Rough few days, but then: Uig, Skye

So, when you’re on vacation you are NOT supposed to complain. You’re supposed to recognize that You. Are. On. Vacation. And that is sacred stuff. And the people back home aren’t on vacation. So when you talk about your vacation, and you complain, you sound like a ninny. Like an ungrateful ninny that should be sent home from her vacation because someone else could obviously do it better and with being less of a ninny.

So when I say I’ve had a rough few days, I know I half deserve a punch in the face. But nevertheless, whether at home or on vacation, and especially when traveling alone, there are good days and bad days, and my last two days in Glencoe were a bit iffy.

Saturday, nothing particularly bad happened. I took the bus to Kinlochleven, a little town that is a stop along the west highland way, and that is currently known for its indoor ice climbing gym (unfortunately closed because of a fire). I had picked out a trail that started off of the west highland way that I thought would be a nice to hike and a chance to see some new sights. The hike was going fine, but I realized half way through that I hadn’t rechecked the weather before i left and that the sunny forecast of the day before seemed to instead be more of a cloudy with possible rain situation. On feeling some drops half way up the hike, I bailed because of the slipperiness/steepness of the trail.

Hiking alone, as I noted in the previous post, has been a lesson in humility and patience and solitude. Ive had to turn around on things I very much had the ability to continue on because I didn’t want to risk slipping while on my own. Aside from one or two very popular hiking trails, the trails here are rather unpopulated so if you get hurt, it’s not like someone’s going to happen upon you within the hour. So even though I have an emergency beacon and the ability to call for a rescue, there’s the additional consideration that if I get hurt, I might not be in state where I could press the SOS button. Anyway, I digress. I headed down the hike, a bit grumbly because my hike the day before hadn’t been spectacular either — I’d bailed on a hike because the trail turned to slippery scrambling and I didn’t feel comfortable on it.

When I arrived back at the hostel, I was greeted with instructions to move to a new room, as a massive group of 40 smelly, loud teenagers were spending the night. I loved their enthusiasm, I did, but the group was so loud that they basically took over the hostel and all of its bowls and burners and tables.

That night, however, was a super bright spot, and totally reinvigorated me! I went to the chalaig inn, where the live Irish/Scottish folk band was playing and it was just awesome. I met a wonderful couple that was on vacation (married 46 years!) and they bought me beers and we chatted while everyone in the bar – young and old – sang folk songs at the top of their lungs. It was awesome. I think Scottish folk music may be my favorite music.

The next day id planned to stay in — it was supposed to rain! But I woke to sun and a forecast of more sun so I planned to catch a 1:40pm bus (id missed the earlier one) to head back to Kinlochleven and hike south on the west highland way. I headed down early to the bus, and ended up an hour early to the bus station (oops!). I read in my phone and listened to podcasts and chilled out but was a little antsy to get going as it was my last day in Glencoe and the hike was long and I wanted to make me day “count.” It was not to be though. The bus never showed, and I realized I’d been looking at an incorrect bus schedule. Sunday is the day all buses in Scotland go to really sparse schedules so I couldn’t get another one out of town. I tried looking at my map and picking a different hike I could walk to on foot, that looked relatively interesting, and that I could get to and get done before night fell.

The walk there was short enough and the hike was on a dirt road before hitting a real trail. Now, maybe I took a wrong turn, but the real trail portion was only a few hundred yards long. And there wasn’t anything to see. So the hike just kinda sucked.

Discouraged and out of time to start a new hike, I figured I’d head back to the inn, have a beer and do some writing or reading. There was a shortcut on the map through a trail and over a river, which I thought would give me a little more hiking time. Turns out it gave me a little more ankle-deep-in-bog time. The trail was impossible to follow and there didn’t seem to be a way across the river. So instead, I had to walk along the road, on the teeny little margin next to the very thin roads. That cranked my anxiety up, for sure. Once I got to the inn, my nerves and patience were frayed.

The thing about mishaps and days when plans fail, when you’re traveling alone, is that they don’t feel as okay as if you’re with someone. Because if I was with joe or amy or a person I met, the at least we’re in it together. It’s would be a story. We could play 20 questions or cards or laugh about how poorly the day was going. Together, we could face it and laugh. But on your own, days where things go wrong feel not just wasted, but lonely. They make you question, what the hell am I doing here? Why did I plan my trip this way? Why wasn’t I smarter?

