Make the Leap: My First Solo Trip to Europe

I was stuck in a dead end job where I wasn’t going to get switched from temp to permanent employee. The company I was working for continually worked under the table, were lazy with FDA regulations, and many of the people were terrible. How can you honestly make us wear skimpy dresses with high heels to wash medical sets?

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When it seemed there was no end in sight, I decided to start looking for other jobs. I found a website where I could go intern in Scotland and create a travel guide with a group of people. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to get into travel writing.

I sent over my information and applied. I got in!

The trip would be 3 weeks in Edinburgh, Scotland. I would fly over, meet one of the employees, and live with people I didn’t know while working on the project.

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The idea of traveling alone didn’t scare me. The thought of living with people I didn’t know worried me. I was nervous about how we would all work together since I had terrible experiences living with others in college.

When it was time to get ready to head to Scotland, my work suddenly came to the epiphany to hire me on full time. I was fortunate to have a boss that loved me and I loved her. She’s been the most inspiring person I’ve met in ages. She worked out a deal with the owner which allowed me to leave for the 3 weeks in Scotland and come back to a job.

I was so relieved. Before, I was going to make my trip my going out tribute.

September came and I boarded the flight to Scotland. Yes, I over packed. I always do, because I like to be over prepared. I was ready for the cold weather and lots of sweaters!

Now a lot of people would be scared to go alone, but I was ready. It was an adrenaline rush for me. It’s one of the few times I felt truly like myself. I was happy.

Arrival in Edinburgh, Scotland

When I landed it took a bit to find the employee that was supposed to guide me to my apartments. I had no cellphone (I refused to pay the international fees), the payphone wasn’t working, and I couldn’t connect to the internet to send an email.

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Eventually, he found me and we boarded the bus and headed into Edinburgh. I still remember signs along the streets saying how wonderful Hillary Clinton was. It’s funny what kind of information they got, because she was anything but wonderful.

The apartment wasn’t ready, so I had to go over to a coffee shop and wait a few hours. I felt like a red dot in the middle of the city. I stood out with my large suitcase, backpack, and roaming around the streets.

I stopped in at a place called Cafe Noir. I got some mocha coffee and a blueberry scone! Oh my gosh, the scone was amazing! I got to working on some travel writing (which I still haven’t published from that time). People stared at me like I was weird. I tried not to pay attention, but it got a bit under my skin.

When I was finally able to get in to the apartment I remember being hit with the smell of Ramen noodles. There must have been some young people living in the place before us. The cleaning crew was supposed to have gone through the apartment, but the beds were still unmade, the floor hadn’t been swept, and it was in slight disarray.

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I set my bags up in the kitchen since I didn’t know the room assignments and got ready to head out. As I was leaving, one of my roommates showed up. She was a young woman from Mexico.

We decided to go out and hit up the town. There was no way we were staying in. I knew if I did I would fall asleep and not wake up. It would be harder to to overcome the jet lag.

 

Exploring New Places

Exploring Edinburgh was amazing. We went up to the castle, tasted whisky, and roamed the streets of the Old Town. It was a sight for sore eyes. I felt calm and adventurous.

Over the next three weeks, there was a lot of work, research, writing, and exploring. A lot of time was spent with the group, but we were also able to go out on our own for our individual projects.

Other people wanted to stay in groups the entire time, but I wanted to go out on my own. Fortunately, a lot of my other roommates were the same. I was thankful, because they understood! It wasn’t them I was staying away from; I just wanted to do my own thing.

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I got to go explore the closes, dark streets, and interesting parts of the city. There was so much to see! Not everyone goes off the beaten path, and they miss the beauty of the city for what it truly is. I wasn’t restricted to what other people wanted to do. I could take my time and do what I wanted. There was no waiting around and wasting time figuring out what to do next. I just went!

There were times I got stuck in the rain and times I sat on a bench in a quiet courtyard writing. It felt like the whole world was at my feet. I remember walking across the North Bridge on my way back from the Old Town. It started to mist and then the rain came pouring. The umbrella was useless. Rain came in sideways, and I was tired of having to lift my umbrella up so as not to hit everyone.

Finally, I just put up the umbrella and went without. I slowly got soaked, but I was happy. I looked out over Princes Street Gardens and Calton Hill and felt as if I could take my sweet time. Except my stomach was growling. I had to get some food.

New Foods

Crepe Stand 1I stopped at a crepe stand in Princes Street Gardens and completely devoured a chocolate banana crepe. I had missed them so much since my visit to Paris years before. It was freshly cooked and warm in my stomach. A cold was eminent in the weather, but I didn’t care. I felt cozy and comfortable.

The crepes weren’t the only thing I became addicted to. I devoured all sorts of good treats and new foods. There were cupcakes, macaroons, haggis, and baguettes.

