Friday March 20th started my 3 week long Easter Holiday from uni! While all my professors seemed to think this 3 week break was supposed to be for doing extensive scientific research for my papers due right after break, I actually used it all for adventuring.
Soooo, I left all my school notes behind and hopped a train at 4am on Friday to Scotland! The train ride was long and exhausting, but we arrived around 3pm in the city of Edinburgh! We got a taxi to our hostel and checked in before we began exploring.
Before I write about the city, I’ll just cover the living situation really quick. When I was first coming over to study abroad, the idea of hostels terrified me. I was nervous to sleep in some dirty bunk beds or cots on the ground surrounded by strangers who would steal my stuff. Turns out I’m an idiot because hostels are awesome. This particular hostel had a restaurant and bar on the first floor and was in walking distance of the city center. The room we booked at our hostel was a 8 bed female only dorm. The only down side of the hostel was that our room was on the top floor and there wasn’t a lift. For normal backpackers this is probably no big deal, however I am apparently what some may call “high maintenance.” I packed the smallest suitcase I brought, which probably weighed around 50 pounds or more, plus my backpack. Stairs were my enemy for the trip, but I survived!
The other girls in my room consisted of 2 girls who didn’t say a word, 2 rowdy girls from Ireland who came to watch the Six Nations Rugby championship match, and 1 backpacker from California. Although I only had a brief conversation with the Cali girl, I think she quickly became one of my biggest role models. Basically, she had a really great job working in finance banking stuff and then lost her job about 10 months ago. When she lost her job she packed up a backpack of her stuff and flew over to Europe. She has spent the past 10 months backpacking, couch surfing, and working in exchange for housing or cash just going with the flow. She has to return home in June because her best friend is getting married, otherwise she said she would stay because she isn’t ready yet. She also talked about how she doesn’t think she can go back to a boring finance job at a desk when her life has been so different and better than that for so long. I just find it so inspiring and amazing that someone can live like that for so long. It seems like it would be so liberating and freeing. I met other people much like her in London that I will talk about later on!
I know people love the quote “don’t run from your problems,” but it seems to work out pretty well sometimes. This girl leaving California after losing her job and of course, Simba leaving when his dad died are two classic examples of times it worked out perfectly! As for me, I feel like I am becoming so much happier with my life and my relationships as well as more independent while I am away. So really, run from your problems because I bet it will turn out way better than it’d be if you sat around dwelling on it.
After settling into the hostel, we were starving and set off to find somewhere to grab a dinner. We found a Scottish pub close to the hostel and went for that. I ordered salmon, but the two other girls I were with got Haggis. Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish that is basically the lungs and heart and whatever else is leftover from a sheep, all blended up and put inside an intestine lining. YUM! I tried a small bite and can say I will never be eating it again, but everyone should give it a try at least once if you’re in the country! After dinner we walked around the main shopping street of the city and looked in souvenir shops and other mainstream mall shops for awhile then headed off to the hostel for bed because the traveling all day was exhausting.
On Saturday we woke up bright and early at 7am to get ready for our bus trip up through the highlands to Loch Ness. On the way there, we stopped at a whiskey distillery and took a tour on how Whiskey is made in Scotland as well as got to try samples. I couldn’t even finish the samples because it burned my mouth so badly and I found out that I am definitely not a whiskey girl unfortunately. Driving through the highlands was cool because it’s a lot of mountains and lakes and overall gorgeous scenery. On the drive our tour guide shared stories of all the clans and wars that happened in the area throughout history. When we got to the loch, we grabbed lunch and then took a boat tour through Loch Ness in search of Nessie. While I didn’t see any sea monsters, the lake was beautiful and we had a perfect sunny day to enjoy the boat ride.
On Sunday we were back in Edinburgh and we took a walking tour of the city to get a better sense of where everything is located as well as to learn some of the history of the city! Our tour guide wore a kilt and made the tour super interactive and hilarious the whole time. After the tour we went to the Edinburgh castle and explored it with our same tour guide because we liked him so much. The castle is nothing like the ones I have seen in Wales. It was huge and the inside was practically its own village. There was a chapel, prison, restaurants, museum, chambers and crowned jewels in different rooms, and so much more. The castle is also an active military base for Scotland so there are army living quarters currently being used inside the castle, but you have to be in the military, or “going home” with someone in the military to see the insides. It was definitely my favorite castle I have been to so far. I am in awe that castles like this exist outside of fairytales, because it definitely felt like a dream to be inside of it. Saturday evening we explored the Royal Mile and went in shops and also grabbed dinner.
