Monday, September 30, 2013

Hostels Make Me Sleepy & How I Travel For 9 Months Without Killing My Soul


I'm on my way home but it feels only as if I've just begun. Nine months have blurred into an unidentified mass of emotions and connections and I feel as if this entire time, I've been messing around with it like a preschooler with play-doh.

Last night, I got the best sleep I've had since... I'm trying to remember the last time I was able to wake up on my own without the influence of others. I've had good nights of sleep, but nothing like this. I'm currently in my own room in a giant bed and I don't yet have a desire to get out of it.

During the past month, I've usually been in a situation where someone else is sleeping in the same room and they get up early. The moment someone else in a room gets up for the day, my body tends to switch into “awake mode” and it's hopeless to try and sleep after that.

Hostels are the most infamous because your fellow sojourners not only keep you up late as they unceremoniously stumble back from the pub, blinded back by their drunkenness that anyone else might be trying to sleep in the room, they also wake you up in the morning with their sight-seeing ambitions. I'd forgotten about that when I booked a hostel instead of trying to CouchSurf (which I don't regret) this past week.

My body needed that sleep.
It still might need that sleep.

It needs to rest.

But I'm in Glasgow! This will be my only day in Glasgow, so I also feel that ever-present feeling that I frequently shake that I ought to be doing something.

I've been ignoring it a lot this trip because, on a nine-ten month journey, you can't afford to tourist-it-up every day. There's a reason why most folks only travel for a few weeks, at most, at a time. Well, I guess that has more to do with their job than the fact that it can be tiring. I've had multiple people remark, “Hey, how do you do it? How do you travel for so long? Just a week is exhausting for me?”


How do I get used to changing my settings every few days?

I've got rhythms I cling to. I've got a quilt.

I'm a super-lax (not laxative) tourist that puts no value in seeing all the sights of a town. I can't afford to care. I can't afford to put any emotional connection in seeing what a town has to offer.

I see what I can and live with that. I explore what's possible but, when I start to feel like heading home and just chilling, I do. If there's more I desire to see and I can't, I know I can always come back.

I give myself time to read books and write letters, just like I would do at home. There's time to research, study, and learn.

I spend a lot of time in the woods, forests, or whatever natural settings a place has to offer. This contributes to recharging and well-being.

I keep my suitcase “organized” in a way such that I can live out of it without feeling anxious. Everything has a place and I know that place.

I've taken a lot of down time. When my CouchSurfing hosts would leave for work, that day, that didn't mean I always left to explore. Some days I would spend a lot of the time inside recharging in the glory of having a house or flat to myself.

In Moscow, I spent a lot of my first week there doing not too much. Sure, I was in Moscow, but I was jet-lagged and had just finished a non-stop-month-long tour of the States (Hello Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, Chicago, Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, New York, and Ontario). My CouchSurfing host was out of the house the entire time and I loved just hanging out in his apartment and making beans and rice.

In Norway, after another month of travelling up from Moscow, I spent a lot of my time exploring the area surround the fjord I was staying near. Between that and the empty house I got when my host was at work, yoga, or choir, I was able to settle in pretty quick.

Then I had my three months in Ukraine.

So while I'm travelling, it doesn't always quite look like travelling as you might imagine it. I spend a lot of time comfortably curled up and ignoring the possibilities.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Hitchhike, Ferry, Train, Walk :: Isle of Skye to Glasgow

Today was my day of getting from the Isle of Skye to Glasgow to catch my flight.

This is going to be put just about as dryly as possible as the words just aren't coming to mind but I'm in a mood to document.


6:01 AM – Indian man decides it's a great time to talk on the phone in the caravan we're sleeping in which has been lovingly dubbed “the Yellow Welly.” I skip being passive aggressive and tell him exactly what I think of him waking me up like that. The only part I skipped was commenting on how much he's been snoring all night. I'm sick. I only got five hours of sleep the night before. Just call me Oscar the Grouch. But, really, why man? Why?

Up until 8:30 AM – Dream. Have dreams of dancing with this person I know well – but who is not someone I would consider a dancer. But we had a rad dance in my dream and it was lovely.

8:31 AM – Arise. Get dressed. Pack up the suitcase and head from the Caravan to the main house.


8:45 AM – Heat up some beans and put it on toast. Beans on toast. Seek out first ride for the day. Since buses aren't running as it's a Sunday, I'll need to hitchhike across the island to catch my ferry. More specifically, I'll have to hitchhike with a suitcase.

8:52 AM – Sniff the lady's mushrooms.

8:55 AM – Ride offer from Norman – the old man from California who likes to go on long hikes each day.

