02.06.2023 | “In My Head…”

Lyrics: “Zombie” ~ The Cranberries, 1994

It’s June already. How did this happen? Don’t answer that. I’m having a lovely, relaxing time here in remote Scotland and will be sad when it’s over on Sunday. But needs must and all that. The lovely, relaxing time is also why I a) haven’t shared many photos or experiences yet and b) will keep this post shorter than it could be. [Thoug it did take longer than I had thought] I need to go back to the relaxing and chilling, but also reading and thinking. “Stolen Focus” again. So so many things from this book hit home for me. Seriously, everyone should read it. Because of it, I’m trying my best at the moment to pay attention where and how long and how I spend my time online. But I’ve also started noticing how often I try to add some kind of “noise” (music, TV) to any activity, because it feels strange to just focus on actually focusing on one thing. Except reading. And how often I fill my life with stimulants of any kind – not chemical – but to keep my mind distracted, because being with just my own thoughts can be scary. I know the reason for that though, because the anxious part of my brain tends to ruminate (as in endlessly worry about past and future stuff) instead of helpful mind-wandering. I’m working on that. Anyway, that’s the short insight in the state of my mind.

Wednesday, 31st May

I drove up to Loch Assynt and took a gazillion photos at Ardvreck Castle. One of my favourite places since I stopped here with the group tour I was on in 2009. It’s a popular spot to stop for anyone so there were quite a few people around. But I can’t complain, because so was I obviously. In the spirit of “more focus” I popped the prime lens on my camera, so I had to think a bit more about what to take a photo of and couldn’t just zoom in. Afterwards I continued the loop up to Lochinver where I dined in a restaurant (fancy!), before braving the “Wee Mad road” back to my home for the week. Sadly my camera’s battery had run out of juice so there I couldn’t take to many photos towards the end.

A loch in the forground, Adreck Castle ruins far away on the loch shore, hills and blue sky in the background

And here is a roadside view from the wee mad road:

Thursday, 1st June

The day I did what I (potentially) came here to do. Hike up a mountain. Well, the Scottish call everything a hill, whereas it felt mountainous to me and officially it classifies as a mountain: Stac Pollaidh (612 m) ridge and circuit. It’s only a 4km route, but from start (car park) to the east summit were about 430 m of elevation. I tried to work out the gradient, but I failed. So be it.

I mentioned it on my socials yesterday already: Even though my physical shape isn’t what it used to be a few years ago, when I was hiking up proper Scottish Munros, I managed this one alright. It just took some time. But I was in no hurry and I’m so glad that the critical voice in my head didn’t berate me for it in any way. Yes there were a lot of people of all ages, teenagers, children and dogs going up that hill quicker than I did. But so what? While the nasty voice also tried to make me think of what all of those might think about me slowly walking and scrambling up and down, the sane voice in my head told me that none of them cared! I had lovely small talk with each and also heard nice encouragement from those fit people who were on their way down from the ridge as in “you’re almost there” and such. So all was fine! Thank God, so was my mental state as well.

Half way up the hill the clouds slowly disappeared and the sun came out. It was good thing, I took my time then…

Yes, the lighter sand-coloured bit in the image below was in fact the path down. Not for the faint-hearted. It speaks for my worried (or maybe reasonable mind) that I had put the mobile phone numbers of my next of kin and the hosts here in Scotland on my phone’s lockscreen for this day. And also on a slip of paper in my wallet, because what good is a smashed phone if I take a tumble down that slope? But I made it down fine, slowly, but I did it. Go me!

30.05.2023 | Lately I’ve Been Feeling All Worn Out

Lyrics: “Faithful Son” ~ Frank Turner, 2009

One of my (many) plans for this vacation was to go on a few hikes. I didn’t do as much of that in Inverness and that’s ok. Yesterday I went out for a route I found on Walk Highlands, which is my go-to page to find hikes (“walks” as they call it here as if it were just a stroll through the park). I probably should have paid more attention to various aspects of the description for this one like 

Rough coastal walking; there is a fairly continuous sheep-path for most of the way. The ground is boggy and crosses slippery rocks above the cliffs in a few places so care is needed.

It came with a 3 of 5 rating for grade (difficulty) and more important the “bog factor”. Which means it would be wet and muddy in places. Oh so many places.

There were a few times where my mind went into a bit of despair, when I lost sight of the track, which wasn’t always as clearly visible as I’d have hoped. Once I had to scramble up a rocky slope from a beach. Once I had to move downhill through pretty boggy terrain proper drenched parts of my boots. There were a few moments when I thought “Oh God, I can’t do this”. Then it did help to remember what I already did achieve to do on previous hikes. Albeit in much better physical shape, but still. I persevered and walked on and of course made it back to my car safe and sound. In not such a bad time for a 9 km walk along the coast. And the views were worth it of course.

