Money I spent on buses in Scotland: $210 — TOO MUCH for only 5 bus rides ranging from 2 hours to 5 hours.
The number of blog posts I made while traveling: 8
Number of countries I visited (though two on layovers): 4 — Scotland, Tanzania, France, Netherlands
- Tanzania: Moshi — a place were modern and not meet in a somewhat odd and uncomfortable way. I might not go back to moshi specifically, but I’m not yet done with africa. Where to next? Not sure about that either.
- Scotland: Edinburgh, Glencoe, Uig, Inverness, Loch Lomond (with brief stops in Kinlochleven and Portree) — I covered a lot of ground on my trip, but if I visited again, I’d spend time in the Cairngorms, on Skye, and I’d visit all the islands.
- France: Paris — It was awesome to see the louvre and eiffle in person, but if I went back to france, it wouldn’t be for the city.
- Netherlands: Amsterdam — great place with lots of history and beauty, and bicycles :). I’d love to go back and explore a little more of both amsterdam and the rest of the netherlands. perhaps on bike!
Books I read: 18
(You’ll notice the majority of these are YA books. Which is what I’m leaning toward writing these days. YA books have changed a lot since I was a kid, or at least what I read when I was a kid. They’re more real, more intense, darker and somehow lighter too, hilarious and touching. If you read any of the ones below, I’d suggest The Sky is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson, and anything by Rainbow Rowell, because she’s a genius.)
- An Abundance of Katherines, John Green: good. pretty funny. pretty adorable characters. nowhere near as epic as fault in our stars. but worth it.
- Where she went, gale foreman: It was good. believable characters and emotions and feelings. a perfect follow-up to if i stay.
- Paper Towns, John Green: not my favorite. I loved the guy character but the girl character and the ending were just…lacking.
- Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell: As is always the case with Rainbow Rowell’s stuff, this book was bonkers awesome amazing cakes. It was real and heart wrenching and hilarious and pitch perfect. READ IT!
- The Sky Is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson: this book was like reading a magical, enchanted poem. It was like magic and perfection flowed out of every second. the main character was complex and funny and terrified and perfect and the portrayal of first love, of first loss, was spot freaking on. READ IT. (I read this one twice, and I plan to read it again soon, because it was utterly, perfectly perfect.)
- The Martian, by Andy Weir: awesome, scientifically sound, logically interesting book with a hilarious, smart main character you want to root for. READ IT.
- Perfect Match, by Jodi Piccoult: I haven’t read a book of hers in a while, and this one was good. I thought it was believable enough, and the emotions and the characters felt real and tangible to me. I cried, hard, throughout this one. I loved the chapters from the child’s perspective, and the question the book tried to answer: what happens when you do the wrong thing for the right reasons?
- Landline, Rainbow Rowell: again, as always, this was pitch perfect and awesome. I loved the idea behind this book and the way it was presented made it believable, which is saying something. funny, touching, smart — read it!
- How They Met, David Levithan: a collection of short stories by the author I met at the edinburgh International Book Festival. My favorite was one of his oldest stories that used physics concepts to tell a love story. awesome.
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, JKR: Cause no trip is complete without a re-read of harry potter. Always love it and this time was no different. AND, caught a few extra cool details I hadn’t before.
- The Book of Strange New Things, michel faber: I wasn’t a huge fan of this one. The premise was interesting: a missionary heads to be a minister on mars, leaving his wife behind him. while he deals with aliens and a strange new world, she deals with an unraveling of life on earth. So much potential, but the entire time i felt a few steps removed from both characters. Like I wasn’t really sure why they were doing what they were doing.
- Dark Places, Gillian Flynn: super book. Suspenseful, easy to read, with lovable hard-to-love characters.
- Leaving Time, Jodi Piccoult: great book, interesting premise, and better ending.
- Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Jesse Andrews: Not my favorite book. The characters were too young sounding and seeming and less introspective than other books I’ve read. I was left not being sure why everything was happening the way it was and not having a great understanding of who all the people in the book were. Still ok. Maybe movie will be better?
- Looking for Alaska, John Green: Again, not my favorite. I liked the main characters more, but i didn’t like the second half of the book. I understood what he was trying to do, but it just wasn’t my kinda thing.
- Side Effects May Vary, Julie Murphy: Enjoyed this one, about a girl with cancer and the boy who’s loved her since childhood. I believed in the characters and rooted for them, but the girl was sometimes hard to understand and I wanted more inner dialogue from her. Still a great, touching story.
