Photo by Richy Ainsworth
Over here in Scotland, 2017 has been ushered in at warp speed. It took a few weeks for me to sit down and think about what I want to focus on moving forward into a bright new year. With a new job (more on that to come soon) and a new country of residence, I’m finding myself on the verge of a kind of stability I haven’t known in my adult life. And so, my resolutions for 2017 focus on finding a way to both enjoy newfound constancy and hold on to that traveler’s spirit:
Get out into the country
It’s much easier to take advantage of your environment when it’s fleeting. On my first trip to Scotland last year, I had four months and a very free schedule. After my first week in the country I had already explored and hiked around Loch Lomond, got an introduction to the rugged west of on a day trip through roads that wound past rightfully named ‘Rest and be Thankful’, and attended my first Scottish wedding. The following months unfolded at a similar pace, and we took full advantage of the fact that, despite living in Scotland’s largest city, a five minute’s drive in the right direction deposits you into wide open space.
On my return, I haven’t been as focused on being a tourist as I have finding work and establishing a life here in Glasgow. And in my free time, with so much to do and see in the city itself, it’s been fairly easy to forget those trips into the country. But people come to Scotland, in large part, to experience its wildness. And it’s the wildness that moves me.
In the New Year, one of my main goals is to start ticking off the list of natural territory still unseen. A MINIMUM of twice a month, by car, foot, bike, or ski, I want to get out there, a decent distance from the city, to keep the adventurer alive. It started this past weekend with three days in rural Perthshire’s snow-covered Comrie Croft for a friend’s wedding. It felt so good planning a short escape that we jumped on the chance to meet up with friends in England’s Lakes District for some hiking this weekend, booking a last-minute pub stay the morning of. On the weekends that we don’t have any bigger trips scheduled, I plan to at least see the green of Glasgow’s parks and countryside. There is plenty of that, too.
Being outside is like hitting the reset button, a much needed dose of proper perspective in everyday life. From highlands to islands and everything in between, there is so much in this country to keep me inspired, and I’m excited to say that, three weeks into 2017, this is one resolution that is well under way to succeeding.
Four Mile Beach often served as our commute to town in Port Douglas, Australia. Photo by Richy Ainsworth.
Find a new challenge
I found it much easier to tick off more physical achievements, when, while on working holidays, my primary job was racking up new experiences. Opportunities seemed to walk right up to me. In New Zealand, I was given the chance to gain working-at-heights qualifications as a lifty at a ski resort and found myself dangling from a chairlift by a solitary string of rope that a patroller had told me how to turn into a makeshift harness just five minutes before. A much tamer example: after probably ten years without hopping on a bicycle, it became my solitary mode of transportation while moving around a string of small beach towns in Australia. Around that time I realized these transformative physical challenges didn’t have to be big at all. It was even more about the little lifestyle adjustments that, overtime, add up to begin changing the way you live your day-to-day.
I’ve always been envious of serious athletes for their dedication to a goal and the rewards they reap for that discipline. I love the idea of training up for something and being surprised by what your own body can achieve.
The two challenges I have so far for 2017 aren’t remarkable, but they work for me. Number one, I want to complete my first multi-day hike. Richy spent six months hiking the length of New Zealand. I’d like to maybe start by stringing five or six days together, and we’ll see how we go from there. It’s a goal that can be achieved almost anywhere, and any one of Scotland’s famous walks wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
My second goal picked me. I knew this year I wanted to take the opportunity to learn some new outdoor skills, and, through my new job, I’m getting the chance to participate in a winter mountain skills course. At the start of February, I’ll head up to the center of the Cairngorms with a group from Macs Adventure to learn winter navigation , avalanche awareness and how to use crampons and ice axes. We’ll get to play on the mountain for two seven-hour days–hopefully in snow–and come away ready to successfully wander the hills in winter.
As the year continues, I plan to keep looking for new challenges that will keep me outside and active and provide that rush that comes with physical accomplishment, however big or small they might be.
Keswick, Lake District, England.
I’m learning that an essential part of turning ordinary life into more than just a string of repetitive daily events is to introduce creativity into your routine. For some people it might be biking or yoga and meditation, carpentry or even using one of those zen adult coloring books (I have one, they work!) Anything that inspires and encourages fun over necessity is considered creating. And creating is a vital part of living that’s sometimes easy to neglect.
Writing has always been one outlet for me, but also dancing. From childhood through college, most of my spare time was spent in ballet class and it was as much a routine part of my week as sitting in school. Now, when I get to take a class, it feels like an escape. I think the adults joining rec sports leagues probably feel the same way. The benefit of living in a city is that there are loads of dance classes available for people my age and they’re geared to fit around a work day. I’ve already scouted out all the studios that are located closest to my office and plan to be a regular at one soon.
This year I also want to explore new ways to stay creative. I’d love to balance my office job with a hands-on, practical hobby. Richy and I always talk about buying a van and converting it to a camper. That would tick the box for sure, and also, maybe be getting in way over my head. I could also sign up for a course. Practical skills classes in Glasgow range from DIY to gardening, glassmaking, and even something along the lines of ‘learning all about your heater system’. Whether it’s through an at-home project or in a more structured environment, finding a creative outlet by getting in touch with your inner-handyperson can’t be a bad thing, right?
Working on a tomato farm in rural Victoria, Australia. Photo by Richy Ainsworth.
Remove unwanted barriers
After several years of non-stop travel and a year of back-and-forth visa uncertainty, it’s clear that one of the biggest changes in my routine is that I now have one. A longer-term one, anyway. Suddenly, I find my brain making the inevitable switch to ‘comfort mode’. Unfortunately, with that mindset often comes the struggle to get out and explore in the same way I would if I were still regularly on the move. So the final big idea for 2017 (and beyond) is to refuse to put up barriers to my own goals.
I don’t help myself by acknowledging what might be stopping me from creating the lifestyle I want—the weather (always the weather), the lack of free time, the idea that the backpacker mentality doesn’t jive with normal, work-a-day society. Instead of focusing on why I can’t do something, I’d like to set my sights on how I can. And once it becomes possible, it will always be possible. I can’t say that in Scotland I’ll be as eager to try tomato picking for a living as I was in Australia, but maybe I’ll at least brave the ocean for a surf.