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The Great Glen Way (North Half) – Scotland

map of the great glen way in scotland

 

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The Great Glen Way (North Half), Scotland

There was no sunrise over the Loch Ness that morning only a heavy fog, and the cruel cloud cover was rubbing my already grey mood in. There had only been eighteen insignificant miles up and down highland hills when we started hiking, optimistic and well caffeinated the day before. It was the first day out of the gates of Inverness along the Great Glen Way fault line in Scotland and I’d been envisioning our first camp of the five day 120km trek, above the Loch that night. Waking up to the sight of Nessy in the morning sounded ideal; but I was obdurate that day pushing too fast and too far to the point of injury to get there.

My knee burned as soon as I laid down to bed that first night, and I was paying for that unrelenting optimism again that morning as I dragged myself out of the tent to grey skies and muted views.

I paid for it every day for the rest of the trip.

An “I told you so” was well deserved but Shannon my hiking partner and best friend was quiet. The “I told you so” was communicated only in the consequences.

Buying a knee brace at a pharmacy when we dropped down the crest of the hills into Invermoriston; I told you so.

Icing my knee in a gas station at the side of the road; I told you so.

In long stretches of silence when I wondered with every step, and crunch of gravel if I was doing permanent damage; I told you so.

 

 

Tofino, BC

taylor roades on instagram

6/100.

Tofino, BC

We stayed up too late and drank too much because we knew it wouldn’t last and for three days we wanted all of life; all the west coast would give. Eight of us were told to be quiet, but there was too much to know to keep the decibel level digestible, there was too much wine in our blood. The day hikes turned into long table dinners which turned into late night beach Bon fires and though exhausted we pushed out eye lids open for longer then they are meant to be and for a few short days we were all in love.

St Andrew’s Scotland

st. andrews scotland map collection

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St Andrews Scotland

We were speaking quietly of adventure as the sun and the Scots had dropped one after the other into a traveling slumber around us; Shannon and I were too excited to sleep. The hills turned from green to grey as the light faded and now only the street lights painted the views out the window of the double decker bus. We gathered our backpacks, slowly through the wave of fatigued passengers making their way home, and covering our heads afraid of the downpour we hailed a cab to take us down passed the hidden gardens, and the historic lore of St. Andrews to Krista’s flat.

Krista and I have known each other since we were young, maybe thirteen, maybe fourteen. As life taken everyone differently from our home town she headed to Scotland for university. It was her fourth year living in St. Andrews and I knew she loved it there as much as I would come to.

Shannon and I rang the buzzer and climbed the stairs into a party, everyone was buzzing, ten international students – a fabulous girl from New York, a shy first year from Hong Kong, Krista’s Scottish roommate who later told me he was building a real life invisibility cloak. (It is a real thing) The table took up the entire room, covered in cheap wine and a puff pastry dinner. I hugged Krista like you can only hug an old friend that you’ve travelled an ocean to see, changed from my wet clothes and settled in to what felt like a global welcome to my UK trip.

 

Nassau Bahamas

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Nassau Bahamas

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It rained here in fat droplets the size of bb gun pellets this morning, just slow enough so you could feel each and every one. I walked the narrow sidewalk wet to the bone, embracing the cloud’s target practice. Perfumed in damp heat, car exhaust, and tropical flora, I felt like I made it. Working as a photographer and traveling was always the dream. This is the reason I picked up a camera years ago.

The night before filled with fried fish, and good hospitality, I sat around the rehearsal dinner table next to Jason’s aunt. She lives in Nassau six months of year, trading the great Canadian winters for precautionary hurricane shutters and sun. I asked her questions about the expat life here and learn of sky high grocery prices and contrasting gambling laws for locals and tourists influenced by local Christian moral. She tells me about the political rally that happened here last week, it ended after a charismatic speech about the issues, in a dance down the street.

My first reaction was disbelief, how can a functioning democratic government hold big street rally dance, and then in my next thought I began to questioned all of my own preconceived ideas that politics can’t be fun. We take ourselves so damn seriously in Canada, politics here is an old boys club in monkey suits and scowls. Why shouldn’t politics be fun? I’m sure voter turn out is higher in the Bahamas, and the issues are more engaging.

