I remember once, on my way to organise my very first solo trip abroad, I found myself surfing on Google maps trying to figure out which of the many would be the perfect city to visit on a break I desperately needed.
There were so many options, so I listed down some of the essential features I was looking for:
- Somewhere new; at that time, I had just ended a journey to the Middle East and Asia with a company I no longer wanted to work for, so I needed some different, unseen scenery.
- Somewhere exotic; it was one of those wet, and grey Januarys in the Mediterranean everyone wants to escape from, I really needed somewhere warmer.
- Somewhere to relax; working for months away from home without a single break had left me with no energy.
- Somewhere near to the sea; the sound of the waves breaking against the shore or even just the sight of the sea on the horizon was a must, no compromises on this.
So, there I was, floating on the digital surface of the globe looking for the perfect spot for my holiday when, all of a random sudden, the cursor stops above Scotland.
Scotland? What’s on there?
I honestly had no ideas about Scotland, no information, nor was I even able to wonder about it – you just don’t know how to know something you don’t know you don’t know, right?
Therefore I started my research.
Beautiful sceneries, breathtaking views, cute stony villages in contrast of big busy cities. Important historical heritage, catching folkloric rhythms and a definitely curious food culture. It was official: I was travelling to Scotland – not exactly the exotic and warm place I was thinking of!
My journey would start on the morning of the 18th of January for the 10 days that would change my whole life.
I remember the first morning in Edinburgh was freezing, and the wind certainly wasn’t of any help. The sun wouldn’t have risen before 8.30am, but it was time to get out and explore. Not yet familiar with the map I had on me and the distances between the main attractions of the city I had highlighted, I jumped on the first bus to the city.
“This is a city of shifting light, of changing skies, of sudden vistas. A city so beautiful it breaks the heart again and again.” — Alexander McCall Smith, Author (2006)
And it was, it was indeed.
Not only did a sunny day welcome me in the city, but also local people demonstrated to be polite, warm and helpful – especially when I got lost by getting off at the wrong bus stop.
I was in love, from the first day.
Despite its business, the city was quiet as if respecting everyone’s need to have a quiet morning, and the cold, dry air smelled of malt and yeast coming from a brewery not too far away. It didn’t take too long for me to explore meticulously every corner of its beautiful centre, ruin my good pair of shoes and eventually meet some new travel mates.
Most of the people travelling to Scotland seem to be there for the same purpose: confusion. We all seemed like looking for the next big thing, the new excitement in our lives, a new balance between our experiences and our goals. But it also was as if all of us, coming from everywhere in the world, were there, drinking whisky, gathered around a wooden table at the Malone’s, because we were supposed to be there, at that very moment and period, talking about our next step in life.
The Malone’s was one of my favourite pubs around. Located in the heart of the University of Edinburgh district, it used to organise Ceilidh themed nights every Tuesdays, where students from every corner of the world would gather and dance on the notes of live Gaelic folk music. A perfect excuse for strangers to become friends for life by stepping on each other toes – and I became really good at it!
A few days later, it was time for me to move up to the North of the country.
Renting a car in Scotland is probably the best and cheapest way to get the most of the country. Timberbush Tours offer regular services from Edinburgh to many places in Scotland and in many combinations to be suitable for the same-day traveller or longer journeys for affordable prices.
But I found myself travelling with two guys passionate about photography – and you know how those kids are… “Let’s stop here!” – “Woah, look at that!” – “OMG! pull over!!” therefore a guided tour was out of the question. And I became one of those kids too.
Quick breakfast stop in Perth after crossing the Forth Bridges, driving through Cairngorms National Park to cuddle Nessie in Loch Ness, followed up to Inverness then headed to Kyleakin, a small town at the entrance to the Isle of Skye, where we booked a night at a local hostel (see: skyebackpackers.com). We drove around the whole Island and, in 3 days time, we would have driven around half of the country through snow, fog, rain, cold, warm and sun – Scotland is indeed a curious place, especially when talking about the weather.
On our way back to the city, sure that the surprising Scottish countryside couldn’t electrify me anymore, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park happened, soon to become one of my favourite corners of the country.
At the end of my first solo journey to this not-so-warm place, I was a new man, I was ready for a new start and a new life, more open to the adventure and the feeling of adrenaline after jumping into the unknown.
I remember that boarding my flight back home I cried. I didn’t realise that I was feeling the bite of the Travel Bug.
Eleven days later, my parents looked really confused seeing me packing again.
“Where are you off to this time?”
“I am moving to Edinburgh.”
And almost 3 years later, I am living the life I always dreamed to live.
My name is Lorenzo, a writer wannabe, a world traveller and a tireless dreamer. Nice to meet you.