If I did my time in Glencoe over, I would have planned out the hikes I wanted to do – near and far – and hiked there. I would have spent less time in one place and instead moved to a new little town where there was more hiking areas I could walk to.

Live and learn, right? Right!

So, now I’ve left Glencoe and the last two days behind and have been in Uig for a full day. The hostel I’m staying at, The Cowshed, opened only two months ago and the premises show it. The rooms are new and shiny, the bathrooms are clean clean clean, the furniture is spotless, the kitchen awesome. I highly recommend it, though we’ll see if time is kind to it.

Today, a new friend — bridie — and I headed to do a hike in the northmost section of the isle of Skye, and boy, was it beautiful. Together, we got “lost” (aka missed a turn) and eventually found our way and during the whole walk we were treated with incredibly enchanting views. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, but the main idea is that the start of my time in Skye has so far been awesome. Here’s to some more great days ahead.

IMG_8834

unreal blue and clear ocean

IMG_8838

a few birds waiting for food while looking across at the place we were supposed to end up at

IMG_8871

stiles you have to hike over here and there

IMG_8880

rocks:) lots and lots of rocks.

IMG_8888

the correct destination.

IMG_8901

arches!

IMG_8913

one of many freestanding and colorful pillars

first time for everything. a herd of sheep trundled down the hiking path just as we planned to go up, blocking our way put for a bit.

first time for everything. a herd of sheep trundled down the hiking path just as we planned to go up, blocking our way put for a bit.

“You have to find your own way”

The good thing about getting sick on this trip is that there are still a lot of days left, so sitting one out doesn’t feel quite so bad. Today has been a bit of a rough day because of feeling under the weather but I did some chores (grocery and map and midge-fighting potion shopping) earlier and now I’m taking a needed rest at my bed at the hostel.

The last few days have been quite awesome.

Two nights ago, I spent time traipsing around the area with Ellen (22 year old who is abroad in France for a year and traveling around this summer) and it was super. We giggled and skipped our way from burgers and beer at The Tron to a folk/acoustic/awesome performance by my new favorite artist Matthew Dames at a place called the espionage. Which was all awesome except for the beer prices at Espionage. Horrifying prices. They should be ashamed! Ellen was a hoot. She’d had like two ciders and was feeling tipsy and hungry for dessert and we were waiting (creepily?) for Matthew dames to play on the street after his show and she saw a (random) guy walk by with a fried piece of something in his hand and she basically jumps him asking “excuse me, what’s that? What’s that? What’s that?” She really really wanted it to be fried cake or donut. It was fish. And she was so disappointed and the (random) guy was just all big eyes and confused and Ellen was totally unfazed. I loved it. We laughed for quite some time. :)

The next day, the 15th (Joe’s birthday! Happy birthday joe!!!!!), my goal was to make it to the Edinburgh Book Festival to 1) see what it was all about 2) feel inspired and 3) see the Pygmy goats (don’t ask me why they were at a book festival. I was just thrilled they’d be there) and 4) see if jk Rowling made a surprise didn’t (spoiler:she didn’t). The walk to the book festival was supposed to be a ten minute one. But, after making a left instead of a right, it turned into a two-hour epic journey through Edinburgh trying to figure out where I was without the benefit of Internet. At first I was annoyed at myself, because I’d wanted to make to make it to the festival by their opening event. But once that time had come and passed and I wasn’t missing anything, I settled in to my walk and enjoyed my little unplanned excursion.

And lo and behold, I actually happened across a place I’d wanted to visit anyway – the water of leith. With a landmark now known, I figured out where I was in reference to the festival (whoopsies, about two miles off, NBD) and headed that way along the waterside path.

IMG_8226 IMG_8229 IMG_8230 IMG_8231

The festival was smaller than I thought it would be — all contained in a little square versus the Fringe, which is EVERYWHERE — but it was really nice to be surrounded by people who had shown up because of their love of an author or a book.

While there, I found out there was a talk happening with David Levithan (co-author of “nick and Norah’s infinite playlist” and author of “every day” and a ton of other books) and I signed myself up. I’d read “every day” a new months ago — it’s a story about a person A who spends their entire life waking up as a new person everyday. It was awesome. And here was a chance to meet an author I liked in person! Or at least hear what they had to say. And I loved what he had to say.