Monday, we were scheduled to leave Edinburgh and head to York, England for a couple days. We had a 6am train and so we were up and at the train station around 5am. About 20 minutes before our train left, one of the girls I was traveling with went to use the ATM and the machine ate her card. None of us knew at the time that once a machine eats your card it is gone for good. So as panic ensued, we were trying pay phones and station workers to get someone to fix the machine or get the card out of it. With all this happening, we missed our train to York and found ourselves stranded in the train station in Scotland. The next train tickets for the day were upwards of 60 pounds per ticket so we were like “no thanks” and opted to get the 20 pound tickets for Tuesday morning instead. We then called our hostel in York to let them know, but they told us we would still be charged for the night either way. We started then to joke about messaging our tour guide from the day before about staying at his place, but then jokes became reality. Next thing I knew, I was on Facebook asking a stranger to let my friends and I sleep on his couch. Lucky for us he agreed and so we set off to meet him to drop our stuff off! He is a law student at Edinburgh and lives close to campus. We met up with him, dropped our stuff in his living room and he told us we could come back around 7ish after he was done with class. We were so lucky that he was kind enough to let us stay and the whole time we were there he was offering us coffee or anything and showed us a tour as well. Way beyond what is necessary for strangers in your home so it was amazing. We spent the day exploring the city and its parks and stores more and then met back up at night at tour guide’s place. That night we went to a pub and played a board game with him and his roomies then they helped us set up bed on the couches and we said our goodbyes. It was honestly probably one of the most fun and unpredictable events of my life, but I am so happy it worked out how it did and I will always cherish this memory and that night!
Tuesday morning we finally caught our train to York and I said “see you later” to Edinburgh.
When I was first heading to Scotland, I thought it would be a lot like any other city I had seen in the UK or Ireland so far and that it would be pretty rural and I would see a lot of sheep. Basically I wasn’t expecting to be too impressed or blown away. One thing that started to change my mind before I got there was my parents. Before I was born and basically most of my life, my parents did a ton of traveling either for vacation with each other or for work. Every single time I was left behind because seriously, who wants to drag a child around the UK/Europe? I never knew what I was missing out on though because I always got a cute stuffed animal upon their returns so I thought I was winning. Anyway, because of my parents extensive travels, everywhere I go they tell me what they loved about the city. Both my parents raved about Scotland the whole time up to me leaving. They told me it was “magical.” I wasn’t sure what to make of that until I saw for myself. Magical is actually the perfect word for Edinburgh. There is so much history there and you can see it on every building and monument and cemetery. There isn’t a single ugly building in the city and the architecture is beyond gorgeous. Words could never explain it, so I highly recommend everyone experience it one day for themselves!! The people of Scotland are all so genuinely nice, much like Ireland, except the Scottish have better accents! Another thing I loved about the city was that even though it has a city feel, it is so easy to figure out and get around. I used a map for Friday and Saturday, but by Sunday and Monday I felt totally at home and could get around no problem.
If you had asked me where I saw myself in 5 or 10 years before I came to Wales I knew exactly what I would say. I figured I would graduate school, go to vet school, and find my way back to Carmel, Indiana (I truly love Carmel). I knew what job I would be doing and what types of dogs I would have and where I would live. I figured I knew who I would be with and everything seemed so put together and planned. Thinking about that now I must have been insane. Besides the dogs part, I have no idea what I want in my life anymore or where I will end up. That is the best part about being here so far, and why I loved that California girl so much. Traveling is opening my mind and heart to so many people, experiences, and places. I can’t wait to see where I end up but I know it’ll be great. The cherry on top of it all is that Edinburgh has a vet school and I wouldn’t mind coming back for 4 years, or maybe even forever.
All my pictures are up on Facebook! The rest of my Easter Holiday travel blogs coming soon!! 🙂