I’m severely behind on this blog. I am, however, also resisting my constant urge to abandon things after I’ve fallen behind on them, so here are my delayed reactions/recollections of my brief time in Scotland, whether you want them or not.
First of all, to say the weather in the UK was a relief after the sweltering heat waves in Spain would be an understatement. When I arrived at my Airbnb, one of my hosts apologized for the weather, suggesting that this was no kind of summer for a tourist. I begged to differ: it was nice to know that I had lugged my faux-leather jacket around for this long and finally had a reason to use it.
I’m still learning how to be a tourist. Having two-and-a-half free days in Edinburgh, then, was as enjoyable as it was somewhat challenging. So I compromised and did what I do best: I put my headphones in and walked, through the city center and the Royal Mile, for the better part of an entire day.
It was overcast, drizzly, cold and wonderful.I walked as far as my feet would carry me, winding the side streets, through shopping districts, down steep hills away from the center (and back again). I found an independent art and record store in a beautiful, old church. I took a break from particularly ominous clouds in the National Gallery’s wing of Scottish art. And I ended my day at the warm and relatively welcoming Brewdog Pub, which features the delicious (and wonderfully titled) Punk IPA.
I tried to continue my streak of atypical sightseeing the next day which – sunny, beautiful, warm – was in complete opposition to the one before. I took advantage of that by taking on the Arthur’s Seat hike (which, having brought nothing whatsoever that would aid in hiking, I underestimated).
One of the advantage of doing it alone was the ability to ignore virtually everyone and bring my iPod, which allowed me to appropriately soundtrack the adventure with the Scottish artists Frightened Rabbit and Foreignfox. An example: just as I was stopping for breath/a bitter glare at the people ahead of me in appropriate tennis shoes, “Modern Leper” began to play. I kept walking.
The evening was, if you know me at all, kind of as you would expect: whiskey cocktails, a restaurant that exclusively sold varieties of loaded baked potatoes, and – of course – a UK Foo Fighters show. The latter was wonderful, despite being surrounded by people that were having a little too much fun that, unfortunately, they most likely don’t remember. (Genuine question: why do all-ages shows involve at least one kid with braces who thinks every show is something out of ’80s DC hardcore? Why is it always the biggest kid?)
All in all, it’s hard to say I didn’t have a good time in Edinburgh. But underneath all of this, however, I had to come to terms with the idea that traveling alone is just kind of hard, in a way that I hadn’t remembered. Don’t get me wrong – being able to set my own schedule, and not held responsible for anyone else on 3:30 a.m. treks to the airport, is a hands-down advantage.
But the reality is that I made better friends with the espresso machine at my Airbnb in Edinburgh than with the people who were actually hosting me – which, needless to say, is a little depressing. The Welsh woman I met at the show provided the first real conversation I’d had with anyone that day. Maybe it’s the side of my personality that has been described to me as “textbook extrovert,” but I find something mentally exhausting about going through these experiences – the good, the bad, and the ugly – alone.
I’ve been fortunate to have a handful of great tour and travel buddies over the years, and every so often I’m reminded how fundamental that has been to those experiences.
That is, after all, one of the biggest regrets I had about missing the canceled shows, here and in London. Sure, the shows would be fantastic – they always are – but, ultimately I
(of all people) can and will see them again. I’ve written about this before as well, but one of the things that allowed me to travel somewhat alone last time is that, frankly, I wasn’t.
Going to shows is inherently social, a shared experience from word go, even if you don’t speak the same language. There’s the line, standing at barricade, the show itself. The entire draw is that it’s communal in nearly every sense. It’s shared, whether you like it or not.
I’ve met some of my absolute favorite people at various stages of the process, and we’ve been able to do it all over again, even across the globe, the next time around. More than anything else, that’s what I missed. While I probably (definitely) needed the rest, while I certainly didn’t have a bad time, that realization followed me throughout the UK.
With that in mind, I was more than happy to trade in my leather jacket weather for the scorching sun of Italy and companionship of my original international travel buddy: my mother.