Since moving to Islay, more often than not, I've been writing for money, and therefore not much of it appears on this blog. What you will mostly find here, are forlorn ramblings about my daily life. I'm actually very happy to live on a Scottish island, but maybe you wouldn't guess.
If you are looking for actual travel advice, I have written a guidebook to the Inner Hebrides for Bradt.
It happens every year.
I stand on the cusp of spring, which seems to be late this year, and wonder how I will do it. Like the dark comfort of depression’s blanket, winter is easy to sink through: the days that are over before they’ve begun, when going outside at all is enough for me to scratch an invisible mark on my tally of daily heroics. It’s not always a pleasure, but it’s slow, and I have time to think—too much—clearly.
Despite the impression my lifestyle portrays, I don’t actually hate cities… which is a good job really, because I’m currently tasked with updating the Edinburgh chapter of a guidebook. Freelance travel writing, especially for general guides, is full of contradiction: you have to cover every traveller’s budget, all the while surviving yourself on poverty wages. My current gig isn’t badly paid, as they go, but I couldn’t afford to do it if I hadn’t worked all summer in Iceland.
This is how I end up catching the Megabus to stay in a luxury floating hotel.
I'm preoccupied with autumn. It's not so much the orange leaves, or blackberries between thorns; I'm not a fan of 'pumpkin spice'. No, for me, autumn is the inevitable descent into winter's chaos.
We don't get much snow on Islay—a little, rarely, not enough to block the door—but the storms: the ones that steal your boat and rip branches from the trees; the nights of flying trampolines, when the lights go dead, and we have to read with candles. I shouldn't like them, I know, but I watch the Atlantic forecast, in anticipation, waiting for one to hit.
I had not seen my family, or visited the Hebrides, since the previous January; a trip to Islay was long overdue...
If you've been dropping by for some time, you probably remember a little hype around last June. We'd saved and stagnated for over a year in Exeter. Unexpectedly, I'd found many things to love in that sleepy South-Western city; a small but solid medley of people, plenty of camping on Dartmoor and Devon's coast. Still, I was restless, we were gearing up for a great adventure. Burt the carpet van spluttered into our lives as a kind of tiny home on wheels, a fortified tent with space for a duvet, and we finally set of on our epic European road trip. Though the weather was better, things started that month the same as we just have, with a trip up to Scotland. As you might also know, that first drive up North and down was our last great road trip of 2016. We finished the year in Calais, laughing and crying and forgetting to shower. We're starting that original plan from scratch.
After a very slow and somewhat arduous trip up to Swansea, Wales the week before, we were particularly relieved to make it up to Scotland in relatively good time without any major mishaps.
In between fixing rusty holes in the van, changing our oil (and spilling a whole tank full onto my parents’ drive) and generally trying to sort ourselves out a bit better before leaving the UK, we found a little time for the beach...
Dan and I have spent the last two Christmases far away. Firstly in Australia back in 2013 and then somewhere in a Bolivian forest last year. This year we made the journey up to Scotland, narrowly dodged the UK's December storms and squeezed onto one of the few remaining ferries that made the crossing to the island.