This is my last day in England for a couple of months, so I’m taking it slow. If you read my post last night you’ll know that I pitched my tent upon the old city walls of Berwick upon Tweed, with sea and Scotland both tantalisingly within sight. However, after I got comfy I began thinking sceptically about my position, and what a prime spot it would be for the towns underage Saturday drinkers to meet and listen to Stormzy and make out and rob hikers, so I shit out. I packed my tent back up and checked into a hostel about half a mile away.
The hostel was nice but I had a terrible night sleep. The room was unbearably stuffy and my bunk was about 8 inches too short. I’ve got really used to sleeping on the ground, so even after the initial thrill at the prospect of sleeping in a proper, full on bed, my pleasure gradually turns to frustration as I end up spending half the night switching position and swearing softly into my cheeks. But! Staying in hostels does have its perks: I’ve been able to shower today with real, actual water and real, actual soap (my usual morning ‘showering’ routine is giving myself a good once over with two to three wet wipes and swearing softly at the inefficacious contents of my wash bag). They also have washing machines at hostels, so as well as being able to give myself a good, solid scrub, I was also able to see to it that my clothes – which were beginning to make my bag smell like a horse shit in it – got the full YHA laundry room wash and dry room experience.
The point is, I’m fresh and clean and ready to introduce myself to Scotland. It’ll be my home for the next 2/3 months and like a nervous boyfriend about to meet his future (probably not) parents in law, I feel the need to make a good first impression. Once my clothes dry I’ll leave Berwick and head back to the coast to take my first steps along the Berwickshire Coast Path. After 2.5 northerly miles I’ll reach Burnmouth, Scotland, where I plan to have a single malt whisky to celebrate my crossing the border, before I continue north to Eyemouth, where I’ll stay tonight.
Over the past 2 months I’ve seen some of the most exquisite landscape and coastline that northern England has to offer. The Pennine Way took me through the moors and fells of the Peak District, as well as the ravishing coves and fields of the Yorkshire dales. I shared the beauty of the Lake District with my family and climbed Blencathra along Sharp Edge with one of my best friends. I then hiked (then ran) Hadrian’s Wall, took a few days off in Newcastle, before hiking the entire Northumberland Coast Path, home to some of the most beautiful, untouched beaches I’ve ever seen. I’ve met all sorts of amazing people who have all helped me out in some way, be it with something to eat, a place to stay or just honest, interesting conversation.
Connecting with people will always help me in my battle with depression, and I feel like I’ve been incredibly lucky to have met the folks I have so far. Each one has made me feel like I’m worth something, and when depression sinks its teeth in (which it did for a while a few weeks back) that level of self worth (no matter how high it was before) can drop at an exponential rate. We need people and we need connection to help lift us, to help get that level back up. Whether it’s recognising our own plight in someone else, or feeling like a certain somebody can (if only for a short time) help weather the storm just by being themselves, the connections we make, ultimately, will help make us feel less alone.
The question I get asked the most is: ‘do you ever get lonely?’, which is actually a really difficult question to answer truthfully. The short answer is no. I enjoy my own company and (to an extent) solitude enough not to crave constant conversation with people. Singing and swearing softly to myself, stopping to chat with strangers whenever I like and checking in on group chats every now and then is all the human interaction I need. The long answer is: Yes – when I’m experiencing a bombardment of self hatred, hopelessness and suicidal thoughts, from the minute I wake up to the minute I fall asleep, day in day out, I feel like I’m locked inside a tea chest that’s sinking to the bottom of the Atlantic, with the key inside my pocket that’s too difficult to reach without making myself hugely uncomfortable so I just don’t bother and instead just sink deeper and deeper, further and further away from everything and everybody.
That’s why when someone asks me if I ever get lonely now I just point over their shoulder and say “oh look, a kestrel”.
Anyway, I’m pleased to report that I don’t feel that way at the moment. At the moment I’m happy and excited. I’m excited about heading into Scotland, I’m excited about the TedX Talk, I’m excited about having zero dirty clothes in my pack, I’m excited about loads of stuff. This afternoon marks the beginning of the next (possibly the most memorable) chapter of my challenge, and I feel very, very ready for it.
Scotland, get yer wee kettle on… x