Finding My Inner Unicorn in Scotland

Finding My Inner Unicorn in Scotland

Cymone Van Marter

Cymone is a high school senior at Liberty Bell Jr/Sr High School in Winthrop, Washington.

All photos have been provided by Cymone. Read her story below!

The West Highland Way in Scotland is 95.69 miles – about 191,380 steps. At the age of fifteen I walked each and every one of those steps in six days. I trekked across ragged cobblestones, through muddy forests, over high mountains, and around endless miles of open farmland.

To this day, I consider it one of the most life-changing and miserable experiences of my life. At the time, the hardships I faced were fundamental in my personal growth.

I was born with twisted feet. While not a disability, physical activity such as walking for more than 20 minutes can be painful.

Trekking through Scotland was excruciating. Travel time from Seattle to Scotland was approximately 24 hours. Despite jetlag, the first day of trekking was easy, a meager 12 relatively flat miles. The second day was 15 miles, the third 20 miles of clambering boulders and navigating manure-strewn fields.

On the fourth day my feet had walked enough. Tired, perpetually sore, and developing nasty blisters across each heel, I contemplated giving up.

We were 6 miles from that night’s hotel; the music pumping into my ears was no longer distracting me from the insistent, overwhelming pain on the bottom of my feet, which was spreading to the back of my knees and shooting up into my lower back. I had never been in so much pain in my life, and the throbbing seemed to increase tenfold with each step; it was all I could focus on.

When I reached my breaking point, we stopped at a small creek cascading down a field speckled with ewes. I sobbed, in so much pain that I couldn’t think. I told my parents that I could not go on, and they gave me a choice. Either I could tough it out, walk the six miles to the hotel, and continue the trek as planned, or I could walk 4 miles to the next landmark, take a shuttle to Fort William (our final destination) and wait for them.


They encouraged me that, either way, I would not be a failure. Taking the bus was not failing, it was a different sort of success. It was traveling courageously through a foreign country by myself. For me, though, there was no choice. It was tempting to take the bus, but I knew I would persevere.

I got up, stuffed my aching feet back into my shoes, dried my tears, and started walking. By the time we reached the hotel I was running, a mile ahead of my parents.

The next day, I rose and walked 18 miles of cobblestone roads, long abused by weather, and unmaintained. The uneven surface hammered the bottoms of our feet, ankles, and shins. It was tough, yet it was nothing compared to what I had already accomplished; I’d pushed past my breaking point, hit rock bottom, and from there it was only forward.

The final day was a simple 15 miles of slightly more forgiving terrain, gorgeous views of rolling green hills, and glorious weather. I was unstoppable.

At fifteen years old, I walked 95.69 miles, 191,380 steps, through forests, grasslands, over boulders and across uneven cobblestones. Pushing through physical agony, pride blossomed within me. In six days I had matured. Putting one foot in front of the other, I learned to push through severe pain, which I have applied to many more recent challenges.

Last year, I persevered through injuries during one of the most intense soccer seasons I have ever known. Scotland taught me that. This spring I was determined to stay in shape when Coronavirus plagued the world, and I grew not only in strength but also in confidence.

Scotland gave me the skillset to do that. Trekking across that vast countryside helped me grow into a powerful young woman, and gave me the tools to overcome challenges again and again.

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