Finding Inspiration; By Chance & Through Bagpipes

Between Paris, New York City, and now London (not including Christmas at home, obviously), I have been abroad around 170 days.

That’s approximately:

  • 4,080 hours
  • 244,800 minutes
  • 14,688,000 seconds

Those 15 million seconds have been weighing on me recently.

Not to say I haven’t been having fun or experiencing amazing things here in London. Or, that I don’t have great trips on the horizon for this spring (hint: Eastern Europe & the Mediterranean…!)

What I mean is that those 170 days have exhausted me, like a child on a roller coaster of emotions at the greatest birthday party they have ever had. There have been tears, laughter, sadness, joy, boredom, and (of course) frustration.

Long story only kind of short – I had lost my inspiration.

My inspiration to travel, to seek out new food, to find cool events, to NOT Netflix and sleep away all my free days – poof! Gone.

I needed to feel inspired again. Especially if I wanted to not only make it to the end of the semester, but to truly enjoy every moment of it as I know I should.

As with most moments of inspiration desperately needed, it came upon me completely unawares in my pajamas in the late hours of the night, scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed.

Now, in between celebrity gossip, Buzzfeed videos, and friends’ status updates – I actually do get hard news.

(Al Jazeera, BBC, BBC World Service, Huffington Post, NYTimes are all news outlets that I have either liked online or that come up so frequently on my wall I feel as though I have subscribed to them…)

An article from The Telegraph caught my eye. The article photo was of a guy in a kilt, holding bagpipes, with a sunny mountain range rising up out of the background.

“Meet the man who is bagpiping his way around the world”

Now if that isn’t inspiring I don’t know what is!…

Turns out, the sunny mountain range is in Rwanda and the guy’s name is Ross O’Connell Jennings, or as his Facebook page declares him, The First Piper. He has played his bagpipes in approximately 35 countries (you know, the complexities of international statehood…) and he plans to pipe in all 190-ish. That’s right – all the countries he can get to.

I had to know more – so I read the Telegraph article, and then liked his page – which led me to an interview he did with the BBC World Service.

At this point I was thinking to myself:

Maya you are practically giddy, following along on this random guy’s piping adventure!

What I’m telling myself now:

Not giddy, Maya; inspired.

I immediately wanted to share this experience, this re-found feeling with Hollins. Instinctively, I knew that the Hollins community would understand, but I paused just long enough to consider how – how would I share this inspiration?

The idea for this post formed all at once and I knew I had to try and make it happen.

I went to The First Piper page and clicked through to send Ross a message.

Usual stuff: My name is Maya, university student here in London, blogging for Hollins, answer some questions maybe?…. 

Luckily for me – Ross was kind enough to respond.

So, here it is – an informal Q&A with The First Piper to inspire you, in case just like me, you need it.

Maya (Trying to sound normal & failing):

What is your favorite way to travel (plane, train, bus, hitchhiking with bagpipes in tow – ha!)?

Ross (Actually normal):

“Favourite way to travel has to be plane. I grew up abroad (mainly in China) and I spent my childhood on planes so when I fly I get SO EXCITED and feel a bit like a child. Sorry if that sounds weird but I get schoolboy excited whenever I sit on a plane. I also like the idea of not knowing who I’m sitting next to…(unfortunately I’m one of those annoying people who like speaking to other people whilst in transit). Hitchiking is also pretty fun – particularly in a kilt!”


When did the idea for this epic journey begin?


“The idea kicked off last year at the end of January. I went to the Adventure Travel Show… and I was like I HAVE TO QUIT MY JOB – so I did and I did this. I’ve always taken my pipes with me when I travelled but never thought to put it into a mission like this. So, I’m over a year into it and I’m loving life. Everyone I meet is so amazing and the stories are phenomenal.”


Has any part of this experience surprised you?


“As for being surprised – I was pretty surprised that giraffes liked the bagpipes! I was piping in Nairobi at “Giraffe Manor” and all the giraffes started walking towards me in unison.

This is also going to sound massively cheesy so brace yourself….I think I’m also surprised (although more heart-warmed and humbled) by how well I’ve been received everywhere I go. It reminds me that most people out there are good and kind hearted. There’s such horrid news constantly being reported that it’s easy to think the world is a vicious scary place (and although some places can be) I’ve learnt that there’s a serious amount of love out there as well… Inshallah! -Ross”

Inspired yet? I hope so!

As for me and keeping my inspiration? I’m going to delight in sharing with you each post (as I promised) a virtual postcard from my travels. And I think I will research some on the countries I will visit this semester, to keep that fire for travel and new cultures burning as bright as I can.

For this week’s postcard, I chose a view that I captured from the parapet of a castle in the Loire Valley of France. A road stretched before me then, just as my future does now. I cannot wait to see what traveling down it will bring me!


October, 2014 Loire Valley, France