Seaful Ambassador Nick Ray's Scotland 365
We are absolutely over the moon to share news of our ambassador, Nick Ray’s, latest expedition. Nick is a kayaker, adventurer, lover of the outdoors and nature, and mental health advocate, and embodies who we are as a charity. We are really looking forward to following Nick’s expedition, and meeting up with him along the way (with snacks!) We asked Nick to tell us more about his upcoming trip, Scotland 365.
I’m not sure I fully appreciate what lies ahead of me after the 28th August. In the early morning on that day, probably not long after high tide, I’ll pack my new sea kayak in readiness for the biggest adventurous challenge I have yet set myself. After making my fondest farewells to my wife Karen, I’ll paddle out of Tobermory Bay with only one definite plan. To return exactly twelve months later, on the 28th August 2023. Where I go and what I end up doing, will largely be determined by the weather. Quite literally, it’ll depend on the forecast on the day I depart, whether I turn left out of Tobermory Bay, or right. Simply, my aspiration for this adventure is slow and meaningful travel. I want to explore Scotland’s incredible coastline at a pace determined by Nature, not a planned schedule where daily mileages are important to observe. All my previous kayaking and sailing adventures have required I maintain a rapid momentum, to ensure I achieve a timely overall goal. I’m tired of paddling hard all the time and I’m particularly weary of speeding by landscapes which deserve far more attention than the cursory glances I give them when I kayak past.
On the 28th August I turn fifty nine years old. I’ve decided to spend the year before I turn sixty celebrating my life so far, in the best way I know how – by fully immersing myself for a whole year, in the wild landscapes and seascapes of Scotland’s rugged coastline. It’s apposite too this endeavour will contain all the elements of a fine adventure, because it’s living adventurously which helps me feel most alive.
You see, this journey is about life, the celebration of it, and the living of it fully. I live with treatment resistant depression which has been severe enough for me to make one close attempt to complete my suicide, and on numerous other occasions, cause me to seriously consider further attempts. I have been a psychiatric in-patient for an accumulated period of nearly two years of my life. I long to live my life without the constant barrage of thoughts of self-loathing, which permeate my consciousness at any moment, no matter what I may be doing. However, I realise this illness is with me for the long term, and I have a choice whether to exist with it, or live with it. If choose to exist, I will accede to the demands the illness places on me and limit the possibilities I have yet to experience. On the other hand, if I choose to live with my illness, I’m determining the terms the relationship my depression and I will endure.
I accept there may be times when I’ll be incapacitated by the severity of my illness, when an episode of depression descends on me and darkens my world around me. In accepting this may occur without warning, I’m receptive of the professional support I require during these difficult times. As I descend into my blackness, I have to trust the adage; “This will pass” is true, despite this seeming desperately impossible to fathom at the time. By choosing to live with the spectre of this occurring, I’m making a choice to fully live during my periods of healthy stability. I’m enjoying a sustained period of stability at the moment and to capitalise on this, I’ve chosen to make the most of the opportunities I have and hence my ‘Scotland 365’ expedition.
It’s an honour to write about this for the Seaful blog, because the charity embodies everything I value about my relationship with wildness, in particular the ocean. Quite simply, a meaningful connection to the sea stills my often overly self-critical mind, and in a watery fashion, grounds me so I value the importance of the immediate moment. In my kayak, out on the sea, I’m rarely overwhelmed by my painful thinking. Instead, I find myself absorbed in the fecund potential life has to offer me. This is because I mirror what Nature is emulating. I find myself slowing down, breathing more deeply, feeling sensations more acutely, seeing vibrancy more keenly, and experiencing a temperance of my emotions. My kayaking on the sea offers me so much more than the physical act of paddling from one place to another. It becomes a liminal experience where I’m continually offered moments of insight and awareness about me as a person, about my relationship with others, about my place in the world, about my connection with wildness, and all which is important in my life.
I choose to incorporate adventure into my relationship with oceanic wildness because through placing myself beyond the edges of my comfort zones, I attain clarity of self-awareness and thinking. Through adventure and a meaningful relationship with the wild space I’m journeying through, alongside the intensity of wild life around, I discover something new every time. Sometimes I find it difficult to quantify what these new awarenesses may be, because they occur deep within, where there is no spoken language.
I know from my experiences, life lived immersed in wildness, not matter how briefly, can be hugely beneficial to our overall wellbeing. It is my life goal to impart this wisdom, in the hope I inspire others to seek out their own opportunities for wildness in their lives. It helps me at a deeply personal level to know what I share in this regard is valued and appreciated. This is why I will carry Seaful with me throughout my long journey. Knowing I belong to an entity which espouses all I value will help me when I might find myself a little lost, or struggling for direction. My connection to Seaful will be a reminder of the fundamental lesson I learn from Nature. All life, every drop of water, every atom of air, and every speck of earthy mineral on this planet is connected. If I lose sight of the value of these connections, I lose my way.
By journeying slowly and with purpose in my sea kayak around Scotland’s coastline for the next year, I will experience the fullness of life in all its guises. The adventure is not knowing what the year holds or where I’ll explore. The underlying constant though, will be Nature, and my place alongside her.
I look forward to recounting my story when I return.
You can read more about Nick and his expedition on his website and social media. We are deeply grateful that Nick has chosen Seaful, alongside the amazing Odyssey charity, to fundraise for along the way.