Footloose Scot

Footloose Scot: Travels In A Time Of Change


On January 25, 1958 I stepped off a Channel ferry in Calais, France heading for a youth hostel in Rosendaël close to Dunkirk, twenty-four miles distant. I was twenty. My first solo travel adventure was beginning and I was partly excited, partly nervous. I had spent a month preparing for the trip. I had an International Youth Hostel card and a new British passport with a message inside the front cover to “all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance.” The day was bitterly cold and scudding snow clouds blew in from the North Sea. Surprisingly, the conditions proved useful, since the only ride I got was with a woman who wanted me as ballast in her car on the icy roads. No one else was stopping.

Footloose Scot travel route through Europe

The hostel guardian in Rosendaël seemed surprised to have a visitor as he checked me in and pointed to the men’s dormitory. The temperature was below freezing and the hostel empty. In the men’s dormitory I pulled apart two mattresses that had been stacked on one of the beds and found a single dried black turd lying between the two. I was too cold to complain or even be disgusted. Putting on all my clothes, grabbing a few blankets and a clean mattress, I climbed into my sleeping bag for my first night in a foreign youth hostel.

How did I, a young man of privileged upbringing, get to this place? Raised on a sheep farm in the south of Scotland and educated at a boys’ boarding school in Edinburgh called Fettes College, my life to the age of eighteen was comfortable and secure.


Footloose Scot

Travels In A Time Of Change