Anyway I was pretty knackered after. I forgot to put on sunscreen, yes I know rookie mistake, and felt rather hot when I got home, as the sun was out shining for the whole time. No sunburn though. I probably also should have brought more water than the 2x 0.5 litres I packed. Next time.

I made an Insta Reel about it all last night and here are some of my photos

A turquoise ocean bay surrounded by green and rocky slopes in the foreground and the left side of the background. Clouds in the sky above on a sunny day
A turquoise ocean with green and rocky slopes in the foreground and some hills in the right background. Some clouds in the sky above on a sunny day
a view across an ocean bay with a green meadow in the foreground and two Scottish hills clearly visable across the bay in the background . Clouds in the sky above on a sunny day

I don’t know if it was the exhaustion or the exhilaration or that various body parts were aching from moderate to uncomfortable extent, but I didn’t sleep all that well last night. For the first part of the night I also vividly dreamed of looking for the right track and scrambling up slopes and rocks and all kinds of hike-related things.

I know I shouldn’t pay too much attention to my smartwatch measuring my physical state and stress level. But it does worry me a bit that even on a proper rest day like I had today I still feel a bit agitated and off. And that the watch confirm it. High stress levels, rather high resting heart rate, no noticeable recuperation at all. All I did all day was sit around and read. Possible paying too much attention to my smartwatch stats. Self-fullfilling something? 

I’m still having my mind blown by the “Stolen Focus” book. More on that tomorrow maybe, now I need some food and then sleep / rest. 

28.05.2023 | Choose To Be Me

Lyrics: “Choose To Be Me” ~ Sunrise Avenue, 2006

I slept for over 10 hours last night. It was pure bliss and I knew the decision to come here to this rather isolated spot for a whole week was the right one. Like I mentioned last night, it took me a while to get here, because I stopped for photos so many times. Like for this view…

A bay in the Scottish Highlands, Hills in the background

One of the reasons I picked this place was my vague idea to use the time here in this remoteness for some introspection. Part digital detox (though I brought my phone and tablet and there is WiFi; it’s a glamping site after all). Part proper soul searching about some things. Plus lots of sleep and some walks / hikes. And also just sitting on the deck, staring across the sea and doing nothing. 

Could I have done all that during time off at home? Or at least closer to home? Maybe. But I decided a change of scenery to this beautiful scenery would help. And I think it will.

Part of my frustration with some of my vacation so far, was the incredibly annoying voice in my head telling me that I was doing it wrong. I spent so much money on this trip and then didn’t do all the hikes or visited all the places I marked down as options for me to do. I only did half of them and on Friday actually had to make the conscious decision to at least leave the flat and read somewhere outdoors in Inverness. I admit part of the reason for that was the constant traffic noise (day and night). But back to that annoying voice in my head telling me I’m not doing this vacation the right way. I mean WTF?!?! Who does she think she is to judge me for the way I’m vacationing? Rhetorical question of course, as this voice is one of the messed up parts of my mind. But seriously, why do I think there is a right/wrong way of doing this? And why do I judge myself so hard for not living up to … who’s expectations exactly? I caught myself thinking about how to tell others about my vacation and which excuses to come up with for: the things I didn’t do. The money I spent on it all. The things I did do (buy books, oh so many books). How to justify it all to others. Once again: WTF?!?! Why? Why can’t I just be confident in the choices I make?  

Hence, the soul searching aspect of this stay in this remote space. Rather by chance I picked a fitting podcast for the last part before the single track roads (there I needed to focus on the road): “The Way Out Is In Episode 41: The Art of Laziness” and before that I listened to one of the few Bialik Breakdowns (with the wonderful Mayim Bialik aka Amy from The Big Bang Theory) episodes I had downloaded: “Melanie Chisholm – The Discipline of Girl Power. The title is a bit misleading, I think, they talked a lot about Mel’s mental health issues (depression and such) and even though it’s nothing new, it always helps to hear that those successful women are plagues with the same demons as I am. This morning I bought Mel C’s autobiography as ebook. I can’t help myself.

Talking about books: I also brought a bunch of books to help me with that soul searching and do have lots of time to read here obviously. One is “The Gift of Imperfection” by Brene Brown, which as been on my shelf for ages. The other one, which I had planned to buy for a while, but actually only did buy in Inverness is “Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention” by Johann Hari. I’ve only read the first 60 of about 300 pages and already had quite a few “lightbulb moments”. 

And when I don’t want to search my soul any more I currently turn to the fictional: “Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone” by Benjamin Stevenson and I’m having a blast. It’s so so good in my eyes. Like the “Knives Out” movies but in book form. I love it. I’m about half-way through and have no idea who the killer is. Which is as it should be in a murder mystery, right? 

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