Born and raised in one of the largest cities in Scotland, I’ve grown accustomed to the convenience of the bustling city centre and the excitement of the thriving night life. The only time I’ve felt remotely at home anywhere else has been my infrequent visits to even larger cities. Simply put, I’m a city boy at heart.
When it comes to being productive however, there are times when it all becomes a little too noisy. I enjoy the city life but the city life is a constant distraction that can often tear my focus away from my dream to become a writer. No matter where you’re from or what kind of lifestyle you lead, it’s all too easy to fall into a standard routine. Do your time working or studying followed by the unproductive down time in a bar, in front of a computer screen or just sleeping the day away.
The very idea of a regular routine is contradictory to the ideals of what stimulates the creative mind. A writer is capable of opening up a whole new world to his or her readers through the power of words. Together with their readers they can explore new horizons and reveal the impossible with just their imagination. The flexibility to create something new and exciting simply cannot be nurtured if they themselves are unwilling to explore the new and exciting.
Therefore, I decided to expand my horizons by reaching out beyond my comfort zone and spending some time away from my regular routine. For just a few days, I decided to abandon my comfortable city life and take a camping trip alone to the sleepy western Isle of Arran. I had never ventured out of the city without friends or family accompanying me so I couldn’t help wondering: How would I fare without my comfortable bed, my drinking companions, my terabyte of computer games, my Netflix? I neglected to take a phone charger and removed the battery from my phone to stop myself from checking it every five minutes; Would I feel frustration or anxiety without the instant access to the infinite media and information provided by the internet that I’d grown so accustomed to?
The extent of my camping experience was limited to the music festivals of my teenage life where I was always surrounded by more experienced campers. The realization that I had never pitched a tent on my own was shocking and in its own way, a little saddening. Therefore, I pledged to learn it all the hard way. I packed up my tent and sleeping bag with some basic supplies and without much forward planning, set off on a train to the coastal town of Ardrossan where I would pay for passage off the Scottish mainland.
I’d love to say that I did all this with much bravado and confidence but in truth, I spent the hour long train journey with my heart trying to climb out of my throat. I’ve always had the willingness to jump into new situations so long as there was someone at my back but this was different. There was no point to prove, nobody watching that could judge my actions. This was a conscious decision made with no motive other than to explore the unknown and as simple as a typical camping trip may seem to some of you, in my eyes this truly was the unknown.
I arrived at the Ardrossan Harbour to see my next method of transport preparing to dock. The ferry was much larger than I’d anticipated which gave a realistic sense of the scale of my trip. From here, the ferry would travel directly to the Isle of Arran, a small isolated location that would likely escape the notice of most tourists on a map unless they were looking for it. The plan I had formed for this trip hadn’t developed any further than getting on that ferry; what would come after was a terrifying mystery to me. Even as I purchased my ticket and began to board, I considered the possibility of getting back on the train home and pretending the day thus far had never happened.
Nonetheless, I deposited my bags in the storage area, taking only a notepad and pen with me onto the main deck and began to write these very thoughts, though much less articulated. A stream of consciousness was scribbled onto the first few pages as if they would be the last words I would ever write. I believe it was along the lines of “I don’t know what I’m doing here, I’m going to get lost on a hill somewhere on a remote island so long as this boat doesn’t sink in which case I don’t know why I’m bothering to write on you because you’re made of paper and no one will see and…” You get the point.
Yet as the walkway was disconnected from the ferry and I resigned myself to the journey ahead, excitement began to overwrite the mild sense of panic within me. I watched the mainland grow further away and as we picked up speed, my writing changed with the new sensations I felt. For the first time, I felt like this trip was helping me to flex my creative muscles.
Each paragraph seemed to alternate as I went from describing the sights I saw to noting the ideas that the journey inspired for boat-related scenes in my own fictional writing projects. At the back of the ship I stared in awe at the foaming white path that the ferry cut into the water; in my mind’s eye it had been there the whole time, marking the way home and symbolizing just how far I had come already. At the front, my head snapped up from my notepad as children screamed, pointing excitedly at the porpoises that inhabited the waters, surfacing from time to time alongside the boat. When I read of similar scenes in fictional writing, the cynic in me often thought that these moments didn’t exist in reality. On those rare occasions however, a few simple moments can seem truly magical.
As the Isle of Arran came into clear view, doubt began to revisit me. Camping laws in Scotland are very flexible but I had no idea where to even begin in finding a spot to set up for the evening. I had only set out two rules for myself: It had to be somewhere beautiful and solitary.
As I scanned the coastline it seemed I would be spoiled for choice. Save for the small town where we would be docking, the scenery seemed almost completely untouched by human civilization. I collected my bags and stuffed my notepad away in preparation for the next step of the journey. Stepping off the ferry into the sleepy town of Brodick, I set off in search of the tourist centre in order to acquire a map. Within the hour I would be setting out north from the quaint little town and into the unknown.
The Productivity Experiment: Hermitage continues soon with Part 2: Into The Wilderness