Walking Across Scotland – A Five Year Anniversary

Five years ago I arrived back home to my island north of Seattle after walking across Scotland. Since then, much has changed. And, of course, much has remained the same. Change is inevitable, and conscious travel amplifies it. Amidst the machinations of the world,  though, much would be the same if I did it again. And I look forward to doing it again, but possibly redefining what it is.

It is Fall 2015. My plan was to be walking, thinking, drinking across, around, or through some other country. My trip across Scotland was a ten year homage to my bicycle ride across America (Just Keep Pedaling)Just Keep Pedaling. Neither were supposed to become books, but when life changing events happen it makes sense to write them down before their significance is forgotten. It also makes sense to wait a while and let insights filter through. Change isn’t always immediate, isn’t always dramatic. Immediate, dramatic changes makes for great writing; but the greatest changes in our lives can be gradual and subtle.

My plans in 2010 for 2015 were based on optimism. Millions of people were being hit by The Great Recession. I was one of them, but I expected life to return to normal within a year or two. It almost did. It almost did and almost surpassed my expectations, until I had what one friend called “a perfect storm of bad luck“. During the Summer of 2011 I lost 40% of my savings. During the Fall of 2011 I lost 40% of the rest. Since then I’ve lost 98% and have transitioned from semi-retired to barely-employed – while working seven days a week.

My plans were to take on another epic walk every five years, or more frequently as money allowed. Walking from Stranraer was an auspicious choice. After my walk to Aberdeen, I realized I could use Stranraer as a starting point for walking around Ireland because the ferry leaves from there. Stranraer could be the start of a walk across England with a finale at Dover. Start from Dover and walk to Lands End (where there are some family connections). Start from Dover and walk to Nice, passing through Paris of course. Start from Paris and walk the Camino de Santiago. Start from Nice and walk to the southern tip of Italy. Okay, I’m already old enough that to do all that I’d have to do a walk every year or every other year. Sounds good to me! No need to write a book about every one, but, well, check for life-changing events.

The reality of finances changed the reality of my travel plans. Working seven days a week is not a euphemism or hyperbole. I do take days off, about one every other month. Some of those walks would take months, not just weeks. They’d all take thousands of dollars, and now I owe that much to the US Internal Revenue Service. I’m not the only one. One of the things that changed since the Great Recession is a new normal of global austerity. There is some recovery, but it is shaky from my point of view.

The world has changed in the last five years. Scotland almost became an independent country. Greece threatened to scuttle the European Union. The United States government has become dysfunctional, oh wait, that hasn’t changed much.

I’ve changed in the last five years. I’m older. Duh. My knees tell me so. A few extra wrinkles have become part of my portrait. I’ve even gained weight because I’ve been working so much. My expectation of travel has also changed. And yet, I am an optimist.

Besides enjoying my time in Scotland, the fundamental revelation was my observation of joy. Thank you, Scotland. I recognized the ever-presence of joy as I walked between Fenwick and Glasgow. Revelations can happen anywhere. Mine happened along a lonely bit of bike path.DSCN2765 My revelation probably required days of solitary walking. And then I felt it. Joy. Joy is an emotion that can be felt anywhere at any time. I’d spent decades trying to find it. It was always there, but I didn’t know how to recognize and greet it. It slipped away, but that’s because I had so little practice in keeping in touch with it.

In the last five years, well, the financial turmoil I’ve experienced is chronicled in my other blog for another of my books, Dream. Invest. Live. Struggling to keep my house was probably the most dramatic series of episodes. It was during the beginnings of that struggle that I finished Walking Thinking Drinking Across Scotland. Those struggles were why the book came out a bit sooner than I’d prefer. (It was going to include more humor, but I had to publish early to let it get to work in the literary world while I got to work in the monetary world.)

I’ve received numerous comments and compliments on the style and grace I portray while working through my issues. I wasn’t aware that I had style or grace. I’ve been too busy to create and maintain a facade. I’ve even been asked to teach others how to emotionally navigate similar situations. Sign me up! Realizing that joy is always just a perspective shift away is invaluable. I am not practiced enough to switch my mood to joy without effort. It is, however, immensely powerful to realize that it is there. Being alone and under a pile of worries can be depressing. Being in the same situation knowing that a friend is near relieves a lot of stress, even if they can’t help. Joy does that for me.

