A Reflection on a 96 Mile Hike Through the Scottish Highlands

Proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance. This phrase is known as the 7 P’s in the Marine Corps. One could argue that a few (major) mishaps during my spring break are evidence for the profundity of this alliterative warning. I planned a trip to hike the West Highland Way in Scotland on Wednesday night and left Friday for Glasgow. On the first day, I somehow lost 200 pounds (the money, not the weight) and couldn’t pay for my campsite that night and had to walk two more miles into town to stay at a bed and breakfast. Having gotten my trip’s tragedy out of the way early on, I started day two of my trip blissfully unaware that later on that day, I would watch my phone fly into a river and float into Loch Lomond.

Mishaps like these are only tragedies if you don’t learn anything from them. You might think that I’m going to rant about the importance of securing your possessions, but anyone who knows me knows that I’m far too introspective for that. Losing my money was a minor inconvenience of having to cut down miles from my next day. “It’s only money,” I told people. My classmates politely reminded me that only people with a surplus of money say stuff like that. Noted. But, I wasn’t going to let the mere loss of currency ruin my trip. Losing my phone was a bit more impactful. Not only did I lose my ability to communicate both recreationally and in the case of an emergency, but I lost my entertainment. The next morning, I realized that by losing my phone, I also lost my alarm clock. This was a moment of, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”

What the lack of aural entertainment taught me was that by closing myself off from everyone else on the trail, I was really robbing myself of the experience. Trail people are the best people and I was letting them go by because I wanted to listen to the same podcasts I always do. After I lost my phone, I hiked with three Yorkshiremen for the rest of that day and all of the next. What wonderful people. I had seen them along the Way, but had given them nothing more than polite nods and, “How are you”s. On the third day, they were hiking six more miles that day, so I found myself alone again.

That is until I went into the pub in Inverarnan, Drover’s Inn. I was met immediately by faces that I had seen and they invited me to dine and imbibe spirits with them. We got along and I ended up finishing the hike with them. These people became my tribe for the next four days. We were all focused on completing a common goal through grit and teamwork. I felt at home, because it felt like my time in the military, but thankfully without the military. There was a Belgian guy there who was about my age and after one day of hiking together, we split a twin room at the next B&B. I was only in the group for 96 hours and by the time we had finished the hike, we’d already planned a reunion in Paris next month.  Where else do you find people like this?

I feel better after having completed it. There are the obvious physical and health benefits that come from hiking for hours a day with a thirty pound pack for 96 miles. But could through-hiking actually make you a better person? I found myself being generous, open, and honest with people who days before were not only strangers but from all over the world. We worked as a team and got people through the times that were tough for the individual. I just hope that I can keep this outlook on life and apply it on a broader scale.

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