lost, for a little while


hitchhiking in scotland
August 28, 2010, 9:46 pm
Filed under: memories

When I told my mom about this whole “road trip” idea, the first thing she said was “Right. Because it always goes so well when you travel alone.” Really, she’s just talking about one time (one time!), but I would be remiss in my preparation not to recognize and share this mishap.

I was studying abroad in London, living with a group of friends who had decided to go their own way that semester. The novelty of living in a flat above a McDonald’s had begun to wear off, London was feeling more oppressive than exciting, and I wanted to do some traveling that didn’t involve pot brownies, visiting every single museum in existence, or Paris. I wanted to go hiking in the Scottish Highlands.

Let me back up and make something very clear: I am not an outdoorsy person. I want to be, but I’m really not. My family was a strictly Florida-and-grandparents’-house vacation kind of family; we never visited a national park or went on a camping trip when I was a kid. I like hiking, and riding my bike, and being outside and all, but I completely lack anything resembling actual experience. (Well, at that point, I did.)

Yet, despite this, I was determined to go. So what that no one else was interested? I had let that stop me too many times in the past–no more! I found a cheap flight to Glasgow, and a bus route that would take me to a place called Glencoe. It wasn’t the Isle of Skye, like I had wanted, but it was the only thing that would work for a quick weekend jaunt. I booked my flight and hostel reservation in the middle of the night (when most of my crazy, probably-bad ideas occur), and barely made it through my classes that week, I was so excited.

Lost in my fantasy of becoming one with the Scottish hillsides, I had forgotten about one very important part of traveling: a little something called ‘logistics.’ When my plane landed in Glasgow, I had no clue how to get from the airport to the bus station. When I reached the bus station, I realized that the route I wanted ran only twice a day, and the next bus didn’t leave for a good five hours. I wandered around Glasgow for hours before realizing Shit. Glasgow is a really boring place to be stranded. When I  finally made it to Glencoe, it was pitch black outside, raining, and the bus had dropped me off next to a  gas station that was nowhere near the hostel. I spent my first night alone in a room that smelled like damp, moldy blankets. Just me and five empty bunks.

The rain didn’t let up, and my hostel was a half-hour walk from the proper town, where the only restaurant was closed for the season. I ate cold gas station food and hitched a ride into town with some friendly hikers who were heading to a nearby town that had an indoor ice-climbing wall. (The fact that these people, who were actually well-prepared, weren’t attempting a hike should tell you something.)

I walked around the town before I realized that there really wasn’t much of a town to speak of. I ended up back where the bus had dropped me off, stepped inside the restroom, and cried. Then I walked back to the hostel in the rain, and fell asleep for the rest of the day.

That night, a group of friends from the University of Edinburgh arrived at the hostel, along with their very wet dog. I looked pathetic enough that they offered me a ride to the next town over for dinner, and that’s how I ended up having haggis with mashed potato and swede with four complete strangers in the middle of nowhere, Scotland. (Sidenote: I thought the haggis was delicious.)

My last full day in Scotland, the rain let up, and the sun came out. I caught a ride to Kinlochleven, planning to stop by the visitor’s center for a map of the local hiking paths. Of course, the visitor’s center was closed–as was everything else in town, aside from the indoor ice-climbing place. At this point, I was pretty fed up with Scotland. I didn’t get to do any hiking, I’d had one good meal all weekend, and–oh, look at that–it was starting to rain again.

My Scotland adventure ended with me attempting to walk the seven miles back to Glencoe in an effort to catch an early bus back to Glasgow. Did the whole side-of-the-road, thumb-out, sad-but-non-threatening thing and all. A nice man on his way home from the ice-climbing arena gave me a lift (after his car sprayed me with mud), and I went back to Glasgow, checked into a nice B&B, took a hot shower, and watched reruns of  The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air until it was time to go back to London.

To be continued in Lessons Learned.

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[…] Class, what did we learn from that weekend in Scotland? […]

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