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The Unexpected Road

Author: Diana Monteiro Toombs
Year: Adventure

It began with a map.

Our fingers excitedly traced the route of unfamiliar roads. Our eyes searched curiously for places we thought we’d want to explore. Full of naive romanticism, we whispered the name of our destination, as though it were a wish being sent out into the ether.

“The Highlands.”

Our map didn’t disappoint. It led us to new places, places that were even more impressive than we had imagined and which made us itch to see more. Little did we know that the sweetest adventure lay elsewhere. Somewhere unmarked, unplanned and unnamed.

The real adventure began because of an accidental series of events.

As we drove into the town on the west coast of Scotland, we were filled with anticipation to explore what it had to offer. But instead, bad luck and poor timing conspired against us and we drove around in circles, failing to find anywhere to park.

We settled for a quick drive around. Our eyes took in the sights and we looked longingly out towards the sea. The ferries seemed to honk in farewell as we sadly made our way out of town.

Without a moment to pause, check the map and make fresh plans, we were forced to go on. We followed the unknown road as it hugged the coastline and were rewarded in our apparent failure with beautiful sights. The shimmering sea, sparkling enticingly in the sun… luscious green islands coming into view as we rounded the bed… the near-empty road took us higher and higher, gifting us panoramic views to remember.

The desire to capture the moment, to take away a little piece of the scenery with us as a souvenir of our efforts, proved too strong. As we finally found somewhere to pull over, I sighed.

The beautiful scenery had escaped us. The coast and the picturesque views it had revealed to us were now guarded by a tall hedge. Fuelled by the determination not to leave empty handed, I lifted the phone as high over the hedge as possible. The photograph would serve as a record of this part of the trip. It would be a small fragment of the landscape we had witnessed that we could treasure.

Expecting to see a photograph of the sea and islands, I was instead gifted with another sight. A golden beach. One which was apparently empty.

There it was. The invitation.

Possibility and chance convened to present us with a simple offer. Did we want to seize the moment?

Eyes alight with excitement at the offer presented to us, we began to search for a way onto the secret gem we had found. It only took us a few minutes to find a small break in the hedge and a wooden gate leading down to the beach. In the heat of the summer day, the invitation was too tempting to refuse, the promise of adventure too enticing.

We rushed back to the car and gathered our things. Totally unprepared for a day at the beach, we refused to let something so practical and trivial stop us. We hurried back to the opening down to the beach, fearful it might disappear if we took too long. Giggles of excitement escaped us as we finally stepped out onto the sand.

This was not where we had planned to be. This was not on our map.

It was somewhere even better.

The happy squeals of my son became infectious. We hopped and skipped across the sand, raised our smiling faces to the sky and enjoyed the heat of summer as it warmed our cheeks. We ran wildly and without purpose or destination across the almost deserted beach, looking for a spot to claim as our own.

We danced across the golden sand, laughing. Embracing the child within, we gave ourselves permission to be as joyous and uninhibited as possible. In that secret little beach, where no-one knew us and whose name we didn’t know, we felt completely free.

We spent many hours on that secluded beach in the hot Scottish summer sunshine. We watched ferries going to and fro and spun tales of their adventures. We tried to guess the names of the islands we could see dotted throughout the sea in front of us, imagined who their inhabitants might be and created stories of the myths and legends that might have originated there.

We ate sandwiches and shielded them from the sand when the breeze blew. We made extensive tracks in the sand and decorated them with stones and shells we’d found along the beach. In the clear waters of the sea, we splashed and laughed, shrieked and giggled, and jumped the waves as they rolled onto the shore.

We wiggled our toes and buried our legs, pretending we were creatures emerging from the beach. We threw sand in the air and rolled around, then laid back and made sand angels.

We snuggled up together and sat lost in quiet thoughts and musings. We sighed with pleasure and contentment, smiling continuously as the day grew hotter and our bodies grew heavier, relaxing into the waiting sand.

We spent hours without a care in the world making treasured memories. Hours enjoying our secret discovery, revelling in the unexpected treat nature seemed to have given us.

As we walked back to the car, covered in sand from head to toe, we waved goodbye to our little beach.

This was not the day we had anticipated. It was so much more.

Our journeys still begin with a map. Only now, we know that the real adventures lie elsewhere.

Our adventures lie in those unnamed places. In those moments of accidental discovery, of a wrong turning, of unexpected opportunities offered and accepted. They take place in foreign landscapes and in our back garden. They are the memories we treasure most dearly.

Our adventures begin with a simple question, an invitation... Will you seize the moment?