The impressions I formed as I trekked north weren’t always about the sort of things you expect to be impressed by. Apart from the geography-dependent smells, I also found that wherever I walked and wherever I looked, even in the remotest regions, I could see electricity poles.
You notice them when you’re trying to take photos and you find that it’s nearly impossible to get one without those vital but unattractive pylons lurking somewhere in the background. And I also noticed that outside the main cities, you never see or hear police cars. You get a completely distorted view of noise and of supposed crime when you live and work in cities. In Scotland, outside Glasgow, I think I only saw two other police cars in the whole month I was there.
When I cycled LEJOG in 2005, I noted in my blog at the end that I thought the UK was a country at ease with itself. Sadly, I didn’t feel that way after my walk. The recession, which gripped most of the world, still seemed to be in full swing in in large parts of the country. It felt like the country was struggling to come to terms with a monumental morning-after-the-night-before hangover. And in Scotland, the tensions over the referendum were tangible. A Glaswegian friend of mine advised me not to get drawn into a pub discussions about it, because views were so polarised you would be sure to offend someone or other. It was good advice and I heeded it. I think the scars of the referendum will take a very long time to heal.
So I had to ask myself – did I enjoy it. The answer is undoubtedly yes. It was mentally and physically the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but the rewards were immense. Not just in terms of the money I raised for the Scouts, but also in terms of the memories, in terms of the sense of achievement from overcoming adversity, and in terms of the people and landscapes I saw along the way.
because I had spent so long – at least five years – planning and anticipating the walk, there has been a bit of a sense of loss since I finished. The prospect of the walk always gave me something to look forward to and cheered me up on those days when life was being particularly challenging. Now I don’t have that, and am having to think about new horizons to daydream about. Perhaps travelling to remote parts of the world, exploring places that people don’t normally go.
I have no regrets whatsoever for doing the walk – despite the physical, mental and financial strains it placed on me and on those around me. I’m not rushing to find something to take its place, though someday I probably will. But until then, just watch this space…
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