In 2019 I walked The West Highland Way to raise money for The Listening Place.
I walked 100 miles solo from just Milngavie north of Glasgow to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands.
I had always wanted to do it. After a few months working, reading and watching TV, I feel the need for something a bit more adventurous! I also have this odd idea in my head that I am somehow a solitary person well adapted to being on my own. This isn’t true.
It also personally felt like quite an indulgent expedition so given that I’d just started working at The Listening Place, I decided it would be nice to support something other than my own vainglorious self-image. Also as the date approached so did the fear that I might not finish it – the threat of not letting people down was a good motivator.
It was an amazing experience. Once you get into a rhythm of just walking every-day and having a single objective of getting from A to B, you realise how complicated life is otherwise. I also learned quickly that I bought a thin summer sleeping bag. Such a bag was ill-fitted to the highland spring. As a result I spent two nights in every item of clothing, sleeping for about an hour. I did even have a moment climbing quite a steep bit of shoreline along Loch Lomond at about 5 in the morning where I thought…what on earth am I doing? I’m cold, I’m tired and frankly I’m a bit miserable. At home I might have dwelled on that feeling but given I had to walk 20km that day, I just carried on walking until those questions went away.
Walking for The Listening Place was also a great way to start a conversation. In spite of the fact I bought T.S Eliot’s Wasteland and a journal, I was frankly pining for a natter. Telling people about The Listening Place was easier than trying to appear like a tortured writer and probably helped me make some friends who I met and re-met evening by evening.
I realised quickly that The Listening Place is an easy idea to communicate: give people the opportunity to be heard and to feel like a service cares for them and you can begin to help them.
My favourite part of the trail was around Kinlochleven. I hit a stretch where I was walking on my own for a few miles having spent the previous evening around people and knowing I’d meet some more that evening. It was on the trail that I realised I’m no solitary soul but nor am I an extrovert necessarily, I just like a nice balance of the two.
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