There are many lessons I plan to share with you in upcoming blogs. For example, what can we learn from Scotland’s national animal (the unicorn) and national plant (thistle)? What can we learn about ancient stone walls? How does the grave of a headless man relate to our lives today? What can I learn from a shack and a visitor’s center? But for now, I’d like to share some of the trials and tribulations and observations of traveling alone.
After flying all night from Atlanta, I arrived in Amsterdam about 4:30 AM. I knew I needed to print a new boarding pass because I was changing to KLM Airlines (this was part of the plan). I moseyed up to the self-service kiosk, pushed in my credit card and typed in my confirmation number. TA – DA – “This ticket has been canceled. Please purchase a new one.” As you can imagine, there aren’t many people milling around an airport at 4:30 and my flight (well, what I thought was my flight) was scheduled to take off at 6:00 AM. Breathe deep. Plant my ass at the KLM desk. Breathe deeper. The airline representative arrived at 5:30 AM and rescued me! I made the flight and had time for a cup of bad coffee.
What I learned: Normally I would turn to Dave and let him take over. That wasn’t an option - so I JUST HANDLED IT!
Remember that ridiculous 8-step process to get from Glasgow to Inverness (bus-train-bus-bus-train, etc.)? I found the kiosk to get my bus ticket. But I also found the service desk and this lovely person told me – “You know, for 8 pounds you can get on that bus (she pointed at a bus about 10 feet away) and they take you directly to the Glasgow station.”
Eight bucks! No brainer. The wheels on the bus go round-and-round – and all the way to the Glasgow station!
When I got to the train station, Inverness was not a destination choice. Hmmmm. After reading the destination list four times (I even read it out loud just to be sure I wasn’t seeing the obvious), I began to worry. Thankfully, the train station had several customers-service people who were easy to identify in their bright yellow vests. I was directed to the right track and the right train. I settled into first class and watched it all go by. I will say that my customer service guy had to repeat himself twice because his accent was so thick. Thick and lovely. (A quick note: first class is not worth the money AND go to the bathroom before you get on the train.)
People are more than willing to help if you just ask!
I rode in a taxi from the train station to my B&B in Inverness. The total cost was 5 pounds. I offered the driver 7 pounds. He refused the tip and told me, “Don’t tip here. I’m giving this back to you because I don’t want you to get in the habit.”
Would that happen in the US?
Oats are oats, right? Nope! Something about the oatmeal served in Scotland and Ireland is amazing. Richer. Creamier. More filling. More yummy. I tried duplicating it in my kitchen and still couldn’t create Scottish porridge. Oh, and tomato soup is the BOMB in the UK – delicious, inexpensive and served with homemade bread and butter.
Ah well, I’ll just have to go back.
My room in Inverness was perfection! My room in Edinburgh was not. I never felt quite safe. I never felt welcome. I never enjoyed my breakfast. My room was three steep stories up – no elevator -- no help at all. I could not figure out how to work the heater. They described themselves as ‘close to the center city’. Fifteen blocks is not close. I get impatient to make decisions and I think my choice of place was a consequence. My impatience also bit me in the ass while in Ireland but that’s a topic for another blog.
Slow down and do the research before you hit that buy button.
People have asked me if I was lonely. No, not really. I will admit that eating meals alone was odd. I would have liked to discuss what I saw and learned, enjoyed and disliked. Also, because I was alone, I didn’t feel safe being out late at night so that limited my options. It was fine at breakfast because I chatted with the others staying at the B&B. It was such a small world – one lady lives two miles from me and one man used to work with my sister-in-law in New Mexico. What are the odds?!
I didn’t feel lonely on my tours or walking through the cities and museums. There is so much amazing scenery and rich history that my mind was plenty occupied.
I did miss my husband but alone does not mean lonely.
Several times I noticed two women traveling together. I wondered if that would work for me. I have three close friends, but I’m scared to try it because being together that long and that close could destroy or damage relationships………relationships that are important to me.
I’m not sure I play well enough with others!
I pick on my daughter about packing too much (and she does!). But I did too. I almost never wear anything ‘nice’ but for some reason I packed two ‘nice’ outfits – including high heel boots. On my fifth day, after dragging all that up three flights of stairs, I found a post office and sent all that damn stuff back to the States. Lesson learned – if I don’t have my man to lug my crap around, I should have left the crap at home!
What I did learn that SURPRISED ME was how much support I had back home. I got emails and Facebook and Instagram messages from people all over the place. People I haven’t spoken to in years. It was like I wasn’t traveling alone because people were interested in hearing what I was doing. I felt like I was taking all my old friends on a trip.
It seems that I do know how to build relationships that last a lifetime.
If you are one of those wonderful people who reached out, please know that I carried you in my heart as I traipsed through Scotland. I’m sorry to say that I never found Jamie from Outlander.
More to come --
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