched off the lights and left my hotel room. By this point it was now dusk and all I could see was a silhouette stood against a car as I wandered over. Oh man, now I was nervous! The feeling of being overwhelmed was now giving way almost to a feeling of guilt. This had been my madcap plan to which somebody had agreed to take part and help me. But what was in it for the other person? I was feeling incredibly grateful, yet so completely selfish.
As I reached the car I could now see Matt clearly and he stood there with a friendly and genuine smile on his face, his hand outstretched. We shook hands.
“Hey Elliot. Nice to meet you.”
“Hi Matt. Nice to meet you too. This is pretty crazy huh?”
After a simple introduction we set off for his home in the early darkness of the evening. There is always a certain amount of awkwardness when you meet somebody new, but I tried my best to address this by suggesting that we just pretend as though we’d known each other for years, and on this agreement I asked:
“So how have you been since I last saw you buddy? How’s that thing and the thingy you were telling me about?”
We both laughed and what followed was an incredibly warm and welcoming evening at the home of a stranger who was soon to become a good friend. I met Matt’s partner Margaret and their two daughters and we shared a nice first conversation while we ate burritos and drank beer. The conversation and the beers continued to flow, but I really didn’t want to outstay my welcome so soon and so later into the evening I made my way back to the hotel. As I climbed into bed that night my emotions flicked between excitement for what lay ahead, and a feeling of apprehension, as though I was imposing myself on others. I told myself it had been a long day and I was just tired. All I needed was a good night’s sleep. I’d feel better about everything in the morning.
I was now approaching one of my favorite stretches of road in Scotland; the road from Loch Lomond towards Fort William. Its beauty is always staggering, but today it was simply breathtaking. The sun was setting, creating a red sky which reflected in the multiple pools of water that sat dotted around in the moors alongside the road. The reflections themselves were a deep red and it created an extremely dramatic view which made it difficult for me to keep my eyes on the road. The delays on the M6 meant that I was way behind schedule and so I had to drive past these picture perfect scenes without being able to make a stop to take pictures. I’ve already made a promise to myself to keep heading back up that way in the future until nature grants me another opportunity like that.
I awoke on the Saturday morning feeling worse than ever. It hadn’t helped that I’d had an awful night’s sleep, all on account of the couple that were occupying the room above me. I have no idea what they were getting up to (well, maybe I do) but the sounds that came from their room throughout the night sounded like they were performing a bedroom-based Olympic-style triple jump. I’m serious. There was a sound like an initial running of feet, followed by three louder thuds, and then an almighty bang as they used the bed as the final point of impact. And then it would go quiet for ten minutes or so. This repeated, over and over; for three hours. They must have gotten really good at their technique though as at one point they completely overshot the bed and landed on the other side of it, crashing into the wardrobe doors. The sound of a muted argument followed and then it went quiet for the rest of the night. This was about 4.00am.
I climbed out of bed at 7.30am, rubbed the sleep from my eyes, and told myself that I’d feel better after a shower and some breakfast.
And so I had a shower, and some breakfast.
But I still felt the same.
What on earth was I doing?
I reached Fort William around 9.30pm and once I’d finally found a long-stay car park to leave my car in, I rang Matt.
“Hey buddy, I’m finally here. Sorry it took me so long”
“No worries man, come on over!”
I made my way through the town of Fort William with the waters that link Loch Linnhe and Loch Eil to my left. The setting sun was a flaming red, and as it slowly disappeared into the horizon the skies glowed red and then orange throughout the scattered clouds. As I approached the pub, Matt wandered outside to meet me. But unlike the first time we met, ten months previously, the nervousness and apprehension was this time replaced with warm smiles, a friendly welcoming hug, and a genuine appreciation of seeing each other again.
“It’s good to see you man.”
“Good to see you too buddy. I can’t believe it’s been almost a year already.”
“I know. It’s crazy isn’t it. Come on, the other guys are inside.”
