My name is Ian and I come originally from the Stirling area, in the heart of Scotland – where the “wilder” landscapes of the Scottish Highlands meet the tamer Scottish Lowlands. I have a professional background in ecology and environmental management and I’ve worked in many different parts of the UK and overseas. Almost 10 years ago, I moved over to Aachen on the border of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands to be with my family. Since then, I’ve been exploring this interesting corner of Europe and learning to cope with a new language, cultural challenges and to adapt my career path to a new set of circumstances in unchartered waters.
The concept of this blog has evolved considerably since I first started writing, but broadly follows themes around landscapes, nature and people. Initially it was intended to be very much an account of day-to-day experiences of living here, close to the heart of Europe. As time has gone on, however, I’ve started to add other bits and pieces about places where I’ve spent time and visited over the years including life in my native Scotland, the Alps, Iberia and in Scandinavia.
Recently, I’ve been adding descriptions of some of the bigger trips and adventures that I’ve been involved in over the years; it’s fun for me to relive these journeys from the past, through piecing the stories back together and preventing these memories from being lost in the mists of time. The recent acquisition of a film scanner has helped to bring some of these adventures back to life, from old boxes of 35mm slides and negatives which would otherwise simply be gathering dust in a corner. It’s great to share some of these “epics” through social media, in a way that wasn’t possible before, including with many of the people who shared these, sometimes challenging (and occasionally crazy), life journeys and adventures.
I’m captivated by discovering places which are “off the beaten track”; locations with a quirky story and which have managed to preserve a sense of place and connectedness, within a rapidly changing and globalising world. These lesser-known localities are the places which still make our world fascinating to explore. Mountains, coastlines, woodlands and wild places also have a special place in my heart; particularly the “wilder” landscapes of the Scottish Highlands or the European Alps, or indeed for that matter (and given the chance), the Himalayas or little explored Pacific islands. That said, many cities here in Europe also boast fascinating, unknown corners to discover, well away from the normal tourist haunts.
I’m also fascinated by the changes occurring in places which I have visited over the years, reflecting my own concerns about sustainable development, planning and the environment – often you can see the cumulative effect of these changes simply by looking at google maps and satellite images. I believe that the worst excesses of inappropriate development need to be regulated, or we risk destroying the very life support systems provided by our natural world. In this respect, I think it’s important that people and nature should work together harmoniously and not in opposition, to solve some of the pressing global challenges we face as a species. The human species is, after all, very much a part of nature – though perhaps rather too many of us are loosing sight of that simple fact, at the cost of our long term future.
Although earlier travels and a career in environmental management took me to much more “exotic” parts of the globe, nowadays, commitments tend to somewhat limit the scope of my adventures. However, I’ve found there to be real treasures and fascinating places in Europe which are well worth exploring and most importantly, which have a story to tell that is not always, at first, apparent.
Finally I think that being “Off the Beaten Track” is as much about a state of mind as it is about being in any particular geographical location; it’s about being open to new ideas and situations and to not just accepting the predicable templates of everyday life. I believe that there are small adventures to be had around every corner and that the places which we so usually take for granted, often have an interesting story of their own to tell when we dig down a little deeper; we simply just need to get outside with an open mind and look.
Anyway, I do hope you enjoy reading about the journey…