A Day in the Wandering Life

[The events of this entry took place on 10/15]

Today, I wrote a guest article for Copy for Bylines, discussing how I get by through freelancing work during my European voyages. The article was starting to get a bit long, so I decided to cut one section (“A Day in the Wandering Life”) out completely. Here’s that omitted content:

Zoom in on the writer as his eyes slowly open, greeted by the uncomfortable brightness of the morning. It takes a moment to remember that these light-flooded windows don’t look out on familiar territory, but instead gaze over mist-glazed Scottish mountains.

Scottish Mountains of Fort William

It’s the fourth day in this hostel, which means the decrepit mattress is taking its toll and the hostel staff now know him by name. Anya, the Dubliner running reception, greets him with a smile, asking if he’s going to have breakfast. “Yeah,” he says. “And one more night.” She repeats his request skeptically. “Really, this time,” says the writer. He’s booked his train for the morning. It really will be his last night in Fort William. With breakfast and the stay, the total comes to £18 (roughly $28)—a touch pricey, but the WiFi is stable and there’s work to be done before the journey continues.

The German girl—whose name he has yet to catch—greets him with a smile as he enters the kitchen and collects a selection from the continental spread. He connects to the wireless and works his way through emails, newsletter content, the guest post due in just a few hours, and the daily travel log he’s committed to for his own blog. Eager to collect more travel experiences, he takes a break by wandering down the pedestrianized streets of this small Scottish city, detouring into a free museum on highland history and then into a cafe that brags about free wireless.

Museum of the Highlands at Fort William

He’ll have to make $70 today if he wants to cover the morning train ride (the Jacobite train to Malaig—the very line and trains used for the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter films). He’ll need to write six more pages of content to meet that financial goal, and he’ll have to find time to book his next hostel (this time on the Isle of Skye), pack up his bags, buy the train ticket, and breathe. Much of the day will be swarmed with the heightened stress: the stakes are higher when the game is played on the move.

However, that intense anxiety will be punctuated by moments looking over the tumbling greens, grays, and auburns of the autumn-touched Scottish mountains—of looking out over the “everyday” buildings that have been here since before the American west was won—of listening to the rambling of a Scottish stranger who, with thick-tongued accent, tells stories from his highland childhood.

This wandering life can be lonely and harsh. The writer’s spine is taut with stress and stiff beds. It’s awesome in the most traditional sense; the unconquered road is a place where breathless fear collides with overpowering beauty. Sometimes it feels like it will swallow you whole. Sometimes you want to let it—just to see where it might spit you out.