9:20 AM – Check-out, leaving with a deep feeling of gratefulness that I normally don't have ringing through my limbs when I leave a hostel. Hop in the car.

9:45 AM – Norman drops me off in Broadford. I'm 1/3 to my destination.

9:46 AM – Stick out my thumb and smile a lot. Assume proper hitchhiking stance.

Up until 10:00 AM – Just a few folks drive by. Some shrug their shoulders. Some ignore me. A few stop, but either aren't going far enough or don't have room for the suitcase. I have a thermos of tea which I enjoy sipping at as I wait for the right ride. Listen to a Katy Perry and Ben E. King mash-up and feeling no guilt in how happy it makes me.

10:01 AM – Get picked up by E. of Sleat. Sweet lady and mother of a young girl. She's fluent in Gaelic and works at the Gaelic college. We stop by the college. Wonderful conversation. Good connection. Eager to meet her again someday when I come back to Skye.


10:30 AM – She drops me off at Armadale where I'll catch my ferry. I stow my luggage in the Staff Room and trudge off to explore the town which consists of the MacDonald centre, gardens, a few tourist shops, and a cafe on the pier.

10:42 AM – Attempt to enter the gardens and realize I don't have my wallet which is never the best feeling.

11:02 AM – Back at the ferry terminal. Find my wallet. Invest a few pounds in having internet access. Chill at the ferry terminal. Ferry won't be leaving until 3:20 PM. Here Jamie Cullum on the radio for the first time ever. I consume butternut squash soup from Coop.

2:20 PM – Laugh when a biker does an amusing dance to the music on the radio. He catches my eye and I end up hanging out with him and the other man until I reach the other side of the water at Mallaig.

2:55 PM – The two bikers are Craig and Craig. They offer me a coffee and I take them up on the offer. They also end up getting me a bacon roll with brown sauce which is really satisfying.


3:20 PM – Ferry from Armadale to Mallaig.

3:40 PM – Arrive in Mallaig and trek over from the ferry terminal to the train station.

4:05 PM – Train departs.


4:10 PM – Young couple join me at my table. They eat prepackaged pancakes with cheddar cheese. I sip tea from my thermos, still hot from earlier that morning.


4:55 PM – Amazing view as we pass over a bridge. It looks very strangely familiar. The entire ride is remarkably beautiful.


5:15 PM – We begin to engage in a conversation. Both are students at the University of Glasgow. She's doing English, TV, and Film and he does Product design and is from America.

I learn at the bridge we had passed over was the one in the famous epic Harry Potter scene (Google “Scotland Harry Potter Bridge Train” and I bet you'll find it). Apparently this segment of the train ride is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world.



5:40 PM – I realize I'm traveling on the completely wrong day. I was supposed to leave for Glasgow tomorrow. My flight does not leave tomorrow, it leaves the day after tomorrow. The couple makes up a list of things for me to do in Glasgow and offers me a place in their flat if I need it.

6:00ish PM – Pass through Fort Williams. New travel companions.


7:00 PM – Start to engage in conversation with a women getting her PhD who has a flatmate who likes Thanksgiving and describes me as being like Christmas. Her name is Katie. She is swell and I appreciate her companionship. She says, “Cheers,” a whole lot instead of thank-you and we both believe that tea must often be consumed on a train ride, especially in Scotland. She's a mighty fine soul. She invites me to a comedy show the next night done by intellectuals. I'm amused already.

9:20 PM – Arrive in Glasgow. She's determined to make sure I make my connection before leaving me on my own. She calls Flynn multiple times, trying to get a hold of him. When he does answer, she thought he sounded quite apathetic and isn't too sure she trusts him yet and gives me her address just in case.

9:55 PM – Flynn shows up and gives me a huge hug. He's definitely Aimee's cousin. I say farewell to Katie. We do the short trek to his flat.


10:14 PM – Arrive at the flat on Bath Street in central Glasgow. Huge vaulted ceilings with trim. He prepares me for what to expect at his flat which is, pretty much, exactly what you'd expect from a bunch of uni students.

I find out that he's giving up his bedroom for me for the two nights. I feel overwhelmingly grateful and blessed. Turns out I'll be getting a full night's sleep.

10:24 PM – I meet the rest of the flatmates. It looks very reminiscent of the apartment above the Quik Shop in Haines. They had had a party the night before. Folks playing Grand Theft Auto. Smells like the place above the Quik Shop. Lots of dudes plus Flynn's lovely girlfriend.

11:20 PM – I start writing and testing out the internet which isn't working. Have to pay 6 pounds for that, but even that doesn't work.

11:53 PM – Right now. I'm sleepy. Good-night, world.

