I’ve been solo road tripping across the Scottish Highlands for almost a week, and I feel like this country is either underrated, or else I haven’t been paying attention. Actually, to see if the latter was true, I just googled “world’s greatest road trips” and was shocked to not see Scotland anywhere on the list of 56 ultimate road trips created by National Geographic. Actually, 49 of them are located in North America, which naturally excites me, but also makes me question just how many nations “National” represents.
The Highlands are absolutely stunning. I’m still trying to pick up the pieces of my mind after the winding single track road from Tornapress to Applecross blew it to tiny bits. Pretty sure some flew out the window. I won’t be getting those back. The whole road creeps up a cliff looking out over the sea, and is less driving and more “pulling over,” which just means scooting a little further out onto that cliff edge, to allow motorcycles and buggies to race past me, and again for the huge coach buses charging at me head on, watching in fear as they squeeze past, convinced the small cushion of air pressure in between is enough to push my little VW Golf, with me in it, right over the edge.
I love road trips. I seek the great ones out. And I feel fortunate to have explored roads in so many beautiful places; New Zealand, Iceland, Ireland, Canada, Patagonia. But for some reason, Scotland is just speaking my language, though ironically I can’t understand a thing anybody here says. It’s got lochs and cliffs and mountaintops. The sea, sun drenched rain, fog filled forests, endless trails to explore, and so, so many sheep, animals I feel a strange connection to these days (Heeeey sheepy sheep, I know your cousin, Curly. We’re cool.) You can camp anywhere you please (see below for my chosen options so far), just mind the dreaded midges. Sure, plenty of places have all of those things. But just like the Scottish have their own special version of the English language, Scotland takes normal things found in nature – trees, lakes, mountains – and sprinkles unicorn dust all over them, creating these magical Highlands.
So. That’s how I feel about Scotland. I am surrounded by beauty. And I am happy. But. BUT. Not to sound all Into the Wild, but some things really are better when shared with someone. Take the classic road trip. How is one person supposed to focus on driving on the left (wrong) side of the road in the right (wrong) side of a manual car (Thank god the foot peddles are the same. And seriously who deviated from whom here? The UK from the rest of the world? Or the rest of the world from the UK? Someone google it and let me know.), read a giant roadmap, find all the castles, not fall off the cliff or get hit by oncoming speeding vehicles on a single track road, find a decent radio station AND enjoy the magic all around you?
You learn to adjust. You eventually stop second guessing if you’re in the right lane, fold your map in just the right manner, decide you don’t need to see all of the castles, master the pullover for local drivers before becoming one yourself, speeding merrily along, hoping you don’t die, decide to just stick to BBC Gael station because it seems appropriate (though if you’re being honest, you are also pleased to discover 4:00 PM marks the country hour and you happily sing along to Johnny Cash and Gretchen Wilson), and realize you’re just going to have to deal with the fact the entire drive is ridiculously beautiful, you might as well have a GoPro capturing the whole thing, and you can’t keep pulling over at every blue P marker to take photographs, proving to yourself you were actually here.
But still. A partner in navigating crime would be helpful.
Remember that little childhood diddy about socks? No? It goes like this:
I got one sock looking for another,
one sock, looking for its brother,
one sock, and when I find the other,
I’ll tell you what I’ll I do,
I’ll put in on my foot, and I’ll stick it in my shoe.
Only I represent the sock that I got, and someone else is the sock I am looking for, and the shoe is the Great Big World Out There We Somehow Share.
But even if I admit this would be an amazing experience to share, the more complicated piece of the equation is finding the someone who would actually be up for it, considering how I am doing “it.” Instead of staying in cute little B&Bs (no shortage here) and indulging in the local cuisine, at 6 PM I start the search for a perfect place to pitch my tent (note, start the search, which can last anywhere from eight minutes to three hours; I blame my friend Adam for my camping locale snobbiness) and buy bread, cheese, tomatoes, Nutella and wine at the grocery store, which serves as my breakfast, lunch and dinner. I pee outside a lot. I haven’t had a real shower since I left Edinburgh, and I’ve hiked to a lot of campsites and up a giant mountain since then. Perhaps this is why I am one sock and why I am okay doing this alone. I can just be me. And I am one dirty, probably smelly, odd looking sock.
I realize how I must sound right now. But I’m on mile 736 of this road trip and I’ve had A LOT of time by myself to think. About socks and stuff.