Everybody has been jet setting this summer. People have visited Thailand, Morocco, India and all in the pursuit of globe-trotting goodness. I, on the other hand, did not leave the island. I planned for last summer to be a world of work so that I can save up to fund my student life.
It was in one of the student-cliché parties that my friend proposed ‘The Quest’ (so named because of the coolness factor more than anything)... Lands' End to John O'Groats.
I agreed to go along and then completely forgot about it (this came after reading Danny Wallace’s book ‘Yes Man’, where I think I would’ve said yes to anything I was in such a good mood). But then it was something that I always wanted to do, something to tick off the list.
Months later I get calls and emails from him telling me that it was on. I must admit that I did get a bit queasy at the thought, initially at least. But then I thought: what have I got to lose? Two weeks of my life which I was going to spend vegging in front of the TV with toast crumbs caked to my face anyway. Why not be crumby on the road? So I decided to join him for no other reason than to go along for the ride and take pictures from one of the UK to the other.
One element of ‘The Quest’ has to be a sense of direction. Whether this is morally or physically the place you choose to go to, it has to be present. Going from Lands' End to John O’Groats was always something that my friend was doing as part of his research project. I basically followed him around taking photographs and talking to random people who stared at me long enough. It took us two weeks and approximately 2,500 miles in a little red L reg Nissan Micra.
We ended up doing a great big circuit of Britain. OK, here is the (indirect) route we took: Liverpool, Bath, Lands' End, St Ives, Brighton, Cambridge, Pickering, Edinburgh, Inverness, John O’Groats, Thurso, Isle of Skye, Kendal, Liverpool. On paper I thought it was a tall order. A combination of hotels, hostels and camping would see us go across the country in two weeks.
I enjoyed the constant travel. To many the idea of being on the road all the time is exhausting just to think about. But moving from place to place agrees with me. I put it down to when we were all cavemen and the whole nomadic following the herd of mammoths around. All I needed was a spear and an animal hide and I think I could have pulled it off.
One place that stuck out in particular along the way was St Ives. What people say about the light really is true. There must be something in the quality of the sand and the water which reflects the light differently. At sunset I thought I was in a watercolour painting. The clouds were a vibrant pallet of pinks and purples. It was a strange feeling.
But then the wind started up. We were camped up on the hillside next to the town and the wind really did put my little tent to the test. This was the one part (right at the beginning, I might add) where I thought: maybe this trip is going to be uncomfortable. And, yes, at some points, it was. Mainly the camping parts! The achievement of going around the country more than made up for those points and the places such as Brighton and Edinburgh were worth it. These two places in particular ooze heritage and history.
Arriving back in Liverpool held a mixture of feelings. My own bed was probably the most amazing feeling after so many floors and lumpy mattresses. But then I missed the changes. They had become routine to me. Where’s the next place? Who’s the next person?
I have been bitten by the travel bug. Next stop: Europe.
By Sam Fleet
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