40 Hours in Glasgow in 3,159 Words


I wasn't planning on being in Glasgow.

Sure, I had intentions to go there, but only for a night that I might leave early the next morning and catch my flight to Iceland.

But, mid train ride, after seven hours of travelling that day, I realized that I was an entire day ahead of schedule. I thought that today was tomorrow that the next day was not today.

Which means...

I had entire day to kill in Glasgow.

I know I ought to look at that as a bright opportunity, but I wasn't totally keen on sightseeing another city. I didn't have it in me. I had already done some hardcore obligatory sightseeing these past few weeks to supplement my travels and wasn't ready for another round of binging on churches, museums, and fine-views.

When I got to the train station, with new-found pal-of-sorts Katie whom I had met on the train, we scanned the area for my host, Flynn – a young man that resembled a dinosaur in his profile picture on Facebook.

I am connected to Flynn through Aimme, a dance friend of mine from back in Seattle although I'm not certain that she's there right now. Colorado comes to mind.

“What does he look like?” she inquired.
“Sort of like a blond dinosaur,” I told her.

An old man walked by.

“Prehistoric?” she asked.
“Not quite...”

Katie was a total champ in making sure I wouldn't be at the train station all night... which wouldn't be possible since the train stations in Scotland close at night. Their country is so tiny that they have no need to keep the trains running all night.

She called his phone. No answer. Called. Left a message. Called.

And then he picked up.

And Katie was not too fond of his tone of voice. He said he'd be down in around 10 minutes or so. Katie wasn't too sure she wanted to send me home with him.
This was Katie-gone-Momma-bear.

“No, I think he sounded pretty ok in the messages,” I had said. I had been sending him emergency texts from random strangers' phones telling him that:
1. I'm coming today.
2. I'm accidentally here a day early so I would be there two nights. Is that ok?

He had reassured me that it was totally fine and chill and all sorts of adjectives that you want in a host.

Katie stuck around.

We kept scanning faces.

Finally, a lanky not-so-dinosaur looking guy walked in, gave me a hug, and we knew we had our man, Flynn. Not sure if Katie was keen on letting me go or not.

Flynn and I started our trek up the streets of Glasgow. As we neared his house, he started to explain the housing situation. He lives with a couple guys and they're all super chill. He warned me about the house because they had had a party the night before. This guy was incredibly sweet – he had made up his bed and was offering it to me for the night (hallelujah – not with him in it) since he thought the couch might be in a noisier room till later than when I'd want to sleep.

We entered a grand entrance. There were marble columns and a giant red-carpet staircase.

We walked past the staircase, down some stairs, down a hallway, then up some stairs, and through two more doors to get to his bedroom. I dropped off my stuff and he exhibited hosting-skillz that would make his mother proud. He offered me the services of his toothpaste, made sure I was fed, and made sure I had what I needed. I was grateful.

Upstairs, I got to meet the rest of his flatmates that can pretty much only be described as chill (which I know has already been used three times in this post). I'm sure there are more words to describe them but that's the one that comes straight to mind when I walked into their living room.

I felt like I was walking into Daniel's flat back in Alaska – the one above the Quik Shop where they (Dani, Nik, and Daniel) let me sleep in the closet. The entire vibe of the room was the same except for one was in a major city (sort of – depends on your feelings on Glasgow, population 600,000) and the other in a rural, remote town in Alaska.

I quickly was able to settle into a chair and did what I do best in these sort of situations – watch other people play video games. After work, back in Haines, I used to come to the Quik Shop and do the exact same thing. I felt so at home.

It wasn't long, though, until I started to droop. I'd been travelling for over 12 hours and, along with that, I was sick. In being sick, generally the first rule of recovering is to get enough sleep which is something I hadn't achieved yet. I hadn't had a solid night's sleep since when I started to get sick. I had been staying in a hostel on the Isle of Skye and there were always loud folks to ensure that my goal of 7-8 hours of sleep was unattainable. That morning I had out-loud addressed the Indian man who decided to have a phone conversation at 6 AM in our caravan - the same one who snored all night and was loudly smacking on take-out in the evening.

I curled up in Flynn's giant bed, not utilizing every corner, turned on Julian Lloyd Webber's Lullaby album, and fell asleep promptly, not waking up once the entire night. Waking up was like finishing a nutritionally balanced meal. I felt incredible... sort of. Waking up when sick rarely leaves you feeling like a champ during those first minutes - but I felt like I had finally done my body right. I needed that. Thank you, Flynn.


The whole house was asleep so I quickly slipped out to see what Glasgow had to offer me this day... or maybe what I had to offer it.

I checked out the city.

It looked very, eh, city-esque. Nothing too remarkable.