I walked away from the table that night to take a photo of the group from the balcony, I was working and there are times in social settings like this being behind the camera gives you a little reprieve from a situation, you can be alone in a crowded room to think, as long as you are busy.

I’m thinking about traveling, and how more than a formal school, or required training forces you to question your own thought patterns. You don’t need to necessarily change your thinking depending on what you learn, but following your thoughts to their root can bring up good questions. Being away from norms you’ve grown accustomed to gives you permission to wander around new ideas outside what you’ve been told.

The whole effort of the great affair to travel is always worth it, meeting new people, great conversation, new ideas.  That evening in the Bahamas after a day in strolling the streets, writing in the shade of palm trees, and then imagining dancing politicians was just perfect.

Joshua Tree

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Joshua Tree National Park

The word hobo originated quite fittingly in California in the 1890s, a traveling worker, shortening the term homeward bound and changing its meaning. I needed a shower, I’d spent all my money and Majove Desert with its prickly cacti, and life sprouted in sand begged for a return visit with a tent or a camper van. A day trip was only a tease, and as the vistas we watched go from immense to invisible, my travels came to an end. I was homeward bound in the middle seat of a ride I’d hitched out of vegas. A work conference turned into traveling bizarre and there I was personifying definitions.

 

Puget Sound

Puget Sound Map

Day 002/100

Puget Sound.

The ferries were delayed due to the characteristic winter weather that misted and blew the ocean between Victoria and Vancouver impassable. I sat in my car, parked, the wind shield wipers thrashing, the radio playing with a touch of static humming through the speakers; annoying, but tolerable enough to ignore. It was the first time since I moved to the island ferries were dictating a probable cancellation policy to my plans; I was surprisingly calm. Island time is a very real phenomena here, and since I left Toronto for the coast I’ve inadvertently adapted. I wasn’t going to make it to Seattle that morning, it would take an extra hour to arrive, but it isn’t the being late that is location specific. The difference on the island is how we respond being late, and the inevitability that we may be stuck floating just off the Canadian coast in the pacific.

The 100 Days Project

100 day project - by taylor roades

 

Today marks the start of #the100dayproject . The brain child of @elleluna and a collaboration with one of my favourite online magazines The Great Discontent. 

It is a project for creatives committing to make and share for 100 days, the focus on the process over the final product. Show up, whether it is good or bad. I thought it would be the opportunity and motivation I needed to resurrect my map collection from the depths of my travel drawer and flex my writing brain power. 

My #100daysofmappedescapades will be a short travelog written to match a few of my favourite crumpled maps. 

I’ll be sharing on instagram sporadically as well as here for each of the 100 days.

luna-let-yourself-go

New York City

NYC cycling map NYC cycling Map NYC-cycling-map-5

 

Summer had come to sit on New York’s face said Tom Robbins. I was pink, the sun had retired for the night but her memory was painted lightly on my skin, reminding my freckles to come out to play, to which they replied ‘I’m exhausted’. Blisters occupied the sweaty space between my toes and flats. The wrong choice of footwear for a long day of pavement and tourist attractions, that was now, already, a small part of the past. That evening, ignoring the signs posted on the hostel walls like an over cautious teacher, Sam and I crawled out as gracefully as possible through a window opening made perfectly for the size of two delinquent Canadians. We needed to pay tribute to a day of feet torturing tourism and friendship.

We sat on the the fire escape and dangled our feet over the human concentrate of Manhattan. A brown bag between us clinked holding two bottles of wine next to a couple burritos. I lit a cigarette, and blew into the air an imagined sophistication. This was the New York we’d been sold on television, and I’d be damned if while I was here I didn’t somewhat embody the movie archetypes.

Four stories below strangers were heading home, and above the hustle we smile silently to one another. We are both unsure of what the next few days would hold, but there was a quiet excitement sipping wine and letting the wind as a relief to the humidity dance around us.

Sam can pick a silence just as well as she picks conversations, thoughtful and effortlessly. The combination which I’ve admired since we became friends in the summer of 2011 is one of the things I miss most about not sharing the cities we’ve lived and travelled together now.

