running away to the Highlands

I’ve been wondering if I should write about the actual Bible-sized package of health records that one of my hospitals sent to my doorstep. Or my anxiety attack from earlier this week. Or the fact that I re-injured my ankle, ah ha! Who needs ligaments? Not me.

However, I still feel a little on edge, like talking about anxiety might be enough to send me back into the dark. I’ll get back to the health records ordeal, surely, but I have an overwhelming sense that it’s not a topic for right now. Therefore, I’m going off-theme. I’m going to tell the tale of what I did in October that made me very, very happy! After six years, I took a solo trip back to Scotland.

Months and months ago, I bought myself a round trip flight to Edinburgh for my birthday. It was a very sober decision/purchase, made at home on my computer and not while I was still at the bar. Anyway, after moving the tickets around three whole times, I finally settled on 17 days in October. I used a handy app called Tripline to plan a route from destination to destination, since there were plenty of cities and towns I didn’t visit back in 2012. I knew I wanted to see Inverness, Aberdeen, the Isle of Skye, and many others, so I booked hostels in the following loop:

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I started in Edinburgh, which I had visited before back in the ol’ college freshman days. I don’t want to pretend I’m a travel blogger, though, so I’m just going to give you the best moment and a picture from every city.

#1) Edinburgh – Reading my library book (“Rabbit, Run” by John Updike) in the Princes Street Gardens with coffee and an extremely decent sandwich.

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(This picture is from Greyfriars Kirkyard, not the gardens, in case anyone was thinking “that garden has tombstones!”)

#2) Aberdeen – Taking the longest walk ever to find Aberdeen Beach by Queens Links, seeing all the dogs and hanging out under the bluest sky.

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#3) Inverness – Okay, I’m in love with Inverness. At this point in the trip, despite everything being lovely, I have to go with my trip to Culloden Battlefield with my sassy German (Hi Sophie! I miss you.)

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#4) Isle of Skye – Hiking the Old Man of Storr with my newfound friend, who was kind enough to let me hitch a ride from Inverness to Skye, and even more kind to spend the entire day with me. Nothing like speeding down a single pass road in a German vehicle, putting me on the left side of the road but on the right-hand side of the car. Not terrifying at all!

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#5) Inverness – Okay, so I had a slight health panic in Scotland. I stayed up all night on the couch at my hostel in Portree because I had such strong pain, and when it was just as terrible in the morning…I decided to ditch my plans for the rest of the week and go back to Inverness. I almost felt guilty about it, as if I wasn’t “brave” or “adventurous” enough, but…it was my trip. I knew my brain and body would benefit from staying in the same place for a bit. So I headed back to Inverness, to my same hostel (the best hostel of the trip, hands down). My friend who went to Culloden with me even came back to Inverness for a day as well, and we had a great dinner together. Look at this hostel and tell me you wouldn’t want to hole up here for a while with coffee and a book.

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(New) #6 Stirling – Visiting two of my pals from freshman year at Stirling Uni! Plus Stirling was golden the entire time I was there.

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#7) …Anniesland? – I thought that the new hostel I booked for Glasgow was in Glasgow, but I goofed up and ended up staying in Anniesland outside of the city. This was a weird one. I’d say the best part was watching inspirational YouTube videos in my hostel. Don’t hate me, Anniesland. I’ll give you another Inverness picture because I ❤ Inverness.

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#8) Ayr/Turnberry – I went to Turnberry to visit a friend who’s working there, and I have to say it’s a tie between walking around barefoot on the beach near the resort, and our mini night out in Girvan – one of the most entertaining nights out I’d had in a while. I promised a woman named Linda that I’d take her to “the hood” if she visits New York. Linda, if you’re reading this, it’s an open invitation.

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I have to add that I ended up in Ireland for the last two days of my trip, where I didn’t take a single picture because I was too busy enjoying warm meals and fawning over the most adorable baby. I have a feeling I’ll be back in Ireland, so I didn’t stress about photographing everything at the time.

This is sort of a selfish post, since I want to have this to look back on when I lose my motivation. That, and to remember where I was October of last year versus this year. It really is true that you can never imagine how far you can come in just a year, until you’re looking backwards in time. I know that a year ago I thought a return to Scotland was ages away. Then it happened. A lot has happened this year, things I never could’ve dreamed of. I guess if anyone has made it this far into this post…don’t wait for the “right time” or “perfect” conditions to do what you’ve always wanted to do. Don’t be afraid to do it on your own, and don’t compare your journey to the journeys of others. Let your fellow travelers inspire you, but not pressure you.

And go to Scotland.

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