The Art of Quitting:
Finding Gratitude in Disappointment
Sometimes (well, many times) when you are traveling, things don’t turn out the way you envisioned them. I had such great plans to visit some parts of Scotland and for the past year I had even visualized myself there: The Isle of Skye, West Highland Way, Eilean Donan castle, the Jacobite Steam Train (This was the train used in the Harry Potter movies).
Well, the day before I left Hawaii, I sprained my ankle—BADLY. The first thing I thought as the initial pain subsided and I tried to get off the ground: “My HIKE!?!” I had trained all winter for it—I was up to carrying 20 pounds for almost 10 miles, for gosh sakes. I deserved that hike!
“Life is what happens when you are making other plans.”
—Allan Saunders, later adapted by John Lennon
So, I changed my itinerary so that the hike was at the end of my stay in Scotland—just to give my ankle plenty of time to heal. It worked! By late July, ankle was strong…I was ready.
THEN…it was the rainiest July in many years in the UK. Rain and wind everywhere.
AND…I had forgotten to consider that July/August is holiday time in Europe and the UK. It was about impossible to find any kind of affordable accommodation on Skye. Also, I learned that the West Highland way is a veritable highway in the summer.
So, I turned inward—or inland, actually. I looked at the heart of the Scottish Highlands where there might be less rain and fewer people, and found the lovely village of Pitlochry which is at the end of the Rob Roy long-distance trail. I did a test day hike up to Loch a’Choire and was rewarded with such a lovely day and flowering-heathered hills that I scattered some of Rachel’s ashes at the wee loch where I had lunch.
It was still rainy, but I looked at the forecast and chose a few days to tackle part of the Rob Roy Way and set off.
In two days I was drenched and dried off six times. There were no great Highland vistas—just clouds, mist, fog, and the slosh of my wet shoes.
From my journal: It was raining and I was having a hard time keeping dry. I realized that I was really NOT having fun. I kept asking myself, “What is the point of this?”
Near the end of the second day, I reached into my pack and found that the pants I had planned to wear to sleep in were DAMP! It would be a cold night. I happened to be at a crossroads and there was a bus stop and a bus was coming in 40 minutes. I thought, “I’m not doing this to prove that I can…I am doing it to SEE the Highlands.” I bailed on the hike and tried not to cry.
Of course, about that time, the sun came out to tease me into continuing on. Sure enough, though, when the bus arrived, it began raining again—I had made the right decision.
I made plans to move on to England after six weeks in Scotland. I felt let down.
I wrote in my journal:
I did not see:
The Isle of Skye
Castle Eilean Donan
The Knockando Woolen Mill
Knitters on North Ronaldsay
But I should make a list of things I have done and seen that have been special:
1. Collecting hintelagets and spinning them on Bressay Island
2. Knitting with the women in Haddington
3. Visiting the New Lanark Cotton Mill
6. Camping alone by the Falls of Leny
7. Lots of kinds of ferries
8. Whiskey-tasting with Elspeth Berry
9. Managing at midnight in Kirkwall without a room
10. Cream Tea at Victoria’s Vintage Tea Room in Unst
11. Eating Cullen Skink
12. Meeting Antje at the Yarn Cake
13. Meeting Catherine Henry and her husband, the wool broker for Jamieson and Smith
16. Riding REAL trains
17. Walking on the beach at Scapa
18. Walking on the beach at North Ronaldsay—seals!
21. Taking a ride in a tiny plane
22. Making a cool hat out of Icelandic Lopi yarn that I bought in Reykjavik
23. Photographing puffins
24. Sleeping near the Arctic Circle at the summer solstice and listening to birds singing all “night”
Okay, I was discouraged about not doing four things, but I listed 24 AMAZING things that I did experience.
Expecting the Unexpected, indeed.
On to England!