- We Are Called to Rise, laura mcbride: A heart-breaking story, one that was even a bit too heartbreaking for me, especially since it was based on a true event — the book only used the event itself as truth, and everything around it was fiction. I felt this book fairly and deeply delved into a lot of important issues, but i felt a bit hopeless at the end.
- Never Sometimes Always, by Adi Alsaid: dialogue was killer and the characters were funny, and i thought the ending was real, if not satisfying. Not my fav, but an interesting look at how close friendships can alienate you from the world, and what happens when they do.
The facts, figures and ideas I learned:
- in poland (or at least in warsaw), liquor stores are open 24 hours a day. ALL DAY. They still can’t drink in public places tho, because that’s where they draw the line. (thanks damian, kuba and michal)
- the Drake Passage, the strip of ocean separating the tip of south america from antarctica, is super duper rough, and if you ever take a boat across it, you must take seasickness medicine. (thanks, sarah and gabby)
- many birds on the islands of hawaii don’t have any predator instincts — because there are none — so if you need to tag them for research you can literally just walk all the way up to them, grab on to them and tag em. (thanks, frans!)
- those same birds, some research is finding, choose their mate not based on their coloring or song or anything obvious that you can see, but somehow they choose the mate based on how different their immune systems are from themselves (just like we’re finding humans do).(thanks, frans!)
- in the UK, education is pretty free. scottish kids can go for free, whereas english kids have to pay 10,000 pounds a year (though, bridie’s anecdotal evidence suggests that if you don’t pay your loan, it’s no big deal) (and I’m not sure what happens with the Welsh kids). (thanks bridie!)
- some german companies try to act more american by calling the heads of their companies CEOs and their employees executives, and by reducing vacation time and increasing the “work ethic” attitude. surprise, surprise, people don’t love it, and it’s definitely the exception to the rule. in fact…
- …in germany, employers are required to give at least 5 weeks of vacation to their employees (plus holidays), and most companies give 6. (thanks, vanessa and heiko!)
- the tension between the two english areas cornwall and devon have led to some serious disagreements….including ones around the naming and method of eating of scones (thanks, bridie!)
my own takeaways
- midges are the worst. they are huge swarms of small soft bugs that, whenever it is not super windy, rise up from literally everywhere, and swarm you. Which isn’t like being swarmed by crickets, but is like being swarmed by AIR, in that you breathe, eat and sniff them in as you try, pointlessly, to swat them away before they bite you. they are the worst. And they follow no rules. they are around at all times of the day and night, in rain and shine, in cold and hot. the only thing that stops them is wind. (so it’s good scotland has plenty of that)
- traveling alone is tougher than I expected. When I don’t have a particular purpose (an activity, a job, a volunteer option, a destination I’m expected at), days can feel arbitrary, even beautiful sites can feel somewhat purposeless. There is nothing like standing alone in the wilderness and FEELING the wild around you (THAT is awesome) but it’s tougher when you’re alone on a hike full of other people, experiencing the beauty around you on your own. However, being alone DEFINITELY gave me the chance to meet more people than I would have otherwise, and for that, I am so grateful: Sarah, Gabby, Ellen, Nicole, Pierre, Alex, Clotilde, Bridie, Frans, Damian, Kuba, Michal — thank you all for making my trip so much richer and more fun than it would have been otherwise. If you ever find yourself in Providence, RI, you have a place to call home.
- scotland is epically beautiful. the forests (yes, there ARE trees), the grass-covered mountains, the sharp cliffs, the green, the sheep, the shapes the land has formed, the rocky coast, the mists and fogs, the bluebird skies — it’s an incredible place of dramatic scenery and history.
- If anyone asks me my favorite kind of music, i do believe I’ll have to tell them scottish and irish folk music. Because DAMN that shit is awesome.
- Favorite place while traveling: Uig, Skye, Scotland. (thanks Alice for the tip!!)
- Worst plane ride: from Paris to Boston (old plane, bad movies, bad software, no USB charger) (on the upside, there were a low number of people and good food)
- Best plane ride: from Boston to Amsterdam: awesome movies, great crew, AC power, yummy food, fun flight.
- best book: The Sky Is Everywhere. READ IT. NOOOW.
The last of my official adventures is a ten-day silent meditation course that runs from Sep 9-20. I’ll be incommunicado for all of it, and when I come back, I’ll try and write about how it went.
And that’s all for now folks.