If I had been in the mindset of, “Golly! I'm going to Glasgow! I want to see stuff!” I would've been a lot more excited, but I just didn't have it in me. I feel like someone had given me a few tokens of “emotional tourist energy” and I spent my last ones in Edinburgh (worth the spending!).

I saw a homeless dude.
I saw a homeless lass.

I grabbed the lass (not physically) and took her to a restaurant of her choice (Kentucky Friend Chicken) and got her set with a meal (bucket of chicken) for the day.

She was Romania and it was only fit. As I travel, my heart remains soft towards the homeless I see on the street because I know I'm not that far off from where they are. I'm one medical bill from being on the streets. The only reason I don't fear that is because people take care of me. People have been taking care of me in every country I've visited and the Romanians were especially sweet. For me not to pass on the love and kindness shown me to them for their most basic of needs would require a very callused heart. I never want my heart to callus towards these humans. I never want to get to the point that I can pass without looking down and acknowledge their humanity.

"You're a human. You're alive. You matter."

I ran to the Poundstore and grabbed a few boxes of Cadbury granola bars off the shelf, forked over the pounds, and shoved a few bars in my pocket.

Now, instead of trying to dodge the begging humans, my goal was to find them all. Instead of avoiding their glance, I was seeking it out. Instead of pressing on, I could pause.

“You hungry?” I asked each time.

When they nodded, I would hand them a granola bar, make eye-contact and move on.

And thus, my day had a goal, and I meandered on to the Botanic Gardens in the West End.

One thing most Glaswegians I talked to were in clear consensus on was that the West End was grand and that the East End was not to be touched by me. Catch me a few months earlier and you would've likely seen me hike straight into the thick of the East End, but I had heard the Botanic Gardens were pretty and wanted to have soup with Katie... so I went to the West End.

In between granola bars and the Botanic Gardens was in a café and I got an email from a David whom I had met back at the hostel on Skye. David of Nazareth who, if we were to merely define him by his capabilities, would be a blacksmithing carpentry security guard dude.

I wrote up his J[ew]date profile. It goes like this:

Hey Ladies.
This is a sir named David.
He's dead inside.
You should date him.

He's Jewish.

Now, forget all that and just read this sentence, “He's a blacksmithing carpenter from Nazareth.”

Sounds a lot like Jesus, eh? He was Jewish too.

Yeah.

He has a sister and a brother and he's multilingual. He holds two guns for his job.

He's great at carrying around packets of pepper and loves reading out loud Winnie the Pooh to 23-year old travellers he meets at hostels.

Engaging conversationalist who will leave you feeling like crap.

::

So, David.

He wove together a story of hitchhiking around Skye and coming back to the hostel but there was no room so he hitchhed on and "I also really enjoyed you're company although I felt like I only got to know you, but we really didn't have a chance just to hang out. So in the morning I decided to try my luck and came to Glasgow with a friend to see if you might be sitting in the park (you weren't)."

I don't know if I would write in such detail about folks, generally, but this is David and he's keen on honesty and openness (and leaving you to feel like crap - but not really - but sort of - but he made sure we reconnected but...).

Since we were in the same place, it seemed like a keen idea to get together. He was kind of like Daniel back in America. I met Daniel on the train to Chicago and later we met up on the other side of the country in Portland, Maine.

By the way, I smell terrible right now. Absolutely awful. I kept this shirt in a plastic bag with my socks that were worn in wet hiking boots and I think my shirt now sort of smells like a mix between that smell and a wet dog.

I shot David my itinerary for the day and hobbled elegantly along to the Great Western Road.

A few charity shops (thrift shops down the road...) were observed as I kept up my search for something to give my mom. Nothing. Mom, I can't find you anything. You like useful things and I'm not finding them. I don't know how to buy you clothes. I know you'd like something from Scotland, but I don't know what to get you. You have scarves. You have gloves. Sometimes I want to flick your arm in frustration for raising me to think that gifts have to have some purpose. I just want to get you a gift, damn it, and I can't! That's probably the third time I've sworn on this blog. Sorry, y'all, I'm frustrated I can't get my mother a gift. I didn't find Dad anything either.

1:00 PM crept up sooner than I wanted it to which meant there was a chance I would be meeting Katie for lunch. We had discussed it on the train and left it open ended. We mentioned a place and she said she had lunch generally at 1 PM. I shot her a message and told her I'd be there, despite having not heard back from her.


For lunch, I decided to get the set of a soup, sandwich, fruit, and coffee at Naked Soup.

“Hi – could I please buy the set lunch now but only have the coffee and get the rest of my meal later?”

I got a bit of a blank stare.

