The Bothy Book Blog, Ian Gray – Journey Rewards Overshadow Hardships

Posted on 24 April 2023

The Bothy Book Blog

‘A bothy is a place of safety in a storm, a place to take shelter and recuperate in the wildest of landscapes. Traditionally open to all, they are a place you may meet others who are also on a journey, similar but perhaps different to yours. A place where you can share in the warmth of a fire, a song or a tale. But you may also find solitude there; space to contemplate where you’ve been and where you’re headed. In each bothy there is usually a book where people can sign their name, tell their story and share their voice. It may include reflections, poems, observations or pictures inspired by their time at or on their way to the bothy.’
The Bothy Book Blog is our way of sharing the stories and perspectives of a diverse cohort of individuals across sectors relevant to Venture Trust’s work and policy areas of interest. We invite voices from across the public, private and third sector to spend some time in the virtual Bothy and share their thoughts and ideas across the issues of community justice, employability and wellbeing.
This instalment of the blog is penned by one of our Development Trainers – the members of our team by the side of our participants as they face the challenges that the wilder places of Scotland present. 

A qualified expert and venerated member of our field team with over 13 years of experience in outdoors 

personal development, Ian Gray reflects on Venture Trust journeys…

“Coffee will get you through times of no hope, but hope will not get you through times of no coffee!” – One of life’s wisdoms shared around the fire somewhere in the wilds of Scotland, probably a damp one.

Rewind to before I worked for Venture Trust and doing personal development courses on expeditions. My driving instructor’s lasting wisdom stuck, “I can teach you but after you pass then you learn how to drive”.

I admit I don’t have their answers, but I have learnt to listen and ask good questions. Everyone is their own life’s expert and by investing in themselves they achieve a new perspective, discover strengths and go home confident and motivated to overcome barriers and take things from their time in the wilderness and transfer experiences to help their lives.

I paraphrase an inspiring man who reached millions as an outdoor educator, Mors Kochanski; The wilderness is neutral, it is neither for nor against me. My comfort depends on what I can do for myself and how much I know about using the resources around me. Life is like that too.

Life’s most powerful lessons need little instruction – get people in the right place and nature provides. We are often captives in cages of our own design. We need to be prepared to fail and accept never reaching perfection. We need to show vulnerability and step out of our comfort zone if we’re ever to grow. Learning to adapt and explore plan B, building a can-do attitude, breaking down self-limiting habits and building a new narrative through nurturing self-esteem, achieving small successes and fostering aspirations are all important. They’re all things we make space for and encourage through our journeys. Both in the outdoors and on participants’ longer journey with us across the span of months.

Let me tell you a story…

On an unspoilt island, I’m tying up hammocks amongst the Scots pines having waded through chest high moss and heather. The group are cooking in the shelter of a battered tarp. I open my waterproof and wring out my saturated mid-layer, it was one heck of a storm.

Smiling faces meet me, appreciation for the tarp and hot drinks and a few nervous smiles acknowledging the hilarity of the situation bubble up from the group. The Blitz spirit is alive and well on Loch Maree.

The group previously tested their mettle in the mountains, hiking, then wading through a river up to their thighs. The rain had lashed down on an idyllic valley with more waterfalls than I have ever seen. A lesson in patience soon came. A normally small burn became a roaring torrent. We contemplated retreat, but decided we could not afford to wait for it to drop and made the crossing. The hardships were rewarded with a breath-taking sunset whose memory overshadowed the misery.

It was an amazing journey, but it would be no more than a memory or a dusty certificate if the time away was not used to make a tangible difference in the participants’ lives back home. The work’s privilege is the relationships; sharing the inner journey with people and helping

build people up to achieve their potential, learning to empower themselves.

To answer the question, “why do we go away?”

I’ll quote Terry Pratchett – “So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colours. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”


Learn more about our life changing personal development programmes here: What we do – Venture Trust

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