It was an hour before kick-off and Matt and I were making our way down London Road towards Celtic Park for what was going to be today’s centre-piece activity; Celtic v Aberdeen. The nerves had subsided a little and it felt good to be out and about. For this part of the day Matt had arranged for his friend to join us; a guy who was apparently larger than life and who I’d struggle to forget easily. And he wasn’t wrong. As we stood outside The Real McCoy on the corner of London Road and Springfield Road awaiting the arrival of Frank, I suddenly caught sight of a large-set guy walking through the green-and-white crowd. Before Matt even had chance to point him out I already knew it was Frank. I don’t know why, but I just did. He was about twice my size, was missing a few teeth, and his handshake was so strong that it was like a scrap-yard machine crushing a car into a small block of scrap metal. We went into The Real McCoy and a bottle of beer was pushed straight into my hands. I felt so out of place; this guy from England in a blue shirt amidst a sea of green and white. As a result of going to way too many gigs over the years I don’t have the greatest of hearing anyway and am afflicted with tinnitus, and so in this loud bar, amongst a rowdy football crowd speaking in strong Glaswegian accents, I struggled to maintain a conversation. Instead I just sipped on my beer, nodded, and then laughed when signals indicated that laughing was appropriate. I also applied a serious face and nodded in agreement whenever that seemed appropriate too. I think I managed to pull it off anyway without causing any unintentional offence as when we left The Real McCoy and headed over to Celtic Park we were all still on speaking terms. And it was a real good game of football with Celtic beating Aberdeen 2-1.
Frank had refused for me to get my wallet out and I was treated to beer throughout the game.
“You’re a guest. This is Scottish hospitality.”
And I really was made to feel welcome.
“Elliot, this is Mark, Paul, and Marcin”
“Hey guys, how’s it going?”
I shook each of their hands in turn and then sat down at the table. We talked about our individual journeys towards Fort William that day and our previous experiences of Ben Nevis. Matt and Mark had both climbed it before, but Marcin and Paul were both first-timers. I’d climbed it myself back in 2010 with my brother and our friend Kev, but had been cursed with a day of horrible weather. Kev had to turn back, but my brother and I pushed on through low cloud, high winds, and sideways rain. The final ascent was brutal, but our ‘quitting is not an option’ mentality and perhaps even a bit of sibling rivalry kept us both going. When we both reached the summit the wind was blowing so hard that I was able to lean into it with my entire bodyweight being held upright by the wind. The low cloud meant that there was no view to be had at all. It was like walking in thick fog, and as we couldn’t even see the edges of the cliff face, we chose not to roam around the summit too much in case we went plummeting off the edge. We’d intended on having a rapid descent, but that kind of descent would have been a little too rapid. And fatal. Despite the disappointment of having no views to enjoy that day, the sense of achievement was immense. But it wasn’t enough.
I’d always told myself I’d go back one day and hopefully get a clear day to enjoy the views, and here I was, in 2015, about to get a second chance.
I shook Frank’s hand, thanked him for the beers, and said goodbye. Matt and I had a leisurely stroll into Glasgow and found a bar to sit outside of. Having Frank join us had been a great little touch as it certainly eased the pressure a little. There’s no doubt that whenever you meet somebody new and there’s just the two of you, it can sometimes be a little awkward as you get to know each other and what each other is about. Having a third person join you takes away that pressure. It had been nice meeting Frank, but now I was looking forward to getting to know Matt properly and to have a good conversation. And as we sat drinking our beers in the late afternoon sunshine, we talked about our day-to-day lives, and shared stories of our travels and how we’d both met Adam. The more we shared, the better we got on, and the openness of our conversation reminded me so much of the kinds of conversations you can sometimes have with complete strangers when travelling. I don’t know why it is, but people tend to be way more open when you’re on the road and away from home. Maybe it’s the element of anonymity that comes with travelling, or maybe it’s the type of mindset that travelers have, but either way it’s the kind of conversation that I enjoy most and it certainly leads to deeper connections, and that’s what the best of friendships are made of.
After a couple of hours of playing pool and then a meal sat outside in the warmth of the early evening, Matt then introduced me to an iconic Glasgow landmark; the Duke of Wellington statue. If you’re not already familiar with the story, it goes like this. This statue of the Duke sat atop his horse, dating back to 1844 and situated outside of the Gallery of Modern Art on the Royal Exchange Square, is subject to a long-standing tradition in which a traffic cone is placed upon his head. The end. That’s the story. Yes, it sounds ridiculous, but that is what’s so great about it, and it looks brilliant. I have no idea how anybody manages to get up there to do it as it’s really high, but it’s just one of those mysteries in life. Like crop circles, and why Simon Cowell’s trousers are always pulled up so high.
Our final stop of the night was George Square. For those of you who don’t already know, George Square was used as the filming location for the chaotic zombie outbreak scene in the movie World War Z. You thought it was filmed in Philadelphia right? Wrong. George Square was just made up to look like Philadelphia. Lossul.com movie fact number one.
