Two days ago I came back from one of the most incredible adventures I’ve ever been on: Scotland, England, and Ireland. I have long been obsesssd with the other side of the Atlantic, but until two weeks ago, I had not been fortunate enough to journey there.
The trip out there was rough. My original flight was canceled, forcing my flight to be re-scheduled for the following day and my trip to be delayed. When I finally made it to Scotland, I was greeted by a phenomenally Scottish taxi driver who tried to set me up with his two sons while also giving me a tour of the beautiful city of Edinburgh. Talk about multi-tasking!
The rest of my tour group was already wandering the city with a local guide called Tim (I’ll get back to him in a minute). So, I went to the hostel, put my stuff down, brushed my teeth, put on some deodorant and perfume, and tried to figure out where to meet up with the group.
Wth limited cell phone data and no wifi access, I was concerned about how to navigate this new city. After all, this was my first foray outside the U.S., and I didn’t know what to expect. Fortunately for me, the city was relatively easy to navigate, and I ended up finding the group in about 20 minutes.
And then came the hard part: introductions. These people had all had a full 24 hours together (not to mention the people who were traveling with friends and family), so I was starting at a bit of a disadvantage. I introduced myself to the intimidating group, and to my utter horror, they did not introduce themselves back. They were nice enough, but my name was the only one put forward in the ether and it was left there unaccompanied until later in the day.
The one saving grace was our tour director, an adorable Irishman that looked like he stepped right out of a travel brochure of the city of Dublin. He greeted me with a reassuring smile and a hug, and I instantly felt more relaxed.
The tour around the city continued with the tour guide called Tim. Tim is a very interesting character. With a thick Scottish accent, he told us stories of the historical (and almost too mythical to be believed) places that surrounded us. Stories of grave robbing, Harry Potter, Braveheart, and a Medieval toilet seat artfully mistaken as the seat of kings filled my ears before I even knew what to do with them. Keep in mind, at this stage, I had been in the country for less than 2 hours.
After he finished the tour, we were set loose to explore Edinburgh Castle, where I essentially followed these two girls around until they determined that I wasn’t a “crazy”. We hung out for the rest of the trip.
Then, about six hours after landing in Scotland, I climbed up a dormant volcano, which was both incredibly exhilarating and also incredibly exhausting. I hadn’t really slept much in the three days leading up to this journey, but I was in Scotland and I was not about to succumb to jet lag. It was breathtaking atop Arthur’s Seat.
Over the next few days, we explored the other gems of Edinburgh as well as the Highlands before traveling south to England. I was very surprised by the smaller cities we visited in England: Durham, York, and Liverpool. We also journeyed to London, but the city reminded me of a combination of D.C. and New York. Suffice to say, it wasn’t my favorite.
After England, it was onto Ireland. Ireland was by far my favorite place on the tour. I had more fun in Ireland than I think I’ve ever had in my life. We participated in Irish dancing on our first night in Dublin, sang and danced our asses off in a pub on night #2, learned how to properly pour a glass of Guinness, and ran into ten nuns and a pope in a pub in Galway. And those were just the tip of the iceberg.
What struck me most about Ireland was the feeling I got as soon as I stepped off the ferry. I felt like I was home. It’s weird to think this about a place I had only just entered, but there was a familiarity about the place that I can’t really pinpoint. It felt like I had been there before and I didn’t want to leave.
Now that I’m back, I can’t help but feel a little homesick — like I’m a stranger in my own town. It’s difficult to find the words to explain it. I missed my family and friends and I’m happy to be with them again, but I can’t seem to fight the feeling that I left something in Ireland. I left a piece of myself on that island, and I will do almost anything to go back there to find it.
Overall, this was one of the best things I have ever done. I met some incredible people and saw some incredible sights. It is a trip I will not soon forget and one that I hope I never do.