“Yeah... but why?”
“There's someone I might be meeting here but I'm not sure yet and what's the WiFi password?” I haphazardly replied.

As he was pouring my coffee, I asked him, “Are you the smiley guy? I was supposed to find a smiley guy.” Katie's friend works here.

“Who?”
“Katie C?”
“No, don't know her.”

He turned to the ginger and asked, “You know a Katie C?”

He gave a smile

“You do! You're the smiley guy!” I said.

Yeah, he knew her.

I grabbed my coffee and stood awkwardly with my laptop on the side of a chest-high table, checking to see if Katie had written back. After 20 minutes, I found a place to sit, did some more writing, and finally grabbed my meal after realizing she was likely not coming.

As I was packing up to leave, I got a Facebook message.

She had been a meeting and would be there in 5-10 minutes.

Gold.

She came, grabbed her lunch to go, and we set out for the University of Glasgow campus.

Yeah.. I really smell like a dog right now. This is foul. Humans beware.


On the walk, I found a steel T-pipe and liked it and carried it around..

The campus of the U of G (I never heard anyone refer to it as that, but I think it sounds fun – UG UG UG!) was splendid and very university-ish. I especially liked spending time in the Zoology hall and looking at all of the dead animals. She showed me the view at the flagpole.

I enjoy Katie.

I enjoy her wit and communicating with her. I enjoy her perspectives. I enjoyed being able to walk around with someone who could tell me about where I am. If you guys go to Glasgow, I highly recommend finding her (just ask the smiley guy at Naked Soup). She's doing/getting her PhD on MS research.

It was then time to make it to the Botanic Gardens.

I continued along the road, saying farewell to Katie.
I took in what I could of Glasgow.
Left a granola bar in a helmet.

And then, on the road, I ran into David. There he was across the street. How convenient.

Sure, we were going to be meeting about 32 minutes later in this part of town, but it was still an amusing collision.

This is where I get to decide where I want to take this blog post.

I could keep my writing limited to what we did or I could go into what actually happen. I could go into our conversations or I could go into what was going into my mind during them. I could write about hanging out in the grass and striding across town.

But...

I've met blokes like David before.

I've had my entire being, all of Me, picked a part a few times this month by fellow travellers and hosts.

Some folks I ran into just skimmed over what I was doing and what had been. Some allowed me to spend the entire time gleaning information and stories from them.

And then, sometimes there were people like David.

He wasn't the first.
He won't be the last.

Crikey, I need to learn about emotional boundaries. I've heard about them, but I still don't get them. I tend to just be an open book. You ask and I'll answer the best I can.

He had done a solid job at cracking me open so he could observe what was going on in that head of mine. Only thing was, he didn't really have anything constructive to hand me back that first night he dug in. He just grabbed his pick-axe and started hacking away, nicely sandwiched between stories of his father. Later on, I learned he was quite aware of what he was doing.

In New York, this women I stayed with did a thorough job at dissecting me and laying out everything for observation. But, the great thing was that, through it, I learned a lot and she was able to explain things to me. See, that's the key – I learned a lot from her. It was applicable and, even if I didn't want to hear it all, it was good to hear.

David didn't exactly do that.
Ok, he didn't do that at all.

And he knew it. I eventually learned that part of the reason why he kept cracking me open further was because I reminded him a lot of his sister. He had told me that over and over, that I reminded him of his sister. Later on, he revealed that because of some sort of emotional baggage, he couldn't investigate her so he was using me which he acknowledged wasn't exactly admirable.

He further had realized the state he had left me in at the end of the night at the hostel. I was sick, exhausted, so without any sort of summing up, the conversation ended. He had done his research and left the specimen, reeking of formaldehyde, on the lab table.

He realized what he had done and and wanted to make sure I was ok. I forget exactly how he put it – but it was very strong along those lines. He was checking up on me.

Luckily (or maybe not luckily), I've met enough people that who do things like that, after that conversation ended, I was fine. Sure, I'd been cracked open, but I was like a self-healing cutting board and was absolutely fine. Genuinely. It was nice to have a conversation that went beyond “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?”

I'm used to guys like him. The ones that frequently use conversation, manipulating it to perhaps make you feel like there's some sort of extraordinary connection. He said he'd encountered this a few times. He would have conversations like this (except for not “like this” because I'm "different") and the girl, at the end, would think they had somehow cracked him open and that there was something deep between them and she'd fall for him and he'd be still standing, emotionally distant.

