“Why don’t you go alone?” Five little words, and an idea I’d never even fathomed. I was at work talking to one of the other girls moaning about the fact that I’d never be able to travel because I had no one to go with me. My friends and I would make (often drunken)promises to save and travel. But then no one would actually save up. The girl I was talking to had studied abroad for a year in Scotland, and while I was complaining about how I wanted to travel, but couldn’t she said those five little words. Mind blown. Fast forward a few months and I was taking my first solo trip! Three and a half weeks in Europe! I landed in Edinburgh and had a hostel booked for the first night. After that the only plan I had was that I had to be in Rome to catch my flight home. I had a rough idea of thing I wanted to see-many of them from books I had read, but no true itinerary. Stepping off that plane, knowing I was completely alone, across an ocean, and on another continent was breathtaking. And terrifying. (I still get the butterflies every time I go somewhere new, but now the fear is gone.) After being hopelessly lost for a few hours I finally found my hostel, at the foot of the castle, deposited my book bag, and sent out to see the town. I’ve come to embrace being lost, but this first time I remember almost being in tears. I was alone in a foreign country and I could not for the life of me figure out where I was…doubt filled me. How did I think that I could go to countries where I didn’t speak the language, if I couldn’t even figure out a place in my native tongue, and with a map? Now, I love being lost, putting the map away and just going, I’ve found some of the best things on my trips this way. But this first day? Hours off the plane? Not so much.
After leaving my hostel I found a policeman, and asked for suggestions on how I should spend my (considerably shorter) afternoon. He said I should hike up Arthur’s Seat. A “wee hill that will be na trouble for a young lassie like yourself.” LIES! After wheezing my way up this small mountain, and being passed by people with children on their backs, I finally made it to the top. And it was breathtaking. And worth the agony. Even the next morning, when I foolishly leapt from my top bunk, only to literally crumple to the floor because my legs were cramped up. (That’s one way to make an impression on your roommates.)
The couple with children about to pass me:
A View from the top of Arthur’s SeatThat next day I did a free walking tour, and learned all sorts of things about Edinburgh. (They have a pub named “the last drop” where the execution block was.) I never did try the whiskey, not being a fan, but I did try both haggis and blood pudding…. And learned I’m not a fan of them either. I explored the castle, heard stories of Robert the Bruce, and William Wallace, went to the cemetery, parks and royal palaces. (The queen still stays at Hollyrood!) The last night in Edinburgh I took a night torture and hauntings tour. The torture they put people (especially suspected witches) through is the stuff of nightmares. And it made sleep difficult that night. After three days of being delightfully lost, I got ready for my next stop: Inverness.