When the worries get to me I remind myself of the things that are going right. My house could use a lot of work, but I am also warm, dry, and safe. My truck could use a lot of work, but it runs and my best way to manage it is to handle it with care and walk or ride my bicycle whenever possible. My health, my wealth, my relationships have all been affected; but each has a fundamental aspect that can survive incredible challenges: eat well, live frugally, respect people.

I’m an optimist. My Triple Whammy of troubles happened abruptly. As an optimist, I realize that good news can happen just as quickly and can surpass any bad news I’ve encountered. It is too late for me to walk around Ireland this year. It would be nice to pay homage on a nice five year anniversary; but maybe next year, yes, maybe next year. In the meantime, joy is here and I know where to find it, even if it takes some practice.

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A Scottish Anniversary 2014

Four years ago tonight I was back home and wondering what was going to happen next in my life. I’d just walked across Scotland, back from what was supposed to be a vacation and stepping into a realization that my life had changed and that a book would result. Walking, Thinking, Drinking Across ScotlandWalking Thinking Drinking Across Scotland has an embryo. There was enough there to tell me something would be coming, but there was a lot of gestation before anything would be born. The origination of ideas and inspirations are sudden. Manifesting them takes energy and trust. I continue to trust, and wonder.

Has it really been four years? It seems much shorter. The world has gone through significant crisis since then, and we aren’t obviously back to a familiar normal. Hopefully, that’s progress. In the time that since my walk across Scotland, the people have debated and voted and almost become a sovereign nation again. Not this time. In the time since my walk, personal finances, or at least mine, have been tested in trials that exceed all previous challenges. Normal isn’t in sight, but there’s a path or three that may lead me there.

Travel is simple and powerful. Those who’ve read the book know I encountered unfiltered joy for the first time. It arrived unbidden, unannounced, and departed quietly with an echo that leads me back to it. It didn’t have to happen in Scotland, but it was in a normal patch of countryside, without any obvious romantic influences that I recognized that joy was in every moment. All I had to do to enjoy it was relax. I also learned that such a simple insight is difficult to enact and that practice, practice, practice was required – at least for me.

Surprise Pavement

If you want a list of the world’s turmoils go check any major news site. There’s no need for me to deliver a fresh load of worry and woe. If you want a list of my personal finance turmoils, go visit my blog for the book, Dream. Invest. Live.Dream Invest Live cover, where there’s been a wealth of material since I returned home. My turmoils aren’t unique. My solutions and plans aren’t unique. The specifics of my situation are unique, but the feelings and emotions experienced within the process are as unique as anyone’s.

A common desire is to find a balance within our lives because every life has many conflicting forces working to assault any notion of stability. And yet, stability in various guises is what most people seek.

Walking across Scotland, just like bicycling across AmericaJust Keep Pedaling, was a purposeful exercise in intentional motion. In both cases I could’ve hid on a beach somewhere, but I knew I’d relax more, and ponder more, with ever changing scenery. It also had the happy consequence of being able to wear the same thing every day without anyone seeing me wear the same outfit more than twice.

Four years later my assets are dramatically depleted, my income shrunk so low that I stopped paying my mortgage for months, and my consulting and writing business has now grown to the point that I can pay all of my bills. (Though there is the pesky notion of taxes, worn out shoes, and a long list of repairs.) And, there are many reasons for optimism.

I’ve been congratulated on something a friend called, the Trimbath Sanguinity, an attitude that remains positive amidst circumstances that others see as traumatic. They are perceptive both ways. In the midst of challenges that are far too common, it is tempting to stay in bed, hide under the sheets, and wonder how it will ever get better. That isn’t a metaphor. I know too many people who deal with that daily struggle. The upset economy provides no apparent hope for a sustainable life after income drops below a critical level. There is hope, but it is faced against far more numerous real time realities. And yet, I’m noted for concentrating on the optimism. As I’ve said before, if I landed in a swamp I’d spend less time complaining about being wet and more time trying to find dry land.