But, through the worst kind of conditioning, I've learned to keep my emotions in a nice box and to not let them out. Not saying I don't feel a wide range of emotions and express them. These are specific emotions I'm referring to. I think I was meaning to say that I just don't let myself become emotionally attached to the other other folks any more ('cept a few super safe folks I can think of, and that's a different sort of attachment than is widely referred to). Some of the people, lasses and lads alike, I've let in the closest have done enough damage that I don't feel like going there again. I probably ought not use closest as an analogy since they are already widely accepted to have another specific symbolic meaning.

I used to be like “those girls” David was referring to, the ones that fall easily, and, if he had caught me a bit earlier in life, I likely would've followed their pattern. I used to think conversations like that might mean something. Not any more. Now, they're just conversations. Nice conversations, yes, but I've already written it out in my mind that it means nothing to the other human. They can take what they like and move on. I never expect them to stick around. They don't. Individual attention is nothing more than the conversation that happens.

Not matter how close we get, emotionally or physically, it matters nothing to them. After realizing that, I choose between either not getting close in the first place or keeping my emotions from getting involved when we do. I tend to lean towards not getting close in the first place except with the small pocket of safe humans I've accumulated.

Yeah, I have a few issues to work out but, for now, I consider it self preservation.
Pardon the ambiguity and if this is getting hard to follow, at this point.

Did I loose you by this point?
I'm not keen on finishing.

We spent the rest of the day and evening together. At one point, I had been broken down again to the point where all I needed was a hug. He found the rawest nerve, poked it, and carried on.

We went to the Bright Club which was a comedy show of PhD students. Lots of laugh about as they weaved together stories and lessons from their studies.

The End

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sick on the Isle of Skye


I woke up this morning feeling like someone had scraped the inside of my throat with a bundle of steel wool.

I'm currently curled up in my hostel with Ithaca, my quilt, and a hot water bottle tucked away in its fox cozy. I'm on my fourth cup of tea and watching an American spin around the room staring at her iPhone, trying to get reception.

I feel the kind of exhaustion where thoughts like, “Hey, I should listen to music,” get dismissed because it sounds too tiring. Being in a hostel of strangers, I waver between telling the truth when asked how I am (“I feel like crap.”) and just telling folks I'm great (which is a whole lot easier) and smiling as I've learned to do in any situation.

This is day two of being sick.

Yesterday was the honeymoon day of being sick. After over 20 days of constant going (last time I had a down-day was when I was sick) I'm back on the couch. It's a combination of catching the bug from Tasha and Lindsay and my body saying, “Whoa, girl, slow down.

So here I am.
On the Isle of Skye.
Doing nothing.

'cept blowing the snot out of my face every few minutes. That's jolly good fun.

This hostel has had a quirky way of feeling like home.

When I arrived, I was under a peculiar funk that I generally like to shake off pretty fast. But, this day, it wasn't shaking. I went for a walk. Nothing.

It was a combination of loneliness and... maybe that's all it was. I was seeking out some sort of human connection. Anything. I'd been travelling since early that morning and was just feeling worn out.

Before long, though, someone had me wrapped up in a conversation and we were heading out to sniff the sunset from the bridge. He was a climber and likes to spend time in a tent in the forest and back-country skiing.

Walking back, I ended up hanging out with some of the hostel staff and volunteers. At this hostel, folks can stay the hostel for free in exchange for two hours of work each day. I would've done it, but this hostel already has nine folks living here. It's chokful of vagabonds and giggling teenagers. The hostel manager (I think that's who she was) and another local women have champagne night every Wednesday and I felt honoured to get to take part. Sweet potato hummus dip might have been life changing.

The next day was spent cruising around the island with a duo of Portugues women who were trying to see all of Skye in a day... or as much as you could.

It was good that I did that because it would be the last day I would be getting out during my stay on Skye.

I woke up with the funk on Friday morning.

Today was my day.
Time to stay home.

I spent the day researching rats and trucks.
I tried to nap a few times.

Status Update: One thing I've never regretted taking with me on my travels is Ithaca, my quilt. It's kept me cozy on insanely long bus trips and makes every couch, floor, shed, and bed feel like home the instant I shake it out and lay it down flat. Today's a sick day for me (cheers Tasha and Lindsay) and I'm happy to have a down-day curled up in it with a hot water bottle to cuddle with. Today will be reading (Walden as suggested by Karl), writing (letters, documentations, postcards), daydreaming (Tobbit, L'Abri, Haines) and napping. Time to let this body rest. Mentally, I'm in a healthy, stable place. Was in a bit of a funk two days ago, but it only lasted a short while before fellow travellers unknowingly hoisted me out of it. No matter where I go, I always seem to feel at home as home has, for me, come to mean a mug of tea to wrap your hands around and a quilt to wrap around you. I am so grateful. eating beans on toast at Kyleakin Isle Of Skye.

