Summer in the Highlands

The question ‘How was your summer?’ causes oneself to completely assess their whole summer in the socially acceptable space of about two minutes. Therefore, what you choose to answer arguably says a lot about which two minute segment was the most memorable for you.

I went to New York for ten days, but when people ask me about my summer, I choose to use my valuable two minutes talking about a weekend I spent in the highlands with my best friend and my brother.

Port Appin is a tiny village, situated about thirty miles from Oban. There is no phone signal or internet there, and only the tiniest convenience store. After the business and capitalist nature of New York, the economic hub of the world, spending my weekend in relative isolation was a breath of fresh air.unnamed

Most of the weekend was spent exploring and wandering through fresh, green forests, marvelling at the breath-taking summits of Glencoe and squinting at the rain falling in enchanting sheets through my steamed up glasses. In the evenings, with lack of phone signal, we would play board games and I would play my guitar to pass the time. The intimacy I felt with my friend and my brother in these moments felt so precious (until I lost at monopoly, and almost destroyed my whole relationship with both of them through my sore loser induced temper…)

One day we went swimming, an activity I realised that I hadn’t done in almost three years. My brother found a kiddie float and used it as an ‘extreme splasher’. Under the relentless assault of chlorinated water, I found  myself feeling oddly serene; reminiscing about all those moments when, as a child, I would get water in my eye and go and tell on my brother to my dad. This time, being older and a shade more stoic, I got hold of a noodle float and with one sharp blow to the head he mercifully relented.

The water theme continued throughout the weekend with a charming boat trip in Oban to see the seals. The wind cut through me and my five jumpers, but it was not unpleasant. Rather it caused me to huddle closer to my companions and reflect that sometimes a good toss about on a tiny little boat in the middle of the North Sea can induce an alarmingly strong sense of profound calm.

unnamedOn the last night we went for a walk down to the pier in Port Appin. The water looked temptingly clear and the sun was beginning to set over the distant peaks creating a (deceptively) warm golden light. I took off all my clothes (although retained my underwear for the benefit of the diners in the pier-house restaurant) and jumped off the pier into the sea. After a considerable amount of shouting about how stupid I was, my best-friend and my brother joined me. Every morsel of my body was tingling with the freezing cold salty water. Yet, in that moment I felt liberated from the stress of an extremely long, emotionally challenging summer.

Coming back to University, it surprised me that I did not want to brag of my luxurious ten days spent in New York. After all, our free accommodation right next to the empire state building was a steal! However, the personal reflection and soul-healing offered to me by my weekend in the highlands seems to have affected me on a much deeper level.

I’m not a romanticist about Scotland. I moan as much as the next person about the constant rain, the independence debate and the horror that is black pudding. However, I’ve certainly learnt this summer that looking closer to home for the self-reflection and inner peace that comes through travelling can affect you so deeply that it takes precedence in your mind.unnamed

So the next time a friend asks you ‘How was your summer?’ Think about your answer because whatever you choose to relate is obviously the place that will stay with you. Should you ever be so lucky to return,  jump at the chance! Because, as my recently acquired poster from the delightful poster sale proclaims, it is important to ‘do more of what makes you happy.’