Scotland helped. Like so many others, I probably had those coping skills ingrained as a necessary part of a larger package of survival skills. Realizing that there is joy in every moment, is a lesson that Scotland, but more so travel, helped articulate.

On the grimmest of days I may bang my head on the desk like anyone. But, I also had that reminder that attitude and an appreciation of the moment was available for free. With practice, it doesn’t even take much time to recognize that I’m usually warm, dry, fed, safe, and able to exercise a significant amount of control over my life. News from the mortgage company may take days to recover from, but the recovery is far shorter when I sit back, look around, and see nature, hear from friends, and take some pride in my self.

Finding balance in life is a goal, but an impossible destination. Find a place that you think is stable, and the world will turn underneath it. Find a sanctuary within yourself that you can create, and nothing can reach it.
Alone And On The Path
PS My next public event is November 9th, 2014 at the Freeland Library on Whidbey. I hope to see you there.

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A Short Verbal Version Of The Book

A few months ago I had a fun time giving a talk at the Langley Library, here on Whidbey Island. The Friends of Langley Library host regular talks, and have been nice enough to have me give several talks (e.g. Walking across Scotland, Bicycling across America, Hiking and Skiing in the Cascade Mountains, even self-publishing, social media, martial arts, and personal finance.) A fine piper, Bagpiper Don, was energetic enough to record the evening, including an intro piping session of his music. It is a nice venue, but all seven billion people on the planet couldn’t fit in there, so here’s the recording of the event. Don played for about 18 minutes.

I'm listening.  Don's playing

I’m listening.
Don’s playing

I talked for over an hour. Laughter was involved.

Here’s the link.

The mp3 file is over 200 MB. My editing software and I aren’t sophisticated enough to make it smaller – yet. Be patient. (18 minute intro + 70 minute talk + 7 minutes of Q&A)

Books are better than movies because books invite hours of imagination while movies edit everything down to 90 minutes. A talk is different. The book is necessarily heavily abridged, but there’s an opportunity for nuance and story that didn’t fit in the literary flow. Listen and enjoy.

And if you want me to give the talk again, send me an email. And if you need a bagpiper/biscotti maker (really), go to Don’s site. And if you want to see a marvelous small town library, come to Langley and let Vicky’s crew show you around.

Rainbow over Langley Library

Rainbow over Langley Library

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Scotland In Langley, April 2014

How can you tell how busy I’ve been? A prolific writer like me hasn’t posted to this blog in months. (My main blog chronicles that tale.) It’s all good, and I’ve been working so hard that I long for enough ease to fit in another walk. Stay tuned. I expect it to happen.

In the meantime, I am giving talks again. The next one is in Langley, WA on Whidbey Island, April 17th, 6:30pm at the Langley Library. The Friends of the Library host talks frequently. This spring my talk about Scotland is fitting into a series of three of my travel talks. March was about bicycling across America (Just Keep Pedaling). April is about walking across Scotland (Walking Thinking Drinking Across Scotland). And May is about my trilogy of year-round travels through Washington State’s Cascade mountains: hiking, snowshoeing, and skiing (Twelve Months at Barclay Lake, Twelve Months at Lake Valhalla, and Twelve Months at Merritt Lake). One very nice feature? The talks are all free.

Come on by to hear the story behind the stories. Yes, I traveled; but, the real stories are about people, nature, personal growth, food, with a bit of slapstick.

Want me to give a talk somewhere else? Send me an email. I look forward to it. Every time I give a talk and tell my stories I hear other stories in return. It is good all around.

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A Scottish Anniversary 2013

Tom Trimbath:

Has it really been three years? But those lessons are with me daily. Thank you Scotland. I am grateful.

