For a surly tween with a love of warm climates (and working WiFi) any holiday without palm trees seemed unnecessary. After all, being outside meant wearing North Face jackets to stay warm, and like hell was I going to be caught wearing those. Didn’t my parents know that the point of clothes was to look HOT and FIT?
It’s 2007. I’ve been hoodwinked into another camping trip to Aviemore. It rains endlessly, our tent leaks and I haven’t smiled in three days, yet my outdoorsy parents remain puzzlingly cheerful about life under the stars. They didn’t seem to accept that for a thirteen year old, a hiking holiday in the Scottish Highlands is a brutal, merciless punishment.
But for this twenty-two year old, a spot of rain doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm for time spent outside. In fact, I actually understand my parent’s persistence, and genuinely enjoy nothing more than the precious time spent in the mountains. I am now, as they say, “one of those“; a fully fledged outdoorsy person. I’m even considering buying a tent.
It just took moving to a city for this love of the outdoors to be fully realised.
I moved to Glasgow aged eighteen, craving the different kind of adventure promised by big city life. There was more than one club, you might not always bump into somebody you know in your local Tesco and there’s even a subway! Like we’re in New York or something! I was nothing short of spellbound by this new, exhilarating environment with all its possibilities. Four years later, Glasgow still doesn’t disappoint.
However, life is loud. Even in the most noiseless neighbourhoods or in quietest corner of the park, there’s always the steady hum of traffic, the odd siren blaring, and your phone signal is almost irritatingly efficient. Subsequently, the stresses of real life can be difficult to escape. Since I work on social media, I have a particularly tricky time ignoring notifications, much to the dismay of my boyfriend (yeah…sorry about that phone light at 3am, pal).
Escaping into the outdoors allows a chance to firmly switch that noise off. Although the prospect may still seem a little charmless for some, the positive influence of time immersed in nature shouldn’t be overlooked. For me, escaping to rural settings helps me de-stress and refocus my energy on activities outside of updating Hootsuite. Whether it’s a leisurely stroll or a more demanding hike, this time is precious for blocking out external distractions and addressing how I’ve been feeling and what I need to be doing next. Turns out that science backs me up on this one; studies have suggested that contact with nature can have a significantly positive impact on our mental health. Again, this all just goes to show that there’s a whole lot more to escaping the city than the remarkable Instagram opportunities (although they are a plus).
Thankfully, the beauty of Glasgow is that we live close by to scenery which does tend to inspire scrambles for your phone camera.
From seasoned adventurers to reluctant urbanites, there’s a spot in the Scottish outdoors to suit all levels of comfort. Within a short train, bus or car drive, you can find shores on the banks of Loch Lomond where the sand on the beaches lies untouched and the water peacefully reflects the hills surrounding it. The graceful Falls of Dochart are a welcome change of pace to the Clyde – the Falls of Falloch even more so. By all accounts, Ben Lomond is nowhere near as intimidating a climb as it looks. You can enjoy the moody magnificence of Glencoe in any climate, because it’s just a natural spectacle in the rain and sun alike.
Genuinely, it was relocating to a big city which taught me to cherish everything I had once resented about time spent in the wilderness, from the perpetual drizzle to the lack of Facebook access. In an age where stress is an increasingly normalised state and the digital noise can be overbearing, time spent in natural scenery can provide a much-needed boost to mental and physical wellbeing. Nowadays, I jump at the chance to pull on my Docs and go hiking – a previously mortifying prospect for the girl who just wanted to go to Spain.
On a recent excursion to Glencoe, I spotted a teenager sporting a surly demeanour not unlike my own over a decade ago. Her arms were flailing hopelessly in the search for phone signal, her expression giving her thoughts away: “what’s the point?”
Maybe it won’t be obvious to her right now, but the great outdoors somehow have a knack for enticing you back in. Plus, North Face is actually quite trendy now, but good luck telling that to my thirteen year old self in Aviemore.