Most visitors to the United Kingdom never get past London, and if they do it’s usually only for a short tour or day trip to the English countryside. In my opinion that’s a tragedy. For I have found few places on Earth I would rather be than Scotland.
The reasons I love Scotland are plentiful: it has a rugged beauty the closely matches my imagined ideal; it is an out of the way place, leaving it largely unspoiled by the flocks of tourists that migrate to countries like France and Italy annually; and, it has cheap and excellent shortbread, my favorite cookie.
That would be plenty of reasons to love anywhere, but the truth is that above all else I love Scotland for the people who live there. I could give countless examples, but my recent arrival and the day I had yesterday are a perfect example of what one can expect from Scotland…
Proving yet again that I’m less responsible than a fifth grader, I failed to transfer money into my bank account and thus arrived in Edinburgh needing not only a place to stay but without even a way to pay for food. Fortunately I met some wonderful Scots in Sevilla earlier this summer who not only gave me a roof over my head, but food, drink and entertainment. Hence, I awoke well rested yesterday to yet another wonderful meal, this time of Scottish porridge.
After I’d eaten my fill I’d decided to head out on bike for Glasgow, where yet another friend from my travels awaited my arrival. That plan went smoothly for nearly an hour when the bike path I was following turned into a gravely trail that chewed through my tire tube like a rat through cheese. After about three flats, someone stopped to help me and give me patches, which came as a great relief as I was out of my own. I then spent a lovely half-an-hour chatting about traveling before I continued forgetting all about my irresponsible behavior.
Unfortunately, my bike wasn’t done throwing fits and I soon had another flat, only this time the valve broke so patches were useless. All I needed was a spare tube, which of course, I didn’t have. So after this tragic and completely foreseeable event, I was stranded. Still, having watched Cast Away, I knew that if Tom Hanks can survive for four years alone on an island; I had no reason to panic. I was right too, rather than having to do an Edgar Alan Poe imitation and sleep in the gutter; I managed to flag down another kind Scot, this one on a bike. I asked for a bike store; he asked what I needed. One free tube and assisted flat change later and I was on my way – to the train station. There, yet another kind stranger helped me find the train and then let me use his cellphone to text my friend that I would be arriving, most unexpectedly, rather a bit later than planned. Naturally I arrived in Glasgow to find only more warm hospitality from friend and stranger alike. All in all, it was just an average day in Scotland, except perhaps, for my extremely poor planning.
In New York and many other places in the modern world, we have adopted an every man for himself attitude. Strangers are met with skepticism, hesitance and even fear. To be someplace where you’re membership in the human race is enough to entitle you to warmth and kindness makes Scotland someplace truly exceptional and a joy to visit.