That evening I was too tired to listen to music, read, browse the internet, or even sleep.

So I did what all level-headed folks would do. I headed out for a walk across the bridge.

On the walk, I met a Russian lady. We smiled and conversed.

I plugged in my iPod and trekked out into the dark.
I turned on my favourite song and danced.

I whirled and leaped and kept my toes pointed and smiled.

Every whim that took over my body was acknowledged and followed through.

I was listening to a song I used to listen to with someone who I was really close with. She has since cut me off completely. Since then, I've had a harder time listening to this song, but I decided to. I hope she's having a beautiful life.

I find it amusing (not really... not at all) how the people you love the most are the ones that succeed in ripping you to shreds. Because of this, I've developed a habit of keeping people from getting too close (it's possible when you change towns every few days). I'm grateful because I do have some incredible close friends and when I start to think that all folks are like those that have caused me grief, I remember the other folks that are still there for me and have not once let me down.

The song was from the 2003 Peter Pan soundtrack by James Newton Howard.
Flying,” is what it's called.

At the shop, I picked up some beets, pumpkin soup, pesto, and broccoli.

On the way back, despite my sore throat, I ended up singing.
Sort of.
It was more like hollering.

I bellowed out as loud as I wanted and wriggled and relished the freedom on the dark bridge that connects the Isle of Skye to the rest of Scotland.

My favourite tune to sing with was Jason Webley's “Eleven Saints.” Along with that song, I also developed a pitiful swagger that would probably melt even the hardcorest gangster as he pitied my attempt.

Despite my body crying, “Yousleepyfool,” my soul was more content than it had been in quite a few days.

“A coffee percolator going.. WHeeeEEE!”

When I got back, I decided it was time for a beet feast. I had seen some girls eating ice cream earlier that day and also wanted something sweet – beets would have to do.

As I was dishing them out into a bowl, one man discussed how he generally prepared his beets – fennel, he said, was the best thing you could do to beets.

Then, someone else spoke up on how their diet currently consisted solely of peanut butter sandwiches.

And this is how I met David.

David is a 24-25ish man carpenter/blacksmith/paramedic/security-dude from Nazareth, Israel.

A general question to ask at the hostels is where someone comes from.

His response was Israel. I wanted to ask, “Where in Israel?” but I realized I didn't well know the geography in Israel to even make it worth his time. So I asked for a geography lesson.

And that's how I began to get to know David.

Now, if you look in the back of my notes section, there's an entire page devoted to Israeli geography.

I especially enjoyed my time with David. It was one of those connections I'd been needing for a while. When you travel, sometimes it gets a bit tiring to never have the conversation waver from the basic questions of:

1) Where are you from?
2) How long are you here for?
3) Where are you going next?
4) What's your job?
5) WHAT? Why are you traveling solo as a female?

Talking to David was remiscent of talking with my brother. He did accept things face-value and would ask questions that cut into the core of what I was saying – taking my mind to places I tend to skim over.

He told me of his family's history, starting with his father.

David was born in North Carolina but moved to Israel when he was 9 (if I remember correct) with his folks and two older siblings, a sister and a brother.

He's the sort of person where, even after an evening of questions, I still have more I want to ask. I want to know more about his sister who he told me repeatedly that I was like. I want to know how the current status of Israel affects his daily life and mentally.

I did get to hear a Hebrew lullaby and that might have been one of four highlights of my time on Skye.

Were I well, I would of joined him the next day to hitchhike around Skye, but instead, I spent the day researching trucks and rats (again).

I'm not too great at describing people so I don't even think I can attempt to describe David. He couldn't grow a beard but, lucky guy, still had a face full of hair. He's in Scotland for just a week and a half or so.

And, if I go to Israel, he said he could teach me blacksmithing which is one of the things I want to learn before I'm 30. I want to learn bits of carpentry by 27 and that could happen if I was in Israel by April.

Not sure if either will happen.
Life tends to surprise me.

That night, I didn't sleep all too well. Everyone got back from the pub at 2 AM and, despite their pathetic efforts, they were quite loud upon reentry into our outdoor caravan where the 8 of us are sleeping.

I woke up with the first person to arise at 7:45 AM. My sleep in the middle was sketchy.
Not exactly idyllic for a sick-o like me. Not what I needed to get better.

Instead of stewing over people getting up when I wanted to be asleep in my bed, I got up as well for some tea in the groovy lounge (their words, not mine).

The walker man was up.
A young women set out to go kayaking was up.
David was up.

They all set off on their ways.

I settled into the couch.

Throughout the day, I got to meet more folks. I met a couple from Perth, Scotland and Amber from Sydney, Australia and a hiking man from Forestville, California. It sort of felt like home as I stumbled around, wrapped up in my blanket, water bottle clutched in my arms.

