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.
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.