Say hello to a very candid photo. This was the really cool group of ladies that basically caught me waking up on the side of a hill in my tent while I made some coffee on my camp stove. I caught up to them hiking and we had some really fun conversations. It was great to have company too.
Scotland had me at the first walk on the sidewalk from outside of Edinburgh and into the suburban park near the AirBnb I was staying. It was a breath of fresh air from the density in London and the urban feel of the southern coast of England. I was so excited to see more. There I was, walking for a couple of miles, as I do typically while traveling and I loved it. Meandering isn’t something that happened in my prior life experience very often.
I grew up needing to keep up with the dad walking pace. My mom, brother and I were either enjoying being slow or running to catch up to my dad. I think it’s really tied to the speed of our thought process. While saying that, I don’t think it’s necessarily good or bad either way. Those are labels that help us sort and identify behavior to relate judgement or behavioral change. We need labels since we use verbal and visual language to communicate. Without labels we would probably grunt and point? I like to think of it in a way that helps increase awareness to see if this is something I enjoy doing. For example, do you know you walk super fast and other people have to walk really fast to keep up? Do you enjoy walking fast and leaving other people behind or having other people expend more energy to keep up? Often times, it’s not a conscious decision and we could make it one. Random food for thought.
Anyhow, I used to have a fast walk and consciously would slow down to meet the pace of others when I realized I was Speedy Gonzales (roadrunner, anyone?). My days were usually filled with desk time or speedily walking around properties, inside or outside to review operations and meet with clients or our team. I used to buy the same shoes every 6-10 months depending on the amount of emergencies that we had going on. Some days, I would walk 7 miles before noon in business clothes. That was a rarity, but required, when a tall office tower flooded on the upper floor and soaked everything all the way down, through the elevator shafts, and into the main lobby. Good fun on those days for sure. Wasn’t I supposed to be writing about Scotland? Yeah, right…
Along this gentle walk towards the Edinburgh city center, which was about 7 miles, I came across what appeared to be locals walking or more specifically letting their daughter ride her little bicycle along with them as they aimed towards downtown as well. They seemed like average folks out for a stroll in the afternoon air. I came across a cemetery on my left and immediately sauntered to the back which had what appeared to be a view. Upon walking past the centuries of aged tombstones and a tree that looked like it had seen better days, I did indeed come upon a view. A peaceful view. A view worthy of the living.
I enjoy being around cemeteries — as odd as that may sound. I’d rather enjoy it vertical than the alternative. I have a sinking suspicion that I won’t actually get to have an experience at all while horizontally being a future patron of a cemetery. My written humor is very different from my in person conversational humor. This is almost too high brow for me but I enjoy it too much to edit it out. Maybe my editor will feel differently? Nope, she didn’t — it’s still there. She did fix my em dash, though. Spot on, Susan.
So the cemetery was a worthwhile detour. 5 stars. Who rates cemeteries? Is there a Yelp for that? Is that original? Naw, someone has had to be a weirdo before me. So I hung out at this spot for a little while — I took in some silence, which for me is part gratitude, prayer and meditation. It’s not always a combination of those things. It varies based on what I feel in the moment.
Part of my journey has been reconciling using my brain and my heart. I haven’t used my heart much until recently. Somehow through more pain and suffering it has awoken from its slumber and will not go back to sleep again. This new found level of intuition is what is opposed to the planning part of my brain that was required for work which involved hours of it each day. I can, and do, enjoy doing it but in smaller amounts than I knew until now. As I walked towards the gate through which I entered, a car started driving slowly towards me on the single track, dirt road. I waved to them and stepped into the grass. Once I was back on the sidewalk, the family with their Tour de France little one caught up to my stride. I walked a bit farther and came across a convenience store and a bus stop. Oh, the bus stop was looking good right about now. It wasn’t very warm out, but I had logged some mileage and wanted to be sure I wasn’t low on energy by the time I got into the city. I needed to exchange some money for smaller denominations since I only had euro bills at the time. The store was also a harbinger of my newly found arch nemesis, the caramel wafer. When I first got to the AirBnb on night one, I noticed a caramel wafer next to the tea cup. I absolutely had to try one immediately and it’s been a love affair since. It became so much of a, “Where have these been all my life?” moment, that I ended up buying them in bulk at the local grocery store. Boy did I regret that about a week later where I couldn’t wait to run away from succumbing to that weakness.
Let’s go from long form to a quick summary:
- 3 days in Edinburgh — lovely city and people
- 1 week car rental for “grand tour” of the rest of the country, or what I could fit into 750 miles
- This involved, sleeping in the car, camping, hiking (hills, not mountains), learning I can go 3 days without itching for a shower even while using travel wipes for the usual smelly places, 1 night at an airbnb which resulted in a connection to a stranger turned friend and free accommodation (3 nights) in the south western part of Scotland (north of Glasgow in the valleys).
- Almost was recruited into an eco community — super nice people, amazing food and culture. Wasn’t ready to be a full time hippy yet.
- Went to the Glenlivet distillery, I give it an A+ rating. Great tour and samples. Glad I did it before deciding to be sober now.
- Hiked a couple of Munros: Check out this link for more details.
- Got a flat tyre, I mean… tire.
- Met a really cool German when I was in Edinburgh that subsequently invited me to join her in Ireland to sightsee together and for free accommodation
- Accused a Kiwi of being an Aussie one time. In my defense, the accents sound very similar to my foreign, uneducated in accents, American, ears. Lesson learned to not guess accents. New Zealand is not Australia — my bad.
- I have never urinated so much in public before in my life.
- Side confession: Almost got caught with my pants down in a public park
Back to more narrative for a bit, I walked to Portobello beach a couple of times while I was staying outside of the city as well. There was a slight chill in the air like a nice fall day. Scottish summer was amazing this year and unusually warm they said. Thanks, climate change? The moment I was preparing for an impromptu swim it started raining. It’s not like I haven’t swam in the rain before (Patriot’s Triathlon, 2015). My brain talked me out of it since the walk back would have been frigid with the wind and no towel or blanket. Adventure averted for once.
There was a very specific moment that I haven’t been able to release to the universe yet and move on from it. I’m not sure I did the right thing and maybe this is the right thing as I’m writing about it and someone else or more than just one person will be able to change the path of another’s life by relaying my experience. Another time I walked by two women that appeared to be 40 or 50 years of age. They were kneeling, bent over a bench in a park, doing what I presumed to be drugs surrounded by thick forest. I second guess this one still. Should I have said something? Should I have interjected into their reality ever so gently to have said, “you are loved, it will all be okay?” No one will ever know, but I still think about those two that I didn’t even meet.
We never know whose life we have the capacity to change with a single word, gesture, expression. These are the things I remind myself.