I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame
- Lord Byron.
Imagine for a moment that we're sat around the campfire and someone has just asked "How did all of this get started?" Let me tell you my story...
There had been a howling from within, from a place that felt very lonely and in recent months the wilderness had been my salvation. I’d spent so many years hiding from the hugeness of the sky and open landscape, but for some reason now it’s all I could think about. As I sat in the tattooist chair, the thick black ink etching the image of a mountain into my skin, all the pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place.
This was in September 2015 and the desire to go on a long walk was tramping around in my mind, I found myself asking “Where should I go?” The answer was a very loud, intuitive “Scotland.” So in a moment of crazy I booked an overnight train to Inverness and planned to walk part of the Scottish Highlands coastline, alone, with my tent, an open heart and the mountains guiding me. (I walked for 26 days, covering around 222 miles.)
I have to tell you I was scared; thoughts of “what the hell am I doing?” coursed through my veins as I packed my bag but then a voice from deep inside was starting to talk to me about collective healing. I didn’t really understand it but through conversations with friends I realised that this walk was about much more than me.
On day four as I started to climb the biggest mountain of my trip, in boots that were too small and a backpack that was too heavy my head was full of doubts and fears, questioning every step. “How the hell is this going to help anyone?” “This is such a stupid idea.” “What am I doing?” Believe me when you're stuck in your head it makes walking up a very steep incline really hard. But over the next 4 hours as I climbed to the top, things started to transform.
The crazy talk in my head started to soften as I began to feel grateful. Grateful that I had the opportunity to choose this walk, that I was walking in peace and not to get away from danger, or to find water and food. Not only had I chosen this walk but I had been supported by my friends in ways that were beyond any expectations, my gratitude for them overshadowed the size of the mountain.
From somewhere in the distance a song that I've heard many times started to swirl around in my head, over and over the voice rang out “If you're feeling helpless, help someone.” It’s a quote from Aung San Suu Kyi who was under house arrest for 15 years in Burma, a punishment for her commitment to peace. What could I do? How could I help?