A short story of one of my simultaneously favorite and worst experiences during my travels.
Remember when I said I’d update this blog regularly? Oops, my bad. Anyways, here’s a quick story about my time wild-camping in the Scottish Highlands.
It’s day 17 of my Europe trip, and all I’ve seen are cities.
Don’t get me wrong. I love European cities, but after 2 1/2 weeks, I needed to escape the hectic atmosphere of urban life. So when I found out that wild-camping was legal in Scotland, naturally, I was eager to explore the countryside and to save a couple bucks on accommodation by camping. I’ll just sleep on top of a hill with my backpack and a couple layers. Nothing could go wrong right? Haha.
After a long day of walking the medieval streets of Edinburgh, and busking a little on the side (I made a solid 5.05 pounds!), I hopped on a bus into a neighboring town that led into Pentland Hills National Park. Here we go, I thought.
As I trekked away from the trails and further from civilization, I soon realized that I was alone. The only sounds I could hear were the gentle whistle of the highland breeze and the light crunching of grass beneath my feet. What first seemed like a cautious hesitation of venturing into the unknown quickly became a sense of freedom I’ve never experienced before. My shadows danced along the rolling green hills, and the warm evening sunset cast its kind and familiar glow upon the hills. I was free. From societal pressures, my personal worries, and everything else.
What was that? I continued my way up the hill to see where the sound came fr–there they were. The famous highland cows, in all of their hairy and adorable glory. There were 3, no 6, no…11 of these bad boys (or girls?). You can imagine my child-like bliss from before was magnified to another level. I slowly made my way towards three of them grazing, and while they were cautious of my presence, they didn’t seem too bothered. I marveled at their bizarre, yet majestic appearances, and in that moment, I thought, Now this is what adventuring is like. For the next three hours, I ran around the hills, jammed on my ukulele, and hung out with my eleven new friends, Cheddar (my favorite), Buckshire, Harry, Winnie, Apple…
As night fell, my buddies stopped their grazing and found a spot to rest. Nearby, I found an elevated patch of grass away from any cowpies to lean my backpack against. I layered up, did a quick workout, watched a downloaded episode of Rick and Morty, and soon fell asleep to nature’s sweet lullaby of silence.
00:21: I woke up to my body frozen stiff from the highland gust and the frigid twilight air. The temperature dropped drastically, and even though I had put on all of my layers, I physically was unable to deal with the cold anymore. I had to find shelter. With only the stars and my iPhone flashlight to guide me, I quickly packed my backpack and my made my way down the hills. At first, I panicked–I’m a good hour away from the nearest help. It’s dark and I can’t see where I’m stepping. How am I gonna get back? As the night grew colder, however, I realized I had no choice but to trek on. And so I did for two hours, eventually finding my way to the small suburb where I began.
While it was warmer here, my next obstacle was that I was still in the middle of no where, with no accommodation available. There was not a single building with open doors, and so I wandered and wandered with no destination in mind. By 2:30, I stumbled upon a night bus, and after hopping on, I finally caught some much-needed sleep.
But of course, this didn’t last too long. By 4:00, the bus had reached its final stop in Edinburgh, and I was kicked off. Soon after, I found a little corner at the bus station comfortable enough to sleep…but once again, this didn’t last too long. My short doze was interrupted by 4:30, as the security nudged me awake to give me a stern, “You’re not allowed in here.” Not wanting to cause any ruckus, I complied again, and soon I was left wandering, this time in the city of Edinburgh. Fortunately, as dawn began to break, I found my saving grace–McDonald’s. There, I slept the rest of the morning away.
When I look back on this experience, I’m reminded of why traveling is so great. There’s the good, bad, and ugly, and with each experience, you’re able to learn about either the world or about yourself. In this case, I was able to understand that travel doesn’t always work the way you want it to. And that next time, I should really rent camping gear.
Big shout-out to the Martin sisters, fellow travelers I met in Interlaken, Switzerland. Thanks for convincing me to share my travel stories and to continue my blog! While I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to update frequently (look what happened last time), I’ll at least post here and there to share some tips or stories.