Originally posted on Trimbathcreative's Blog (Tom Trimbath):

Three years ago today I was on an airplane heading to Glasgow. I needed a vacation. Life wasn’t flowing the way I’d expected. Of course, the economic turmoil was hitting everyone. There were doubts about whether we’d make it through. My main stocks (AMSC, DNDN) were doing well, yet appeared to be stalled despite progress in the companies. I was frustrated from delaying dreams; yet I knew that just a little more and I could launch into some of my grander plans. Maybe it was best to step out of my routine, step aside for a while, let things improve, and then step back in. I decided to commemorate a success. Ten years earlier I bicycled across AmericaJust Keep Pedaling Something simpler and shorter and outside my normal routine would be to walk across a smaller country. I did. A vacation changed a life. A book was born. I remembered how…

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Honor Excerpts

The book received an honor recently. Unlike many authors who enter contests and competitions, I don’t seek such things. I’m more interested in what people such as yourselves say and think. Evidently, one thought enough to pass along my name.

Journeys Outward, Journeys Inward” was published August 14th, 2013 – a book of travel and transformation. We use the word honor so loosely, yet I am sincere that being included is an honor.

It is easy to see Walking Thinking Drinking Across Scotland as a travel story and a drinking story. I also know that many of the sales are because the book ranks high for the common search of “walking Scotland”. The walking and the drinking sell the book, but the thinking is why I wrote it.

Their book is about travel and transformation. Travel is about transformation, whether a book is written or not. Usually, the transformation is simple relaxation. That’s why I walked across Scotland, but travel can transform more than a temporary stress level. Travel can change a life. Scotland changed mine. I found a new way to find joy. That’s why I wrote the book. The world needs more joy, and finding new ways for others to find joy is a blessing.

For those of you who’ve read my book, you know about the walk out of Fenwick. For those that haven’t, well, of course I’d be happy if you bought mine; but I also know that a compilation like the one put together by Penelope Bourke may be just what you need. Either way, I am honored. Enjoy.

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Uncelebrated Inspirations

About three years ago I was still home, wondering about this trip I planned for walking across Scotland. It was the end of August and my flight from Seattle was less than a month away. What inspired me to do such a thing? What inspires any of us?

I’ve been playing around with Pinterest, a social media site that is an addiction to some and totally unknown to most. I have a few boards to collect pins, essentially links, to my books and photos, my friends’ web sites and their books and art, some trends, and now a new board: Inspirations. The list of pins is growing, but slowly.

Inspirations are all around. Parents and friends probably get most of the credit; though mass media makes it seem imperative that we all honor celebrities. Pinterest unwittingly encourages public figures too. You can only pin people and things that have images on the web. I’m pretty sure my mom never had a web site. I could try making one for my dad, but that may take a lot of explaining.

My inspirations for walking across a country are the other people that walked across countries and wilderness. Human expansion happened because people decided to search for a better life, or satisfy their curiosity, or maybe to get away from their family and home. I expect the grand plan for humanity’s spread was driven more by adolescent rebellion than by explorers and wise goals.

When I bicycled across America, I unwittingly followed a pioneer trail. I was on two wheels and asphalt. They had walked beside wagons that were rolling across prairies, through deserts, and over mountains. If they could make it, so could I. Granted, many of them didn’t make it. I had sympathy for those that didn’t survive and drew inspiration from those that did.

Walking across a country brings back to mind the early settlers. Someone was the first person to walk along the Clyde, to see a storm assault the coast, and to wonder what was on the other side of the first ridge of the Highlands. 

What did they think was on the other side of the ridge?

What did they think was on the other side of the ridge?

They did so without support, either totally self-sufficient or destined for a temporary existence. I walked in luxury, and was glad for the pubs and the pavement; but, was able to think back and try to imagine what it was like to be the first. Did a settlement form around their homestead? Or, was it the second or the third that finally populated and plowed the land?

Guidebooks do their job well. There are plenty of inspirational Scots, and their monuments are listed and mapped. Every era has its celebrities. By walking the land, instead of being delivered to castle after mansion after museum, it is possible to not be distracted and to then respect and honor those who weren’t celebrated. They weren’t feted. Their histories weren’t recorded. Yet, because of them, a country, a society, and a civilization was born. And I was provided the honor of walking across it in luxury. I’ll never know what inspired them, but I know they inspired me.

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