 

Haggis isn’t as bad as people make it out to be. It’s like a bland version of boudin (great Louisiana dish). If you tie it with some mashed potatoes you’re golden. If you want to eat at home for the night and still try it just pick some up at the grocery store. I did that a couple of times.IMG_1855 (2)

Two things I always picked up from the store were baguettes and custard. In Texas, we have crappy “custard” and it’s nothing like what you get in Scotland. My roommates thought I was crazy for eating them all the time, but they didn’t care. That’s what was so wonderful about traveling on my own. They didn’t care about me trying new things, and I was able to be a fatty! I was walking everywhere so the calories were being burned at least somewhat.

Little Trips

One day, I decided to head out and go to Rolsin to see the famous Rosslyn Chapel. It was featured in the movie The Da Vinci Code. I had no idea it was in Scotland until I was looking for places to go check out.

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It was a bit daunting at first getting there. Coming from Texas, I wasn’t used to taking the bus. We all get around via cars. The bus was cheaper though.

I remember one of my stops being in the middle of the country. There was the lone highway and a little place to sit. People watched me as I waited for the next bus. Not gonna lie, it was awkward yet peacefully quiet. I was still a bit nervous that the bus which was supposed to come wouldn’t show up.

It took some time, but finally it did and I made my way to the next stop, Roslin.

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Roslin is something out of a picturesque retirement book. The town is situated out in the countryside with soft rolling hills and it’s quiet everywhere you go. There are flowers arranged here and there. The houses are quaint. I loved it.

I walked down the small roadway towards the chapel. I paid the fee, and went inside to see what it was really like. I wasn’t let down; though, I will admit it was significantly smaller than I imagined.

Since I didn’t have to take care of anyone else while seeing it I got to take my time. After looking around, I decided to check out the cemetery.

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Okay, call me weird, but cemeteries are extremely peaceful! This one had unique tombstones and the grass was luscious green. I wanted to touch it and roll all around…. I did. It was completely worth it!

I laid there and looked up at the bright blue sky with a few scattered clouds. I was alone with my thoughts. Everything inside my head slowed down and I was able to take a full breath. I wanted to stay there for the rest of the day.

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There was a trail beside the cemetery which I decided to investigate. It led me down to a small bridge and cottage. It was something out of a fairy tale. The cottage was on private property, so I made sure to stay off of it. But I later found out that people can rent the cottage for a small fee. Sign me up!

If I had other people with me, I wouldn’t be able to do all of that. I would have had to sit and wait for them to figure out what they wanted and didn’t want to do. Wait for them to catch up to me, and so much more that I didn’t want to deal with.

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I got away from technology. I was unreachable! There was no cellphone service, no internet access, and no one calling me.

More people need to get away from technology and take in what’s around them. I was finally able to ground myself again.

I can’t tell you the last time I felt more like myself. I knew who I was, what I wanted to do, and where I wanted to go.

Taking the break away from the hectic work life, technology, and people enables you to re-gather yourself. Everyone needs to do it once in awhile.

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Meeting New People

When roaming around a new country alone, people are more willing to come up and talk to you. They can spot you’re a foreigner from a mile away. These people can either be good or bad so use your intuition. But the good ones make your trip worthwhile.

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I met several people besides my roommates over in Scotland that I still remember to this day. There was an old man who stopped to talk to me as I was admiring a statue of the Polish bear. He told me the story behind it and why it was important to the people of Scotland.

There was also a lady I met at the bus stop. She was old and her skin was covered in blotches. I let her take my seat, and she started to tell me about her children and her life. She had been all over the world with her family. Now her kids are scattered as well. One is a lawyer and another a doctor. She told me about her time in South Africa and her times in other places. She was absolutely fascinating.

Oddly enough, there was a man I met who had visited Austin a couple times. If there’s one thing about traveling, it’s you never know who you’ll meet. There are other explorers out there, and they have a story to tell along with yours.

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Over the course of the three weeks, I learned more about different cultures, things to do and see in the area, made some great friends, and found myself again.

Traveling alone is not something to be afraid of, it’s something to embrace!

 

 

 

 

The Writers’ Museum

The Writers’ Museum, housed in what used to be Lady Stair’s home, can be found off the Royal Mile in Makar’s Court; which means poet or author’s court. The area is not frequented as often as other places. Quotes from famous writers, such as Hugh MacDiarmid and Robert Burns, are etched into the cobblestones greeting all those who enter or pass.

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The museum features three Scottish writers: Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Guests are immediately met with the choice of ascending or descending the small spiral staircase.

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Downstairs, people are lead into the intriguing life of Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island. People can view his personal books, old Tartan scarf, and even a portrait his wife supposedly was not quite fond of. It is said that the artist insisted on painting the infamous author of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

On the upstairs floors, people can find strange and intriguing trinkets from Sir Walter Scott’s and Robert Burn’s personal items from a plaster of Burn’s skull to Scott’s published books. Make sure to check out the top floor to view a popular printing press.

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