If you follow me on the ol’ Instagram you’ll know that a couple of weeks ago I ran almost 100 miles in 4 days across the Scottish Highlands on the West Highland Way. To tell you I had an adventure wouldn’t even begin to cover my time in Scotland. Four days was absolutely not enough time – and whilst a marathon a day was tough, I felt like I could have kept going forever!
A lot of people asked me why I was doing it – I would shrug my shoulders and say “You know – why not?” and whilst that answer isn’t wrong, it’s also not the whole story by any stretch of the word.
This comes in two parts – firstly, a couple of months ago I was approached by a local company to write a piece for them on our local hills – eager, keen and absolutely bursting to the brim with knowledge and love for the local hills, I was sure this would be no trouble for me at all. That was until they asked me to link it to our Heritage. Now, to anyone reading this, I’m sure you’d have no problem talking about how your ancestors worked the land, built the mines and travelled huge distances across vast landscapes in hopes of building better lives – but you see, I’ve never had that.
I was brought up in Africa for the first 15 years of my life, and whilst I loved it and wouldn’t take any single second back, the nomadic lifestyle (we changed countries every 3-4 years) meant I never really connected to any heritage at all – least of all my roots that were on the other side of the world.
“Yea, I have this vision of naming the article ‘Our Hills Our Heritage’ – it rolls off the tongue and encapsulates exactly what I want from this piece”. Fuck. What does that even mean? Remember that feeling when you were first asked to read aloud in front of your class? Sweaty palms from worrying you were going to mess up and look dumb? Well, that’s exactly how I felt. I knew straight away that I wasn’t going to be the person to write this piece, but it left me wondering, where is my heritage? Where are my roots? Where are my own flesh and blood buried? What did they build? What did they destroy? How on earth did I end up here?
Pre-warning – I absolutely didn’t find all.. actually any of the answers to these questions – but I knew I needed to go North. I needed to bury my toes in the mud that my family once walked on. To swim in the Lochs they would have swum in. To share the same skies, albeit hundreds of years apart. So I did what thousands of other people do every year – I packed a bag, headed to a long trail and powered myself along the miles and up mountains in hopes of finding some answers. The West Highland Way felt like a convenient place to start. Unsurprisingly, all I got were more questions – but I had the best time uncovering them.
Secondly, and much more simply – we’re all going to die. I know, I can see the look on your face as you read that, but it’s no secret. It’s never been a secret. We’re all in some odd little bubble that heightens our sense of self-worth and makes us a little bit in denial about the fact that it’s going to happen to us and everything we know and love will die too. It’s not sad, quite the opposite. This whole thing is a goddamn miracle. Whatever you believe, however you were raised, you have to admit – If you think about it too long it kinda freaks you out a bit – and that’s okay! That’s great! Bundle up that fear, release it into the world and then laugh hysterically – cus nothing else matters. Go run that fucking trail, climb that fucking mountain, shave off your hair, eat the cake, run around the world backwards with your pants on your head – why? Because WHY NOT?! Phew. Okay. Thank you for coming to my Ted talk.
I’ll be releasing a few more blogs in the little West Highland Way Series – a break down of the days and one on the kit I took (obviously!). I hope you find as much joy in reading them as I do in writing them.
Have a great week, Ferals!
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