I’m officially one third of the way through my time in Wales already. It’s amazing that I’ve been able to see and do as much I as I have in just a month.
Edinburgh was incredible and has become one of my favourite cities in the world. I’ve heard it called the Medieval Manhattan and the Scottish San Francisco, and both descriptions have a ring of truth to them: like Manhattan, the city developed upwards instead of outwards, and like San Francisco, there is not a flat piece of land in sight. There’s also a lot of natural beauty around the city. I took a day trip through the Kingdom of Fife and up to St Andrews during my time in Scotland too, which was well worth it. Driving through farm country reminded me of back home.
This weekend, I’ll be heading to Liverpool and Manchester. I’m excited to see the birthplace of The Beatles.
A couple observations from the past week or so:
1. On the power of ‘yes’…
I was given one piece of advice from one of my best friends before leaving: be the guy who says ‘yes.’ He had been to Tanzania the year before and had his own share of adventures, so I was all ears. After all, I would be going across the ocean to a new country where I knew absolutely no-one and would need to make new friends. The advice has stuck with me throughout my time here, whether it’s an invitation to go out with friends, a chance to sit down for a cup of tea, or a recommendation of things to see and do.
It’s a simple piece of advice. It’s also a fair judgment of my social tendencies: I like to be invited places, but I’ve never been the first to say ‘yes.’ I probably pass on just as many invitations as I get. Coming to a new place with a limited amount of time to make lasting memories, it was exactly the advice I needed to hear.
2. On time, the present, and the merits of awe therapy…
While I was waiting for the ferry from Wales to Ireland in the middle of the night, I had a lot of time to kill — five hours, to be precise. In my sleep-deprived haze, I found a pamphlet laying on one of the waiting room couches with articles on things to see and do on the Emerald Isle. The brochure was mostly filled with advertisements from hotels and travel planners, but one of the articles introduced to me the idea of awe therapy. This article from The Independent does a good job of explaining:
A jaw-dropping moment really can make time appear to stand still […] research found that by fixing the mind to the present moment, awe seems to slow down perceived time. Studies on groups of volunteers showed that experiencing awe made people feel they had more time to spare. This in turn led them to be more patient, less materialistic, and more willing to give up time to help others. (via)
Sounds pretty good, right? I think it’s something we can all agree we could use more of. Being a broadcast journalist by trade, the practice of slowing down doesn’t exactly come easily to me, but the effort of doing so has made a world of difference. Naturally, one of the best ways of experiencing awe is through travelling and seeing new places — as good a reason for booking your next trip as any. But let’s face it: that’s the easy way. The challenge is in experiencing awe in the mundane rituals we go through every day. I had a great interview with Eternia where we touched on this, and she articulates the idea much better than I possibly could:
We kind of steal from ourselves these amazing, magical experiences, when we’re not present in the moment. And then the reverse is true: if we are present in the moment, the most normal and mundane experience – for example, walking to work, or taking the train, or making breakfast – can become something of awe and something of wonder. It’s basically what kids are like. Kids are so present in the moment, [whereas] we’re worried about stuff; we’re running late, and we’re like, “come on, let’s go,” and kids are like, “mom, look at that bird!” Everything to them is like, “wow,” you know? I guess that’s what I’m trying to say. It can be that way for us if we really learn to be present.
It’s really hard as adults; we have so many pressures, and so many things on our mind, and so many worries and unknowns. I think we like to control everything, so all of that bears down on us. A lot of [being present] involves unplugging. I’m really big on digital detoxing right now. I’m not as good as some people; I haven’t shut off my phone or Internet completely, but I find that our devices are not only time stealers, but they’re [also often] joy stealers when it comes to being present. (via)
Food for thought. I’ll leave you with one final thought on time, shared awhile ago by my friend and mentor at The Come Up Show, Chedo.
My three favourite photographs of the past week or so (and the stories behind them):
1. Arthur’s Seat.
I climbed this bad boy around sunset on day one of my trip to Edinburgh: 251 metres above ground. It’s the highest point in Holyrood Park and also the site of a dormant volcano. One thing the picture doesn’t capture is just how windy it was at the top. It made me want to kiss the ground when I finally got all the way back down.
2. Old Course.
What’s most remarkable about the Old Course at St Andrews, to me, is the fact that not only is it a public course, but visitors are free to walk the entire grounds, because it sits on common land. What other Major Championship course in the world would allow this to happen — let alone the most historic one of them all? I walked every single hole, the same as golf’s greats have done for years. The Open Championship returns to the Old Course this year, which should make it extra interesting to watch.
3. Duddingston Loch.
I spent the better part of an afternoon trying to find this place, and it was well worth the effort. As the sun set over the water, and the birds took to the sky, it made for a perfect spectacle. Fun fact: Duddingston Loch is the site of one of Scotland’s most famous paintings, Sir Henry Raeburn’s The Skating Minister. (Regrettably, there were no skating ministers to be seen on my visit.)
BONUS: Burns Night.
Further proof of my theory that things have a way of working themselves out. When I booked my trip to Edinburgh, I had one food goal in mind: eat haggis. I was tempted to try it my very first day there, but my inner George Costanza reasoned that it was wiser (read: cheaper) to wait until Sunday night, when I could no longer cook for myself at the hostel. Unbeknownst to me, Sunday happened to be Robbie Burns Day — the one day above all others when eating haggis is Scottish tradition. What are the odds that I picked the one weekend to travel to Scotland and eat haggis when it’s part of a national tradition?
That’s it for now. More to come in the weeks ahead.