After being accepted at the University of Aberdeen, I moved to Scotland in January 2020 with big dreams of travelling and writing my way across Europe. I had gone through a lot to get myself there and was extremely excited about the adventures I would find.
I got to Aberdeen and immediately befriended students in my building and in my classes. I started hiking and running with my international running group, the Hash House Harriers. I even started taking traditional Scottish dance classes and was learning the steps to Ceilidh.
However, it wasn’t but two months into the year when the world as we had known it went from a fast spin to a slow wobbly twirl. Covid-19 took my plans of roaming Europe and smashed them to the ground. Classes went online and restaurants closed. No more get-togethers with friends, no more dancing.
As luck would have it, at that time, I had just taken what I had planned to be a short two-week trip to South Korea! But when it was time to return, my flights were cancelled, and I found myself on lockdown and quarantined far away from my flat in Scotland.
Lucky for me, I was able to live rent-free while my expensive student accommodation echoed emptily thousands of miles away. Though the first few months were tough because of extremely restricted movement, we eventually were able to venture out for outdoor excursions and ended up hiking, paragliding, rafting and more. But, that’s another story!
It took me over six months to finally get back to Scotland! I entered back into my room and looked around and my stuff – lost. Where had my year gone?
I was hoping things would steadily improve – they didn’t. I had gotten back just in time for my fall semester, but classes were still mostly online. Both of my classes were on Mondays so I had a whole week to figure out a way to stay busy.
I was restless, and I can admit, not just a little bit annoyed!
I had been dreaming about moving and exploring Scotland since I was a teenager. The year and the time I had left there was dwindling too quickly. I refused to let it pass me by without finding a way to take advantage and make the most of it!
I started planning to use up the rest of my week by taking trips across the country wherever I could.
At first, I took the train for day trips down to Edinburgh and across to Inverness. I even took the ferry up to Shetland and Orkney while I could still manage it.
However, as things steadily fluctuated from bad to worse and back, our restrictions made it so I was very limited in what I could do and where I could go.
I knew I wasn’t going to be able to eat out or stay in hotels, so instead I planned to rent a car, pack food, and go on a road trip!
So, how did I do it?
First things first – I mapped it out.
I made a list of the top places I wanted to see that I hadn’t yet:
- St. Andrews
- Fort Williams
- Isle of Skye
- As many Isle as I could!
I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do it all in one trip. I had to break it down. I grouped different locations together that I could take in one trip.
One trip was an accumulation of Dundee, St. Andrews, Stirling, Loch Lomond, Glencoe and Fort William (all in four days). Another trip was a full three days on the Isle of Skye. Another was 4 days on the Northcoast 500. Another would be the Isle of Lewis and Harris. I also knew I needed a few days just for the Cairngorms National Park.
An example of how my trips went:
On day one, I went from my flat in Aberdeen straight down Dundee and then to St. Andrews. I perused the cities on foot and took in the highlights: Cathedrals, castles, beaches, etc. I then made my way across to Stirling where I fell in love with the beautiful little town and the surrounding area.
The next morning, on day two, I was up and got at it again. Taking a bit more time in Stirling before setting out for Loch Lomond, I knew that area would take up an entire day, and it did.
The days were starting to get shorter, so I ended each night by using the dark evening hours to drive closer to the next place on my list. For this trip, it happened to be down in the Argyll area. There, I found a spot to park in a secluded car park for fisherman.
On day three, I was pleasantly surprised when I woke up to the misty Loch Eck. I walked, hiked, (cried a little 😂) and climbed my way over the hills, valleys, and trails breathing in the cool autumn air and taking in the gorgeous colours surrounding me.
I made my way north from there stopping at castles along the way until I passed into the highlands and felt shaken to my core by the beauty of it all.
My fourth day took me into Fort William and then back across through the Cairgnorms before landing me safely back in my flat where I was able to finally shower (ewwwww) and sleep in a bed!
I woke at the crack of dawn and started my day in order to make the most of it. I went from trail to castle, to loch to the next trail all depending on the trip. I drove to the next place on my list at the end of the day so I would start my day right where I needed to.
Each night I was gone, I simply sat in my seat, ate my pre-packed dinner (it was cold enough I didn’t worry about it spoiling so I had packed a lot of veggies and lunch meats).
I brushed my teeth and cleaned up with wet wipes, changed into clean clothes and crawled in the back where I was able to wrap up for warmth in my down comforter, read a little and sleep (it doesn’t take long to fall asleep when you had been hiking all day and your step counter is reading between 20 and 40,000 steps)!
I often found hidden parking spots, usually car parks for hiking trails or free carparks I felt safe in.
What I Took
I made sure to pack plenty of extra clothes (especially socks!), extra shoes, an extra coat, books to read, my notebook, food (lots of snacks!), water, baby wipes, and my toothbrush.
I slept curled up in a heavy down comforter with two pillows. I was plenty warm each night.
I also had extra bags to put the dirty clothes in and to stay organized.
I had been dreaming about hiking and exploring Scotland for years, I wasn’t about to let the coronavirus slow me down. I knew I was going to be limited when it came to eating out and staying in hotels. I knew I wasn’t going to see museums or go shopping, but there was still a lot I could do and see.
I listed out where I was going to go. I planned out the times it would take to hike each location. I loaded the car and I took off.
People look at me like I am wild when I tell them that I slept in my car alone somewhere… anywhere I could find to pull over and park. But, I did it, and I loved it!
I am a strong believer in spontaneity. It works for me! It doesn’t work for everyone! I did plan ahead but most of my adventures were based on free flow. I didn’t expect anything from the weather (you cant in Scotland), and I didn’t let little hang ups get to me. I centered myself squarely inside my own body and let it be just where it was in that space and time.
I had once in a lifetime adventures, one after the other from my return to Scotland in September all the way through until my bittersweet departure in December. They were trips that helped my soul breathe and my heart heal. They were trips that allowed me to scream, cry, and laugh. I am so glad I didn’t let fear or anxiety stand in my way from getting out there!
I miss it there every day, and know that one day I will return to my beloved Scotland for more adventures!