Levithan’s books are filled with LGBTQ characters and his talk was filled by people — mostly teenagers — who loved those character and were touched by them. A few highlight from his talk:

Boy Meets Boy“: His first book “boy meets boy” was, he said, his attempt to “fill a spot on the shelf that was empty.” As an editor, he kept looking for a YA book that, instead of focusing on the scariness or the intensity of being gay, of coming out as gay, focused on the joy of falling in love In a romantic comedy kind of way. But he didn’t find the book, so he decided to write it instead. There’s “power in being represented in a bookshelf,” he added.

On what two questions he was trying to answer in writing “every day”:  given that the main character A was a different person every day, with a different body, race, religion, gender, everything, levithan wanted to explore

1) What would you be like if you genuinely were not defined by your body?

2) What would it be like to be in love with somebody whose body changed everyday?

You have to find your own way.”: “Levithan was asked by someone in the audience how his experience in writing affected his work in publishing and vice versa and his answer was really poignant for me.

His experience as an editor, he said, gave him the understanding that all writers were different. Everyone had a specific process that worked for them and them alone. He talked about how when he writes, he just sits down and ideas and characters and plot come out him – he doesn’t plan the story or know where it’s going or what’s going to happen. (Which is what I do as well.) meanwhile, he said, a writer he knows might create a 70-page outline for a 300-page book and that’s the only way that works for them. The point was that lots of writers are all tied up when they start out about writing the “right way.” We think there’s a secret sauce. A special combination that will unlock our incredible writing abilities and lead to success.

Levithan said that because he was an editor first and was able to see all the processes and voices that worked, that he knew when he started that he just needed to do what felt right to him. And that others need to find their own way that works, uniquely, for them. “You have to find your own way,” he said.

I liked that. Which is what I told him an hour later when he signed the book of his I bought.

IMG_8242
What a treat!

After the book festival I walked to The Meadows, a (HUGE) park where I’d heard people sometimes Slackline. No luck tho. After a quick dinner made at the hostel, I walked around town looking for a cheap(er) drink before going to a comedy show. Major fails all around.

1) Saturday nights is not a night you can find a low key beer to drink. Why I didn’t recognize this before I started out? Who knows. 2) when a comedian starts his show off talking about wiping your butt, you shouldn’t be surprised when ten minutes later he implodes, calling a girl anorexic and a boy “retarded” because they weren’t paying his bad jokes enough attention. What a trainwreck it was — I felt bad for him until he started name calling and then I was outta there and off to bed.

And speaking of, my sick self needs a bit of a nap if I want to recover for tomorrow, which I travel north to Glencoe! The highlands, here I come!
P.S. I did end up seeing the Pygmy goats after all. Basically my dream come true.

IMG_8239-1

The land of bagpipes, Fringe, and beauty: Edinburgh Scotland

You know what’s really amazing? When you can brush your teeth with tap water from the sink. Which you can’t do in Moshi. In Moshi (aka Africa) you have to use filtered/purified water in a bottle to wet your toothbrush, rinse your mouth and clean the toothbrush. Is this difficult work? No. Not at all. But it’s one of those small teeny things that I take for granted every single day in America. So when I got to my layover in Amsterdam two days ago and could brush my teeth at the sink in the public bathroom I was so excited I brushed extra long and with extra vigor. And smiled the whole time.

But anyway, there’s something else (almost) as awesome as drinkable, safe tap water. Edinburgh!

Aside from the dreadful exchange rate, Edinburgh is a gorgeous city. Cobblestones everywhere. Old and dazzling buildings, a touch of wild place in Holyrood. And aside from that there’s the Fringe, which means tons of free comedy shows and street music. (And crowds, but let’s be positive shall we?)

The night I arrived I took a shower (Another amazing thing! Dependable hot water!!) and headed out on the town to see what I saw. I ended up at a free comedy venue and met two wonderful ladies — Ellen (hailing from Texas and studying abroad in France) and Nicole (an occupational therapist from Chile). Having met the day before on a walking tour, they had been taking in the sites that day together. For the night, we became three, giggling hysterically and laughing together over cultural differences and language barriers and sharing bits and pieces of our life stories. It was a wonderful reminder (again) of the people you can meet while traveling — they pass in and out quickly but they make life really fun while they’re there.

