There is a time and a place for electronic wizardry. You know of my love for our Garmin gps, and the deep joy I feel at knowing just where I am. Esther, right to the very last did not trust the thing one little bit. ” Esther my dear, my most beloved. The might of the American military do not want us to get lost. It says we are here, and that is where we are and nowhere else “. If we had arguments, they were few. But the one topic for dispute was always going to be navigation.
Esther was guardian of the maps by virtue of me not wanting to bother to put on my glasses. I was guardian of the Garmin, but second in command as far as navigation was concerned. She knew where we needed to go, and I knew where we were. Most of the time I had the Garmin turned off as it constantly reminded me of our slow progress. There must only be one navigator in a party or you will make mistakes that is the rule of exploration. But you are going to wish that they trusted Sat Nav a bit more.
E-Readers such as the Kindle are a joy for the weight conscious traveler. We carried guides, English to current foreign country’s language dictionaries, and fun books to read and quote at each other during dull patches in the road. It has not once been used by me since we returned, and I have binge ordered paper books from my WWW. retailer of choice. The cost of second-hand books has fallen through the floor whilst we have been away. 1p for a hardback book for goodness sakes. I have a teetering pile of wonderful, musty smelling books with proper paper turning pages and pictures and dark winter evenings to fill. Only real books can do this.
What I do not have any more, is anything that can be called an attention span. I may have been over-stimulated. For the first month I could not manage a whole tv program without turning off or over. For three months I have found it hard to sleep. First the weight of a quilt feels like a crushing slab compared to my ultra-light down bag. No amount of flinging the windows wide could replace the wind over the face tenting experience. I have adjusted a bit now, but there were many unhappy weeks of looking terrible for lack of sleep.
“The pleasure we derive from journeys is perhaps dependent more on the mindset with which we travel than on the destination we travel to.”
― Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel. Which is from a book that I just can not find and have had to re-order for one of those 1p internet deals. But on returning I have thought about another of Alan de Botton’s concepts. He is a clever fellow and has achieved far too much to be so many years younger than me. In the book he writes about being in an aircraft, and arriving at a foreign destination. I can’t find the exact quote, but the gist of it is – on arrival, half the people on board are excited and full of anticipation. The other half are not, they are returning home. How can it be that they are both going to the same destination and have such opposite emotions.
I am going to try to stay excited about returning home. To bike the roads that are familiar with the same intensity that I would bring to a road in a distant country on a far continent. We have started already on this project. Scotland is amazing and our little corner of it is as wonderful as just about anywhere we have travelled. We have done as many rides as the weather has allowed. We have even had that most strange of experiences – getting lost in your own back yard ( without the gps to blame ) .
It has been amazing to discover a 1,000 year old Yew tree for the first time, just a few miles from our door. To take vague turns down half remembered tracks and pot holed roads. To watch Autumn come in, the fields harvested and turned again. Now, with winter cold and bare trees it is not uncommon to pass a dozen birds of prey on a ride. All too cold to be bothered to take flight.
The geese have come on their migration from the true north. They filled the sky with V shaped skeins. Some are still here. They are late to go south as the weather has been mild so far. 2014 was the warmest year since records began in the UK and the fourth wettest. I had forgotten how much I look at the weather forecast on the WWW.
The plan for this new year of 2015 is to look in detail at the area that we live in. There are so may little woodlands, beautiful stretches of coast and open moors. We plan to camp on as many as possible and share the experience with you through the blog here. East Lothian stretches down the East of Scotland at the point where Edinburgh ends. It has more history than a whole state in the USA and it is waiting to be explored.
Alain de Botton is probably right in his observation. But there is no reason why you can not be excited about returning home. Getting out and photographing the place you know with the intensity of a new country. We are putting together a ultra-light bivvy kit, with tarps and bivvy bags. The plan is to camp in as many wild places as possible and make breakfast in each.
” Exploring is delightful to look forward to and back upon, but it is not comfortable at the time, unless it be of such an easy nature as not to deserve the name ” – Samuel Butler, quoted in the book – The Book of The Bivvy – by Ronald Turnbull. The 5 day BBC forecast features 2 days with ‘ severe weather symbols ‘. Cycling in Scotland in the winter is hard on the nerves.