A quick recap: I'm studying abroad at the University of Sussex in Brighton, England for eight weeks and so far I've visited London, Paris, and Scotland during the breaks. Traveling is novel and thrilling, but it's a relief to be able stay in this weekend. It's the first time I've been able to catch my breath, explore Brighton more extensively and just sit down and think. I've been walking everywhere with eyes wide open and just soaking it all up, but I haven't yet sat down to remember it with pen and paper - and I think I might regret that later. So here I am.
Hopefully I'll get to the others, but I wanted to start with Scotland because the memories are solely mine. I had originally planned to travel with other people that weekend, but apart from meeting up with school friends briefly in Edinburgh, I spent the three days alone. There's something wildly freeing about traveling by yourself; a sense of wonder and strength in discovering abilities you never knew you had, a special delight in experiencing moments of your own making. I spent a happy three days meandering alleyways, stopping in little shops, reading in cafes, talking with locals, visiting museums and gardens, and just seeing - just being present. And it felt so good.
The day I visited Loch Lomond encapsulated everything I loved about traveling alone. It's the pacing. I spent a few hours walking along a wooded path, approaching each new sight with camera in hand. I got lost. I ate with a book for company. I got lost again (kind of a lot of times). I took the bus to a tiny village halfway up the coast and started, maybe a little recklessly, a hiking trail I'd looked up beforehand. It was just after 7pm and no one was on the path, but I've always liked hiking alone - you can hear, smell, and feel the stillness.
It was a steep, hour-long hike to the crest on a path bordered by increasingly beautiful views and never-ending green. I wanted to stop at every turn in the road, but nothing beat the final climb. When I finally made it to the top, it was just me. I took one step and suddenly I could see everything for miles and miles and the weather was absolutely perfect and a huge gust of wind was lifting me up. I had this epiphany where I realized the closest people I knew were hundreds of miles beyond everything I could see, and I was halfway across the world from everything I'd ever known. That scared me for a second - but the world was beautiful and tangible and there. I'd never felt so small or so free. I never wanted to come down.
I walked the rest of the way down feeling a little bit smaller and a just a little bit older. The weirdest but best part of this trip was realizing that I had the capacity to do things on my own - to fly by myself, to climb mountains by myself, that everything else in comparison sounded doable.
I've included some pictures as well as a video, in an attempt to capture what it was like - the mesmerizing, ever-changing water, the medley of sounds, the plant and wildlife, the intoxicating stillness of everything. I tried to do it justice but really, you have to go for yourself. The digital representations of things never even come close to touching their real-life presence.
Ah, this was such a special trip and I know it will stay one of my favorite places. Until next time, Scotland. I love you, I love you, I love you.