Speaking of making friends, the hostel isn’t so easy to meet people at. Maybe if I was a big partier, or more outgoing, but the hostel has about 200 beds. So even though 14 or so people share a room it feels a little more like a hotel. Like it’s kind of awkward with that many people to say hi and introduce yourself and share your story with everyone. There’s just so many people. And, with The Fringe going on, many of them came here for the specific reason to see shows and party hard. They have schedules to keep!

But that’s ok, because I did some exploring on my own yesterday. The second sunny day in a row, I walked about a mile to the start of the hike of Arthur’s Seat, which is basically the top of a very large and wild-looking hill in the middle of Edinburgh. About an hour to get to the top, the place is a little like a “microcosm” of Scottish landscapes (so says lonely planet) — there’s green-topped rocks, miniature cliffs, rocky summits, green rolling stretches and at least one loch. Basically, it was awesome and I have some pictures to share here. Not sure they’re as awesome in picture form as they were in person, but, you know, that’s kinda always the case.

IMG_8134 IMG_8141 IMG_8152-0 IMG_8146 IMG_8140-0 IMG_8155 IMG_8160-0 IMG_8164-0 IMG_8172-0

The hike was really fantastic. After days sitting pretty still in Moshi it was awesome to get moving again. And the city itself helps with that too — the whole place is hilly as all get out. I love it.

The only thing that’s weird here to me is the food. There’s baked potatoes everywhere. You can get cheese on your falafel wrap. There’s mayonnaise to dip your fries in. There’s mayonnaise and tomato sandwiches. There’s baked potato and coke “meal” combos. It’s a little…disgusting.

I can’t really tell if people are fit here (because there’s so many tourists) but it feels like they can’t be. Right?

Anyway, today is rainy so I devoted it to writing some fiction before meeting up with Ellen for dinner. So, im going to get to it!

“I am the designer of my own catastrophy”

July 16 will be my last day at Amazing Charts, where I’ve spent the last 3.5 years of my life.

In large part, I’ve been happy at Amazing Charts.  I make good money, i have healthcare, my bosses are wonderful, the flexible vacation policies give me enough (though is there every really enough) time off.

And yet. I’m leaving.

Some days, it’s hard to explain why I’m leaving. Some days it seems foolish. Other days it seems brave. It’s always scary.

So why do it? Firstly, I want the time to work hard on my writing, to try to see what I can make of myself. I also want to see if there are other jobs out there that have the same benefits but that I’m also passionate about. I want to explore, to search myself, to see if there are other places — other niches — that I fit into. Aside from loans and bills (which are not insignificant), I have nothing holding me back, no responsibilities requiring me to stay at home, and that wont always be true. This is the perfect time to take this kind of leap, whatever it leads to.

Nevertheless, I knew myself well enough to know that even after I quit my job, I’d want to stay. I’d have days where my panic would overwhelm me and I’d want to walk right back into my boss’s office and say “Know what?! I changed my mind!”.

My clever way of handling this instinct was to plan a number of trips and event for the time right after my last day so that even if i wanted to stay, or thought I wanted to stay, I couldn’t. So, come July 16, I’ll be leaving Amazing Charts and I’ll be embarking on a pretty exciting and terrifying adventure that will span July 24 to September 19.

  1. I’ll be (finally) attending a 5-day Wilderness First Responder course, learning all about how to handle medical emergencies in the wilderness. Which will be right in time for my…
  2. …trip to Tanzania, where for a week I’ll be hiking (or attempting to hike) Mt. Kilimanjaro.
  3. Then I’ll head to Scotland for three weeks to travel around that magical country, with very quick layover stops in Amsterdam and Paris.
  4. After that, I’ll be coming home to the states and heading almost directly to a 10-day silent meditation course.
  5. And then ill be back, the adventures will be over and I’ll start on a new one: writing…and whatever else I want!

So, on days when panic overwhelms me, when this decision seems unbelievably dumb, when I worry about money and bills and healthcare, and question my ability to write anything good ever, and doubt my ability to ever find any other job, and eventually end up imagining myself destitute and homeless under a mountain of loans, I take a deep breath and remember that this is my time. This is the time. And sure, it may not work out. But I’m gonna try anyway.

And when that doesn’t work, I do google searches to find some inspiration :) All the images below were taken from pinterest.)

alwaysgot chances damn short passion selfimposed stubborn toughcatastrophy