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Book Review by Robin Widmar

“Waypoints: My Scottish Journey”

Celebrity memoirs are really not my thing. However, the blurb for Sam Heughanís ìWaypoints: My Scottish Journeyî intrigued me enough to pick up a copy and invest a little time in his story.For those who arenít familiar with the name, Heughan is the actor who portrays Scotsman Jamie Fraser in the popular television series ìOutlander.î He is also an ambitious spirit who has since added producer, entrepreneur and philanthropist to his growing resume. In this book, Heughan recounts his solo 96-mile hike along the West Highland Way, a trail that stretches from Milngavie in the northern part of Glasgow to Fort William through the scenic Scottish Highlands. Heughan thoughtfully uses the journey, with its various waypoints, to reflect on milestones and events in his own life.Heughan admits that hiking the West Highland Way in his native Scotland was a bucket-list item that he had somehow been too busy to check off the list. During a location shoot for ìOutlander,î the ìserene and savageî scenery of Glencoe in winter captivated him. ìWhenever I was away from the camera,î he says, ìI found myself drawn to just gazing out at the views Ö Iíd breathe in the crisp, still air and long to lose myself in this vast, glorious wilderness.îFaced with a break between projects, he finds himself restless. ìI crave down time, but I feel guilty if Iím not grafting and pushing myself in some capacity.î The trail beckons. Heughan recognizes an opportunity that may not come again for some time. ìIn that moment Ö it doesnít feel like a rash decision.îAfter hastily assembling the gear needed for a five-day hike, Heughan sets out from the Milngavie trailhead. He expresses excitement mixed with a touch of apprehension. Despite being an avid fitness enthusiast, he has never undertaken a challenge quite like this. Long-distance hiking while carrying a heavy backpack is not the same as running marathons or lifting weights ó especially with Scotlandís notoriously fickle late autumn weather in play.Heughanís early miles are a mix of rain, multi-colored leaves, birdsongs and the freedom of being out in nature with no pressing obligations. However, the weight of his slightly overloaded backpack soon begins to take a toll on both body and spirit. He struggles to set up his tent in rain and darkness, triumphs and is rewarded by awakening ìwith a sense of optimism and excitement.îDay 2 unfolds similar to Day 1. Heughanís progress continues to be slowed by relentless rain, aching joints and chilled bones. He reevaluates his plans to camp out every night (ìRight now, I canít help thinking that camping should be banned by law outside of the summer monthsî) and briefly reconsiders the hike itself. A night at a nearby inn restores his spirits. Lightening his pack improves the pace. Heís got this. Throughout his (mostly) solo hike in the Highlands, Heughan recalls his early years and the path to becoming an actor by weaving together present and past timelines. Far from an ìovernightî success, Heughan paid his dues as a starving artist, sharing flats with multiple roommates and scraping by on minimum wage jobs, wondering if there was a point at which he should quit chasing an elusive dream.Persistence usually pays off, though. Heughan refused to give in to self-doubt and steep odds, and his obstinate Scottish nature ultimately carried him through the bleak times into the successful life he now enjoys. He taps into that same stubbornness during his trek on the West Highland Way, and it serves him well.Although Heughan embarked on his trail adventure as a solo traveler, he is never completely alone. He occasionally meets other people on the trail and even strikes up a friendship with a fellow hiker. He encounters a variety of wildlife as well as Scotlandís famed Highland cattle. He also develops an amusing obsession with the variety and abundance of wild mushrooms he spots along the way. ìI begin to think of them as battalions of tiny soldiers Ö I donít feel threatened by the wee guys, but the sheer number becomes something I canít ignore.îìWaypointsî is a thoughtfully written combination of memoir and scenic travelogue that feels like a conversation with a good friend over a glass of whisky (and yes, that is how the Scots spell it) in a cozy pub. Sam Heughanís story may inspire readers to examine their own waypoints in life and to keep chasing their dreams.

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