I’m sure the question I will get asked all the time when I get home will be “How has the army changed you?” and to be honest I don’t know if it really has changed me all that much yet. Yes, obviously my hair is much shorter and I have put on a bit of muscle. I’m definitely fitter than I was when I arrived here. I’ve also picked up some small amount of the Finnish language, though it still isn’t enough to start speaking proper sentences yet.
However, there is something that I think the army has changed in me or maybe it’s more accurate to say that the army has heightened it: my desire for adventure. You see, one of the ways that I keep my morale up here is to plan all of the things I’m going to do once I get home. In my last post I talked about how I will be back for Christmas and so that leaves me with a nine month gap until I start university. Obviously I will spend a good chunk of that time sat in my front room playing PS4, watching Netflix and eating cheap pizza which honestly sounds like bliss to me right now. That said, I’ve been worrying that those things will end up consuming my life and that all of the progress I have made with myself physically and mentally over my time here will just be sucked into an LCD screen and buried under used plates that I’m too lazy to put in the dishwasher.
So what I have been doing, for quite a while now, is writing a list on my phone with the catchy title “Things to do when I get home”. You’ll never guess what I have been filling said list with. Despite, however, the uninspired title the list has ended up becoming a much more diverse and exciting one than I pictured. Sure there are things on there like “House of Cards”, “Pokémon GO” and “Halo Reach Sleepover” but it is the things at the bottom of the list that I have added over the last couple of weeks that have sparked my imagination.
Last weekend I saw a clip from an episode of Bear Grylls pop up on Facebook where he was in France with the ex-NFL player Marshawn Lynch. I’ve watched loads of Bear Grylls before, I still remember getting the DVD boxsets out of the school library all throughout year 8 and spending all evening watching them. Back then the shows were a good form of escapism, especially because skinny little 13 year old me couldn’t possibly travel out to the Sahara and spend a week living of beetles and sleeping inside gutted camels. The thing that I realised that weekend though, was that I am now old enough, fit enough, independent enough and hopefully well prepared enough to have those kind of adventures myself.
Clearly, I am not the next Bear Grylls, nor do I want to be. I am not Special Forces, I’ll (probably) never climb Everest, and I don’t fancy having to drink my own pee just to stay alive. I could go on with many more reasons. However, watching the clip of Bear did make me realise that when I get home I will have reached a point in my life where I can just pack a bag full of food, camping gear, and clothes, walk out of my front door and hope on a train to wherever I want and have a good old Bilbo Baggins style adventure. I can leave the metaphorical Shire of Harrow on my own quest.
So that is what I am planning on doing. I’ve done a bit of Googling and figured Scotland is my best bet since wild camping is illegal in England and Wales apparently. The Red Bull website pointed me in the direction of a few good trails and now I have my sights set on the West Highlands Way, a 150km route from Glasgow to Fort William at the foot of Ben Nevis (I may as well climb that too while I am at it). Another website handily broke the route up into 8 chunks to be done over 8 days which makes for a pretty good first adventure I think.
So this I think will be my main project initially when I get back. I’ll scrape the money together for all of the gear and food and train tickets and then be off soon after. If it’s a success I may even do another longer route afterwards (I flicked past a 300km route which sounds entertaining to say the least). That said, I do also have a whole host of other things to get into when I get back like trying my hand at a half or full marathon, doing some long distance kayaking, mountain biking on the Isle of Skye, a spot of real world rock climbing, on top of the dozens of other items on my list. I just need to find someone to share these adventures with.
Have I changed? I don’t think so really. I think I have, however, developed an itch. I don’t want my time in the army to be the mountain peak of my life, I want it to be the first leg of the journey.