I’ve always liked to travel. Right now I’m in Ullapool surrounded by hills. Last year I walked from Lands End to John O’Groats for The Big Issue Foundation. I was averaging 26 to 30 miles a day. It was a big journey and I was exhausted at the end but I saw some amazing places.
After I completed the walk in November last year I had to go for a hernia operation and ended up with a haematoma. I had the hernia before the walk but when I was doing a bit of the West Highland Way I fell down the Devil’s Staircase and broke a rib. But I’m fully recovered now and I’m so grateful to everyone who supported me.
Every time I come to a smaller place I can sell a lot more magazines and I can have conversations with people.
I’ve been homeless for quite a long time. The first time I sold the magazine was back in 1998 in Aberdeen. It was after a family breakdown. I’ve pretty much been rough sleeping for three quarters of my homeless life and I’m rough sleeping at the moment. I’d say I’m used to it now. I also do a bit of wild camping and I just travel around really. Sometimes I’ll go to a backpackers’ hostel where I just pay for the room for the night without being told what I can and can’t do like in homeless hostels.
I’m hoping to go as far as Shetland. That’s my next adventure. I’ll explain what we do, maybe change one person’s life if they’re homeless. There’s homelessness in the small places too but sometimes if people are sofa-surfing you don’t always see it. There are 56 homeless people in Portree on Skye, for example.
I’ve sold The Big Issue in cities, but you don’t get much communication or social interaction. People are so attached to their flipping mobile phones. Every time I come to a smaller place I can sell a lot more magazines and I can have conversations with people. You can even say, I’ll meet you in the pub and have a pint with you. That happens quite a lot actually because people are interested in how you are rather than thinking you’re just someone on the street selling a magazine.
Next year I’m planning on doing something a bit more randomly crazy. I’m hoping to get hold of a rowing boat and get a group of people from different walks of life to row right around Scotland then back round the Pentland Firth all the way to Ullapool. We’d have people just mixing together and it would let people know what life is all about. I’d be raising money for Made in Ullapool, the candle shop here. They work with disadvantaged people to help them make a living. And the rest of the money would go to The Big Issue Foundation.
I don’t want to be stuck in one place too long. I was selling The Big Issue in Bristol for three years, that was pretty much the longest I’ve been in one place. I like getting on a train, getting on a ferry. It’s just buses I don’t like. But I’m pretty content now. I think I’ll probably travel till the day I die.
Interview: Sarah Reid
Photo: Angela WylieUllapool, UK,