Long time no see!
The last time I put finger to keyboard for the sake of this blog we were just starting official classes. Now, we just passed our midterm week and break so it’s fair to say a little bit of time has passed (half the term actually). In the meantime I pretty much forgot about this little blog here, chiefly because of all the other plans and projects that took up most of my waking hours the past month or so. Since that last blog I’ve traveled quite a lot, did a lot of schoolwork (wasn’t expecting that were you?!), and met some pretty interesting characters along the way. Here’s a bit of a taste, and my sorry version of an excuse, for what has kept me preoccupied the past 4 or 5 weeks.
About 2 weeks ago I found myself trudging through the docks of Dublin Port, fresh off the ferryboat and raring for a little adventure, when I realized an odd pattern within my travels up to that point. Rather, it was more like a checklist of situations that I would inevitably find myself ticking off in rapid succession at some point in time. Here’s the basic structure I worked out for myself:
- You have (insert number less than 25 or 0) amount of currency
- You have been walking for (insert number greater than 3) hours already
- Or alternatively: walked (insert number greater than 5) miles already
- You are (insert number greater than 4) miles away from your destination
- You have (insert number less than 20) % battery life left
- You have (insert number equal or less than 2) hours of daylight left
To varying degrees this is basically the rundown summary of every major trip I’ve taken so far. In Wales I ended up dreadfully lost in the Brecon Beacons National Park. The rundown in that one being I was (at that point) about 10 miles into a hike through the hills, had a swollen IT band, took a wrong trail, trekked through herds of sheep, ended up in someone’s farm, ended up hopping fences through fields while the cows lazily acknowledged my existence with a few “moos,” got lost along the hedgerow one-lane streets taking me back to town, failed to make the last bus running (it was a Sunday so they stopped running early), talked to some exceedingly nice locals who managed to help me get the last taxi in town back to the train station (which was about 15 miles away), and managed to catch the last train back to Cardiff by 11pm… rather unorthodox, not planned out very well, potentially disastrous, and something I found myself repeating to some extent in Scotland and Ireland; but totally thrilling and worth every second. In terms of the whole “man vs wild” thrill of an adventure that comes from trying to make the most out of limited resources, I think I understand a bit more why people do far more extreme versions of this.
When it comes down to it, studying abroad becomes an odd amalgam of sights, sounds, and experiences. Pictures and those selfies don’t capture the wind in your hair or the foreign looking street signs or the assorted mix of tourists and locals milling about their lives. I’m incredibly aware that so many little experiences that are commonplace to me at this point (scanning into the tube, paying with coins, etc.) will be beyond my memory after only a few days of being back in Seattle. I wonder sometimes, and this goes for all traveling, to what extent these experiences shape our lives; if we can’t remember how all of these little moments pan out are they really collectively shaping or do we only pick out through happenstance individual stories to hold onto?
Speaking of little stories, one story of when we were in Scotland struck an interesting and thrilling chord. It took 30-odd American students, a bunch of Scotsmen, and a well-used karaoke machine. A group of 40 or so of students from the program and I went up to Scotland last week and ended up in this little town called Oban on the western coast of the highlands. That night most of us headed to one of the local places rumored to have a fantastic karaoke setup. When we arrived there were maybe a dozen Scotsman milling around and staring dubiously at this large contingent of clearly American students. The awkward silence continued and we retreated (to the extent 30 people can in a tiny place) into the back corner. As I walked in one local looked me dead in the eye, stuck out his hand, gave me a toothy grin and said in a distinctly highland brogue, “Heya there mate, what brings ya up to these here parts?” After a few introductions Jack turned into one of the most conversational, expletive, and exuberant men I’ve ever met, let alone in the middle-of-nowhere Scotland. We caught on nicely and he absolutely couldn’t believe he’d ever meet someone from Seattle out there in Scotland. He was giddy with excitement that some Americans were in town, and that he “won the powerball a few times” to be lucky enough to be at the one place in town we all showed up in. I was surprised to say the least, I thought we students would have seemed pretty obnoxious to the locals to which he answered (with some heavy censoring for this blog) “I hear the same bloody eejiots singing the same bloody songs every night. You Americans are gonna light up the place!” We did exactly that as two friends of mine shattered the proverbial glass by starting off the night with “Baby Got Back.” After that pretty much everything was on the table and, once the locals stopped shaking their heads, the group’s favor quickly swung to our side. As the place filled up, it became steadily more and more boisterous with this huge sing-along filled with raw throats, a bunch of dancing Scotsmen, and a troop of Americans leading the chant alongside tunes including “Piano Man,” “Let it Go,” Don’t Stop Believing,” “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” and “Livin’ on a Prayer.” Not bad for a bunch of ‘youths’ in Scotland huh?
I have about a 6 weeks or so left here in England and it is already apparent November will go by incredibly fast. Lots of friends are dropping by, others are already here, and many other loose ends all need tying up in a relatively short time. Hopefully I won’t forget about this blog in my next set of adventures but if I do, I swear I had a good excuse for it (just like last time). In any case, I’m back to find some more stories and adventures and I’m wishing you all the best for your own.