Travelling is my passion. I have been through over 20 different countries - I lost count after my fourth trip to Europe. As long as the number exceeds my age, I'm satisfied.

I'm an avid backpacker. I don't just want to see the world. I want to experience it.

I travel in a unique way. I have climbed the Great Wall of China in snow, worked on a farm in Normandy, France, and volunteered at an orphanage in Bali, Indonesia.

Backpackers are constantly sharing information, stories, and advice. I'm not doing this because I make money off of it (which I don't) or because I think I know it all (which I definitely don't).

I am simply doing this because it's what I love to do. Enjoy!

Monday, 24 December 2012

A Canadian Conquers Caledonia

Part One: the people make the place

 After three full months of travel, work, and far too much play in Caledonia; I think it’s safe to say that I  have thoroughly experienced Scotland.  I spent two months living up in the small town of Wick  The beauty of the black cliffs is contrasted by the lack of activities for young adults; however, I found it quite easy and enjoyable to waste my time drinking pints of cider at Weatherspoons with mates, dancing at the Waterfront nightclub, and watching mindless reality TV shows such as Gordie Shore and the Valleys.

I spent three days in the Granite City (also known as Aberdeen) where I lived with a mate I had met on previous travels.  The oilfield city boasts expensive shopping streets and bland architecture that appears damp and gloomy on overcast days, yet shines like silver in the sun’s rays.  Even on weeknights, the city crawls with drunken nightlife.  Countless churches have been transformed into bars—that, if anything, describes my experience in Aberdeen.
Scotland’s most famous city, Glasgow, is spread along the stunning West Coast.  I didn’t see much of the city beyond its steaming nightlife.  It seems that every pub, no matter the size, is always crowded.  I partook in Pub Golf with my Scottish friends: a British tradition similar to Albertan drinking games in the sense that it exists solely to get you drunk.
A solid month in Edinburgh taught me the importance of carefully selecting a place to rent.  I probably spent twice as much time inside Caledonian Backpackers, drinking tea, reading, and chatting with foreigners, than I did on Princes Street right outside the door, simply because I was happy there.  It is the only place to stay in Edinburgh, in my opinion.  The city lacks nightlife compairable to Glasgow or Aberdeen, but the hostel kitchen is always a friendly place to play guitar, meet new friends, or bake a cake (they actually have an oven!)

Part Two: what you give is what you get

                Being nice almost always pays off.  I flew to Scotland with Ryan Air—a company notorious for applying hidden fees wherever possible.  After a few minutes of harmless flirting with a male flight attendant, I managed to skip the 40 euro fee generally applied to overweight baggage and boarded the plane with a beaming smile.
                I felt warmly welcomed by the locals in the UK.  Scottish people are extremely generous with their food, homes, and time.  I spent two months living in a large house rent-free in Wick.  Not to mention the countless coffees, Sunday roasts, complimentary snowboard pants, and free iPhone that I received from my friends.  Everyone  thatI have met on my travels has been eager to share whatever knowledge and provisions they have.
                Although some Scottish accents are nearly impossible to understand (like Glasweigans), I absolutely adore the way that locals acknowledge one another—with a fond “hiya!” or a simple nod and smile on the streets.  These friendly interactions explain why I preferred the small villages to the large cities.



When in Scotland, don’t forget to try an Irn Bru and mince pie (amazing hangover cure).  You will most likely hear the bagpipes at some point (hopefully outside, because they are bloody loud) and if you’re around during a national rugby or footie match you will see men in kilts sporting their clan tartan.  It’s probably not a good idea to mention your English heritage or mock the men in skirts, that is unless you want to witness ruthless Scottish patriotism first-hand and see far too much of a Scottish man’s skin.


Part Three: the must-see’s and the have-been’s

                First off, I don’t care what any tour guide might say, if you stick below Inverness, you are not seeing the real Highlands.  The western point of Durness was my personal favorite.  The views are absolutely fantastic.  There is also an incredible chocolate shop that I accidently by-passed.  Unfortunately, buses don’t run that far north, so trekking up past Ullapool requires commitment and access to a vehicle.  My advice is to do what I did: make a friend who will take you!
                Aberdeen’s Art Gallery was amazing.  I usually have a hard time comprehending the implied meaning behind modern art, but each work of art came with a plaque explaining the motivation behind the piece.

                The Orkney Islands are wild and wonderful.  Kirkwall and Stromness are two quaint cities surrounded by landscape bursting with nature, but besides that, there isn’t much going on.  The same can be said for Lochness—besides an excellent exhibit center and crumbled castle that is very easily (and illegally) accessed for free at night, there isn’t much to do or see.
                I walked up to Edinburgh Castle at night, but I didn’t fork over the fee to get inside.  From what I hear, it isn’t worth the 16 pounds.  The free walking tour is, however, worth the three hours it takes to complete.  The city itself is gorgeous and the mock-German Christmas market isn’t half bad, either.

                Scotland has an overwhelming abundance of second-hand shops.  I stray away from the Hospice stores, because the thought of climbing into a dead person’s clothes gives me the heebie-jeebies.  I have gotten into the habit of purchasing inexpensive second-hand clothing, wearing them for awhile, and then re-donating them when I plan to travel on.  It’s a great way to freshen up my wardrobe while saving money.    
                If, like me, you can’t wake up without a good coffee, you probably shouldn’t go to Scotland at all.  The locals sip watery, bitter instant coffee or pride themselves on foam-less cappuccinos.  At least the English make amazing tea (I try to steep it the exact same way but it tastes like shit.  I think there’s tea in the British blood).  It’s best to do like the locals and stick to whisky.


All in all, I loved Scotland—partially because it was a part of my heritage, but mostly because now it’s a part of my life.


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