Making our way over to a bench Matt explained how he’d always fancied just sitting down in George Square and people-watching for a while. And that’s exactly what we did. We just sat there and spoke very little. Instead we just enjoyed the moment and took in everything around us; perhaps reflecting on the day a little.
Moving away from George Square I declared that there was one thing that would truly make this day feel complete. And just a matter of moments later, as if by some kind of miraculous force, I was granted my wish. As we walked along the pavement there was a very drunk and very loud woman crossing the road who was shouting obscenities to her equally drunk friends who were stood waiting for her. With her middle finger raised from one hand, she adjusted her knickers with the other. She just oozed class as she wobbled around on her high heels, shouting at the top of voice, delivering an abusive and barely understandable diatribe to her clan of equally classy friends. And just as she was nearing the pavement, my wish was granted. Her heel caught in the tarmac, causing her to stumble, and then come crashing down to earth with a satisfying thud. As she lay face down in the road, her handbag opened up and a single mascara pencil rolled out onto the roadway. Okay, maybe I’ve got a slightly sick mind, but seeing somebody like that fall over is always funny. Please don’t judge me.
As Matt and I continued towards the bus station, laughing, the drunk and disgraced woman pulled herself up from the road and picked up her mascara, dusting herself down. She wasn’t injured, so it’s okay to laugh. And I did.
As Paul, Mark, and Marcin led the way back to the hotel, Matt and I followed behind, catching up on all that we’d been up to since we last met. We’d opted to stay in a place called Ossian’s Hotel in the middle of Fort William on High Street. It was cheap and cheerful, it did the job, and after a ten hour journey I was ready to sleep just about anywhere. We ascended the stairs to the first floor bar, grabbed a beer, and sat chatting for a short while. But with the reality of Ben Nevis creeping nearer, we conceded that it would be best to get a decent night’s sleep. And so not long thereafter, we called it a night.
We rose at around 7.30am on the Sunday morning, gathered our things and then had a wander over to the same pub as the night before to have an all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast. With our bellies completely full, we took the short drive over to the Ben Nevis visitor centre, parked up, prepared our kit, and got ready to set off.
After the bus journey back to Cumbernauld, Margaret picked Matt and I up from the bus stop and then very kindly gave me a lift back to my hotel in Castlecary. Leaning back into the car I said thank you to Margaret, shook hands, and then closed the door behind me. Matt exited from the passenger side and we prepared to say our goodbyes. It was quite amazing thinking how just twenty-four hours ago Matt and I had been complete strangers. We didn’t know anything about each other and we had no idea how the weekend would turn out. And yet here I was, one day later, saying thank you and farewell, but somehow not yet feeling quite ready to say goodbye. And it reminded me of the times I’ve met people while I’ve been away on my travels. There are times when you meet people through making an effort to approach them, and then there are times when fate almost introduces you to somebody; just being in the right place at the right time. Stories are shared, moments and experiences are shared, and connections are made. But ultimately you end up saying goodbye and going your separate ways, with one half of you being glad to be travelling solo again, and the other half feeling genuinely sad to be saying goodbye to a new friend. And that’s exactly how it felt at around 10.00pm on this September night in Castlecary.
“Thank you for making the journey all the way up here man. It’s been good meeting you.”
“And thank you for making me feel so welcome Matt. I really appreciate all that you’ve done.”
We gave each other one of those one-handed, shoulder-to-shoulder, man-style half hugs, and then said goodbye.
As I walked back to my hotel room I turned around and waved as the car turned out of the car park and onto the main road. The tail-lights slowly faded into the distance and then a few seconds later they disappeared altogether. I was alone again. I walked into my hotel room and closed the door behind me, turned on the TV, and as I took a drink out of the fridge I could hear the football news on the television giving mention to Celtic v Aberdeen. I took a sip from the bottle of Corona that I’d been saving, looked at the TV, and smiled. I thought back to how I’d been feeling that morning and how I’d almost felt ready to call everything off. But I’d stuck to the plan and saw the day through, and ultimately it ended up being everything that I’d hoped it was going to be.
Matt and I had said our goodbyes, but we promised we’d meet again…
…and we kept that promise. And here we were, ten months later, stood at the base of Ben Nevis, five men looking upwards.
“I guess we’d better get started”
“Okay gentlemen, let’s go!”
And on that note we set off. My first time climbing Ben Nevis had been something of an ordeal but it was a proud achievement given the conditions that we’d had to push through. But today really turned out to be something of a gift because despite rain having been forecast the skies were almost perfectly clear as we set off. The initial half an hour was quite difficult just as it always is while your body gets used to being pushed. But as with anything that starts off difficult, when you push on and get past the initial resistance you then settle into a rhythm and it all starts to become a little easier.
