One of the small pleasures of travel is the chance to compare notes with other travelers by reading their books. I had the recent good fortune to read Richard Guise’s From the Mull to the Cape (“A gentle bike ride on the edge of the wilderness”). The author recounts his 600-mile bike ride through the Scottish Highlands, discussing history, geography, and various adventures, all with good humor amidst the bad weather.
Along the way, he develops a method for gauging whether you are really remote in your travels: it was a compact enough yardstick to be worth passing along (and to recommend the the book as a read, or his interview on BBC4’s Excess Baggage travel show / podcast last August as a listen).
Are you really somewhere remote?
Start off with ten points and then lose one each time you answer ‘Yes’ to one of the following questions:
- Could you walk to somewhere that sells hot food by the next mealtime?
- Can you see a surfaced road?
- If you can, would you bother to look both ways before crossing it?
- Does any form of public transport pass here at least once a week?
- Can you hear people talking about the same subjects that you do?
- Is the nearest real coffee less than five miles away as the coffee bean flies?
- Can you hear any non-natural sounds?
- Are you confident that the newspaper you’d buy at the nearest newsagent is today’s?
- Do you see any locals with mobile phones?
- If you collapsed from exhaustion, or indeed from extreme remotitis, would the emergency vehicle that picks you up arrive by land?
By this method, the author then scores Guise’s Scale of Remoteness:
0 Home You can drift in and out of sleep with no one noticing.
1 Round the corner Slippers are still okay.
2 Down the road You see someone you don’t know.
3 Over there You might take a different route home.
4 Away The nearest newsagent may not stock The New Statesman.
5 In the sticks Signs of remotitis become evident among the local population, e.g. staring at strangers or talking to trees.
6 Far away The nearest newsagent has not heard of The New Statesman.
7 Off the beaten track Signs of remotitis are rife among the local population.
8 Up shit creek You develop remotitis and wonder how long it will be before your bones are discovered.
9 Way out yonder You discover someone’s bones.
10 Officially remote Bones? You mean another human has actually passed this way?