Yesterday I climbed the mountain Beinn Eighe, and it was breathtaking. I get a bit of vertigo; when there’s a drop by the path I have to lean away from it and not look down or else my legs crumble and my head spins. As I laid in bed last night, my muscles humming with tiredness and pleasure, sleep came upon me as a drop, my head spun and I kicked out.

We’re staying on a small island, accessed by a footbridge. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. Like, ridiculously stunning. Photographs can’t capture it. Today, G and I were digging out a campsite in the rocky earth of a smaller island that joins this one, and we paused to watch a pod of seals swim by. But I’ve also felt uneasy since we’ve been here, with all those annoying physical symptoms I experience—from hardcore heartburn to a twitching eye—and I’ve been trying to analyse why.


It’s because I’m feeling a little unmoored, and it’s a difficult feeling for me to embrace, though I’m aware that’s partly the point of (long term) travel. I feel very ‘in-between’ things, despite the fact that I do have projects on the go, being at the point of editing one, and spreading the word about another. I’ve also started researching a novel over here, but the idea is large and only slowly taking shape (the plot, the characters, what it’s ‘about’), and I’m incredibly impatient. I want to start writing it properly, but there’s a period coming up where we’ll be staying with relatives and I know I can’t be at the beginning stages of a novel then. I want to spend quality time with my relatives and thinking about the novel even more than I already am might impede that.

What we’re trying to make happen is a month after November where both G and I can just write. But we don’t really have the dough. We’re only able to travel for so long because we’ve been working, and working for board, and staying with very kind rellos, and we’ll have to continue in that vein. Of course, that has been amazing, and I am not underestimating the wealth of knowledge we’ve gained, not just the places and characters and gestures that writers can’t help collecting, but identifying birds, digging holes and making paths, ironing sheets (!), how to run a B&B, what to wear on long walks in the rain, what pleases a seven-year-old, how to make Banoffee, the best Speyside whiskies, the geology of a mountain, fables and histories, how to pronounce ‘Eilean’, and many other items.

I guess my problem is staying present, and trusting that I haven’t gone ‘off the path’. I was fine in Speyside, on our last Workaway assignment, probably because I had a firm routine. And this makes me laugh at myself. Because when I’m ‘stuck’ in a routine, at home, all I want to do is bust out of it. Writing this out is helping, though.

An added layer is that my 29th birthday has just passed. There was so much I thought I’d do before 30, and now that’s only a year away. I’ve been mentally readjusting my goals for a while now, taking in reality and everything that crops up, but… it’s pretty ingrained. Mostly ambition is pretty positive—the dreaming drives me—but the flip side (focusing on ‘failures’, disappointment, whatever) makes you see everything through a fog.

It’d be great to just feel ecstatic about everything I have going on right now: a long working holiday, two forthcoming books with my name on them, an incredible relationship… Yes. Let’s stop there.

I climbed a mountain yesterday. Sometimes I got dizzy. Occasionally I wandered off the path. Sometimes I struggled to see the next marker. But I always found my way back.


13 thoughts on “Vertigo

  1. I understand your impatience to get on with things. I think it’s pretty standard for us writers to want to run up the path and see what’s around the corner. Enjoyable read, beautiful pics too.

  2. Thanks Angela for a wonderful essay. And photos too! It is frustrating when you know that up ahead you won’t be able to for a while. I am at the early stages of a novel too and travelling at the moment as well and, guess what, I’m not doing much writing. It will come though, just as yours will!

  3. Yeah, that feeling of impatience in wanting to write and not being able to for whatever reason . . . for example, I am keen on finishing the first draft of my crime novel NOW NOW NOW with a view to having several months to tinker with it ahead of next year’s Vogel deadline. BUT school has just started again and I have a stack of Year 11 exams to mark, plus classes to plan, classes to teach, etc etc.

    Love the photos; I am from England and I visited Scotland once, when I was seven. We stayed somewhere that looked a bit like your photos and we were supposed to climb Ben Nevis but the car broke down and we had to be towed back to England. We moved to Australia when I was eight and that was that. I did climb Snowdon in Wales though!

    • Argh, so hard! When you’re already well into it as well.

      Ben Nevis is impressive! I wonder how long it would take to climb it? Snowdon would be awesome.

  4. Beautiful post, Angela, and a beautiful photo in Scotland. Enjoy the rest of your travels. For me, I often find I appreciate the travelling much more once I’m back ‘home’ and the memories take on a life of their own…


  5. Gah that routine / no routine thing is so hard to navigate and get right. Best of luck with it; a beautiful post, as always.

  6. Angela. I am in awe of what you have already achieved – I remember when you interviewed me at an Emerging Writers 15 mins of fame event, some years ago now. Let go of the disappointments and focus on what is ahead. I know you will achieve what you want to. Focus on celebrating short term goals and the fog of past disappointments will slip away. The photographs are beautiful.

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