Two days from now she’ll light up the conversation and find her way into a short lived friendship with the bouncer at a club. With a smile that can only come from the friendly Canadian suburbs she’ll ask him where the Biggie Smalls mural is in Brooklyn. To which he will stare at us and reply, “What’chya know about Biggie Smalls.” There will be not a hint of humour in his voice, he’ll cross his giant arms across his chest and look at Sam quizzically. The length of silence is awkwardly growing and not orchestrated by us, we are utterly speechless and slightly terrified. But just as suddenly as the question came about, the quiet is broken with a laugh as big as the bouncer himself. He laughs and laughs at us, and then finds us a round of drinks that we don’t need. Playfully teasing, we learn a little bit more about New York that night, and never end up seeing the mural.

Long before we take on big city night life though, and soon after we perched ourselves like high park pigeons above New York we met Paulo. He was our Italian server at a patio restaurant a few blocks north of Time’s Square. A new immigrant he was positive and outgoing as the service industry in North America intends servers to be. I was trying to manifest the hip, nonchalance, romantic hustle of New York on that fire escape, but Paulo was the true New Yorker. He was the poster child of the American Dream. He was sending part of his earnings back to Italy, and was almost ready to bring his brother to the land of opportunity. Working two jobs, as many as 60 hours a week, and he had fifty stars of hope in his eyes. He had guzzled the red white and blue cool-aid  and smiled back at us with a milk moustache of patriotism. He was the underdog story we all love and that hollywood reinforces.

We spent five days tramping around New York, and close to twenty four hours sleeping uncomfortably on a bus to get there and back, while the lives of the people we met, and enjoyed so briefly roll on. Are they still chasing the dream, playfully terrorizing the tourists? There are few countries that can’t look to New York and see their reflection in one pocket or another. Its mystery I think comes from the combination of an elusive diversity in a shared space. I was and I think  Sam was also sucked right into that enigma.

The evening on the fire escape was just the beginning. We didn’t know what was in New York’s bag, and it was easy together, like with any good travel partner to bask in the uncertainty, and listen to the locals.

[Memories, adapted from my journal and further romanticized in my head from New York, June 2013]

[NYC cycling map spray painted, and screen printed by unknown street artist]

“A map says to you.
Read me carefully, follow me closely, doubt me not…
I am the earth in the palm of your hand.”
― Beryl Markham

Tom Taylor 10 Miler, Newmarket Canada

terra-incognita-maps-2

 

 

I arrived on my own, ready to run.

The end of the night clung to the crispy morning dew, as the sun fought through the clouds. The grass was littered with colour, wind breakers of every imaginable shade stretched and inside the bright exterior people tried to keep warm. Everyone was smiling with pre race anticipation, knowing soon enough the smiles would disappear to long aching muscles.

Runners.

They aren’t a normal bunch.

I make my way to the start line ahead of two hundred or so others, I hide behind my new shoes and hope in orange I stand out enough to fit in.

I don’t know if I can dig deep enough to complete ten miles of non-stop exertion. I don’t have pen marks on my arm reminding me how quickly I need to complete each kilometre. I don’t have a belt of evenly placed water bottles around my waist. I haven’t even stretched.

The space around me fills with more people and I hang back conspicuously enough, the start gun blows but no one is listening, each person has headphones in, and there is mass human movement, the rainbow starts forward and we run.

The first mile passes me before the pack thins and I am filled with hope that I might not finish last. During the second mile  the lactic acid hits my system. I hit a wall, I’m no longer cold but I’m not warm either. I’m in-between and dreading the next eight miles.

Between mile marker two, and the final sprint to the finish there was not a moment of the race I actually enjoyed. Nothing about running is fun, not the pounding of feet into pavement, not even the vaguely enthusiastic cheers of the course markers. None of it.

With finish line behind you and the medal is placed around your neck, when you know you are redder than a beet and twice as tough, when all you can do is catch your breath, but your mom sticks your own camera in your face the minute after you passed the finish line, you still feel on the verge of horrible.

I think the only satisfaction of a long run comes from the choice you made at mile seven to keep going when you’re sure you have a hernia, and a mountain hell disguised as a grassy hill stands in front of you with such looming intensity you want to cry. The only satisfaction for me came from the choice I made to finish before I began.

 

Finished 71/186 females

10 miles in a whooping 1 hour 39 minutes.

[Re-written from Oct 2013 – I haven’t ran a race since.]