Almost an hour into our journey up the mountain track we stopped off at a waterfall and filled our bottles with fresh ice-cold mountain water. And the journey continued, putting one foot in front of the other and enjoying the ascent, sometimes walking in pairs, sometimes as a group, and sometimes walking completely alone. We were all very like-minded in that sense and we were more than happy enjoying the climb in whatever company we each wanted.
At around the 570m point the greenery disappeared almost completely and was replaced with a surface of stone and rock in various shades of white and grey. The zig-zagging pathways continued for the remainder of the ascent and the temperatures began to plummet as we drew closer to the summit at 1,344m. We were now walking through snow and it’s at this point where it really starts to become a test of endurance and dogged determination. For every pathway that was completed and for every crest that was reached, another stretch of mountain was revealed and a new target was set.
A set of mantras develop in your own mind, and you keep telling yourself, over and over:
“Just a little further. Just keep walking. We’re almost there.”
And then all of a sudden, we were there. I could see the observatory tower and shelter in the distance and the memories came flooding back from when I was there with my brother. It looked so different, yet so familiar. I pushed onwards and continued towards the centre of the 100 acre plateau and then spotted Matt heading towards the mountain edge to take in the views. It was at this point when I decided to capture the moment on video.
And that’s exactly what I got to enjoy this time; the views. I’d been granted my wish this time and although dark clouds now filled the sky, I could still see all the way to the horizon. I’d had to wait another five years but I finally had what I wanted and the views were staggering.
“We made it mate!”
“3 hours, 42 minutes.”
“Time to celebrate eh?”
“That sounds like a plan. Let’s get a drink.”
And that’s exactly what we did. Matt and I walked over and met up with Paul, Mark, and Marcin. We all had the same look on our faces which were an equal measure of pride, adrenaline, and tiredness. Handshakes and congratulations followed, and Bovril was poured out to warm both the hands and the belly. But then we celebrated in proper style by breaking out the Whisky. We each took a slug of Johnnie Walker and enjoyed the heart-warming feeling that a good strong whisky brings. A second round followed before realization finally kicked in.
“Erm, guys. Now we have to walk back down.”
The clouds became increasingly threatening as we descended the mountain, and by the time we reached the bottom some two-and-a-half hours later the rain was falling heavily. We were soaked. Matt had already told me that Scotland had endured a poor summer this year with lots of rain, and with today finishing in this way it really did feel as though the fine weather for the climb had been something of a gift and like a window of opportunity had been granted.
And here we were again just like the year before; stood against our cars and ready to say goodbye. But this time we were a lot more casual about it. Maybe that was down to the fact that we were soaking wet from the rain, or maybe it was because we’d now reached a stage in which we were now confirmed friends. Our meeting in 2014 had been under rather unusual circumstances, but here in 2015 we were just two mates who’d simply met up again and had a great time catching up. And so this time there was no such thing as saying goodbye; instead we just took it in our stride, shook hands, and said:
“Have a safe journey back buddy.”
“You too mate. See you again soon.”
“Aye, you will. See you soon mate.”
I said my farewells to Paul, Mark, and Marcin, and then climbed into my car and set off for home. It was going to be a long drive. I’d driven for ten hours up to Scotland the day before and today I’d spent seven hours climbing up and down Ben Nevis. Now I had the ever-so-small task of driving back to the Midlands. I set off from Fort William at 5.00pm Sunday and finally crawled back in through my door on Monday morning at 1.00am.
I’d struggled with the drive at first and could barely keep my eyes open, but after stopping off for some food and some caffeine near Glasgow, I got my second wind. And then the drive simply became a pleasure. Being behind the wheel has always been my happy place and it’s where I most like to be alone. I feel happy. I feel content. I feel free. And that sensation is even more intense when I’m driving at night. The roads are quieter and it feels as though I’m sharing it with people who are also searching for somewhere else and something new. The combination of my music, the passing of other cars, and the headlights reflecting on the white lines, always leaves me feeling completely free. I feel like I can go anywhere, do anything, and be whoever I want to be. Because it’s at this moment when I am completely detached from home, from work, from people, and from any external influence. All that is left is myself, my thoughts, and the road.
I’d previously claimed that adventure and travel can be found close to home and can be achieved while still working a 9-5. And this weekend in the space of just two days I had driven up to Scotland, climbed Ben Nevis, and returned back home. I was tired. I was exhausted. But I’d done it.
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