Splendid isolation

I’m bundled up in my sleeping bag, listening to the river tumbling along its rocky bed. The sound of running water has become my nightly lullaby on this trip – it shushes, tinkles, burbles and roars. Beneath its music, I occasionally catch another sound so like the faint murmur of voices that it makes me understand why brooks are said to babble.


It’s been a long day – eleven hours of walking – and, despite wall-to-wall sunshine, the hardest yet. We’ve toiled across miles of pathless territory, first traversing the slopes of lofty Beinn Dronaig and later, (after some respite along a clear, if soulless, forestry track) picking our way through disorientating boulder fields. Lucky I married a former British Orienteering champion who, with map and compass in hand, took it all in his stride.


We stopped to cook dinner in a sheltered spot among the boulders while the last of the sun lingered, realising that by the time we made our descent to the river where we planned to camp it would be getting dark. We were starving, as usual, so Brownie points to me for not throwing a huge tantrum when Jeff KNOCKED THE PAN OFF THE STOVE, and our Mexican chilli ended up on the ground (Morris quickly moving in to hoover up).

You’d have done the same…

We salvaged what we could, and after we’d negotiated the horrible stony descent and pitched the tent in fading light, compensated for the calorie deficit with huge mugs of hot chocolate.


As I lie on my now-mended sleeping mat, enjoying the feeling of being horizontal – and straining my ears to make out those watery voices – I reflect on how stripped back and simple (simple, not easy) life is on the trail. Our entire focus each day is to get from A to B successfully, to be fed and watered and to get shelter and rest. We have no connection – virtual or actual – with the outside world and therefore no distraction. It’s remarkably liberating – and, I reckon, good for your mental health; like having a holiday from your usual self. The craving for news, the fomo, that habitual drive to share everything on social media – it all fades into the background when the big issues of the day concern dry socks, hot drinks and whether you’ve got any Pepperami left. Luckily for Jeff, I have…

Author: Sam Murphy

Journalist, author, running coach and educator

12 thoughts on “Splendid isolation”

  1. Sorry Sam but I did chuckle when I read that Jeff knocked the chilli pan off the stove, how you didn’t blow a gasket I do not know lol, loving it 👍

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I hadn’t heard that one before, about Jeff and the pan I mean. At least Morris looks content and well-fed!
    Very interested in the definition of ‘fomo’, a good word for that particular sort of angst.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think that might be the first time in history the phrase “lucky I married a former British Orienteering champion” has been used. It’s really interesting that food, shelter and warmth are all that’s really important to you, very primal.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Food, shelter and warmth are really all any of us need and being so close to nature every day must be a very spiritual experience. Martin & I are off to New Zealand for 6 weeks so hopefully we will experience a little of what you are going through. Happy travels. xx


    1. That’s so true Lyn – you realise how little you really need. (Though it doesn’t stop you getting very excited about a flat white when you reach civilisation!) Have a great trip yourselves! xx


  5. I eagerly await a number appearing in my Feedly travel section to advise me that you (or Erica!) have posted. Your writing is entertaining and descriptive, conjuring up a sense of freedom and peacefulness – welcome in a current time of full on busy-ness! I wish you three very well and really value your posts, Sam. All the best. X


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