I spread the map open across my bedroom floor and located my house on the outskirts of town. My eyes began scanning the surrounding areas, seeking out roads and trails and clusters of contours. The map came to life, offering endless potential, as the possibility of a thousand adventures lay before me. My imagination sketched fantastical lines emerging from my front door, illuminating routes and paths connecting forests and lochs and tiny hills.
Scotland had just gone into another lockdown, and this time around I felt a simple enthusiasm to make the most out of our new set of boundaries. A year ago I was living in the French Alps, drawing similar lines across glaciers and ridgelines and big mountains; that was my playground and that was where I played. The pandemic wiped out my summer of Alpine trekking work, and drove me back to Scotland. So last summer, I was drawing lines around the mountains back home. Pouring over maps and guidebooks, creating wild days and weekends that filled me with excitement and joy, exploring the new boundaries and painting the canvas within.
Now this was just another shifted realm of reality. I realised that with most adventures, the fun comes from the planning and preparation. The process of dreaming up a plan that makes the most out of one’s possibilities - be that the whole of the Alps, the Highlands of Scotland, or the outskirts of Inverness. It’s the emotional journey of conceiving an idea combined with the physical journey of pulling it off.
The following morning, I packed my Chamois rucksasck with two mince pies, my discounted stock pile of christmas goodies still going strong from January! A little water, my cosy Apogee jacket, a wooly hat and my two ski boots stuffed in the top. I slipped on my comfy trainers, and kneeling on the driveway, I strapped my skis onto the side of my rucksack. I set off across the housing estate with a spring in my step, excited for my little mini adventure.
I walked along the streets with my ski poles tapping along the tarmac. The familiar sound of tap-tap-tap combined with the familiar feel of ski boots digging into my back momentarily reminded me of walking through an Alpine town en-route to a ski lift. Yet here I was in Scotland, feeling equally content with my humble surroundings and modest objective for the day. The grey sky offered a little drizzle, and the sheep watched me with casual nonchalance as they sauntered around their snowy field. Passing drivers gave me looks of friendly curiosity as I enthusiastically hiked up the road with skis on my back.
A few kilometers later I arrived at the edge of a beautiful forestry trail. I unstrapped the skis from my rucksack and swapped my trainers for ski boots. I clicked into my skis and began gliding along the track. The ground was covered in the perfect amount of snow for pleasant and effortless progress. The surrounding trees were adorned with a delicate coating of snowflakes, which sparkled in the sun as it intermittently broke through the soft clouds above.
Soon, I arrived at a small loch which was completely frozen solid. It was the perfect place to enjoy a mince pie and check my progress on the map. The line I had drawn from the comfort of my bedroom was now embroidered with bountiful memories from my journey so far. All the little quirks and symbols now had real life images to associate with. I continued on my way, skiing for a few more kilometres, absorbed by the gentle rhythm of movement and the calmness of my surroundings.
Before long it was time to swap back into my trainers and return to a gentle tarmac plod. The country roads led me between fields and farmyards, until eventually the town came back into view, stretching out below me. Rural features were gradually replaced by houses as I reached the edge of town, and continued onwards to my home.
Arriving back at my front door I was tired and full of happiness. My little adventure was everything I had hoped for. The script of my day might have been different to a day in the big mountains, but the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment at the end was exactly the same. Back in the warmth of the kitchen, I poured a big cup of coffee and opened up my map once again. As the whole thing burst into life, I asked myself the simple question: what’s next?