And now it's night and I feel as exhausted as ever.
So ready to sleep. I hope I can sleep tonight. I really do.

Tomorrow I hitchhike to the ferry terminal on Skye where I can catch my ferry to Mallaig where I'll catch the train to Glasgow. In Glasgow, I'll stay with Flynn – the cousin of my dance-friend, Aimee. The next day, I'll fly to Iceland.

Oh life.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Week 37

Monday – Get kicked off the farm and end up staying with the family I met on the road. Gaelic concert. Sleep in their shed. Feel loved.

Poop Explosion
Tuesday – Coffee with Ludovick and Pat. Take the neighbour man's dog for a walk with the young girl I'm staying with. Dust. Make all of their beds fresh. Curry dinner.


Wednesday – Travel to Dornoch with a neighbour and explore. Tea with my lovely host and a women named Maggie. Go to see a Monsters University in a travelling movie theatre inside an expanding semi-truck.


Thursday – Up at 5 AM and travel all day from Ardgay to Inverness to Edinburgh to London to Southhampton to Hedge End, arriving at 11 PM. Stay with Alice – the au pair who lived across the street from me in Switzerland back in 2009. Northern Scotland to Southern England. Around 670 miles.

Kyle of Sutherland
The Scottish family was sweet and made me an activity book. Kept me occupied for hours.
Alice and the Underground

Friday – Winchester. Meet Swiss and Russians at the train station and hang out with them all day. See where Jane Austen died. Wander a hill in the rain. Relish the rain.

My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather used to live in this building. That's 21 greats. That's King Arthur's table.

Saturday – Hen Party for Alice's friend. Day spent at Thorpe Park, the amusement park. So many roller coasters. Learn to play a zombie computer game ("Left 4 Dead") and feel accomplished.


Sunday – Take the train to Liss. Walk to Greatham. Welcome to the English L'Abri! It's not a cult.

Friday, September 20, 2013

English L'Abri


From where I sit I can see eight human beings sprawled out around the property as if flung out like peas around the highchair of a toddler. One man is in a tree. Two trees shelter the Dutch and American underneath them. In another corner, a conversation is occurring. Succulent life.

Then, two girls, well, more so women, emerge with a two-tier table tray. On the top are pots of freshly brewed tea, a pitcher of milk, and a bowl of sugar. Underneath are rows of mismatched mugs baring an assortment of designs – the Queen of England, bugs, plaid, and navy blue.

As soon as the table is set, humans gather from around the Manor House. We pour ourselves mugs of tea and start to group up in conversations, slowly migrating towards the sun – evidence of at least a day's worth of the Indian summer we were promised.

The next thirty to forty-five minutes will be devoted to spending time with each other. The yard is alive with families and single travellers who have all come to this place with the general intention of finding community and asking questions with hopes of finding answers.

This is L'Abri Fellowship in England – a place I've called home this past week.


I first heard of L'Abri (say LAH-bree with your thickest French accent - it means "the shelter") back in January 2008 while living in Switzerland. My friend Tasha was going to be staying at the original Swiss L'Abri and I was eager to see an American friend here across the ocean. I wasn't entirely sure what it was, but found myself soon comfortable at a table being served a delicious homemade meal and getting to know the folks around me.

Tasha, Suzanne, her mom, and the other folks did their best to explain L'Abri to me. I slowly began to understand it as an intentional community that people could come take part of. Much of the explanation has to do with the daily schedule which involves devoting a few hours a day to studying books and listening to lectures that interest you or relate to a topic you're interested in and a few other hours towards working towards the community around the house and property.


L'Abri was founded by Francis and Edith Schaffer. They welcomed in travellers with questions and questionable travellers like me. It's grown to different branches around the globe. While it has grown, the organization is loose and they do nothing to ensure that a branch will stay open. These communities run on faith and are deliberately set up that it is only by faith that they can continue, not by our own effort. They don't even advertise to get students.


Almost all meals are eaten together. One of my favourite meals is lunch time where someone will ask a question and we'll spend the next hour and a half developing it and beating it back and forth like a badminton birdy. We rarely come up with any conclusions, but I sort of look at it like being handed a bag of trail mix for a journey. It preps you and sets you up to go down new paths and gives you a bit of nourishment, but only a little bit.


In 2009 I returned to the Swiss L'Abri for a short time, just to visit.

Fall 2011, I decided it was my time to do what they call a “term” at L'Abri. There are usually three terms in a year, Spring, Summer, and Fall, and the temporary residents are called students. There are helpers who were previous students who now take a more active role in making sure things run smoothly. Then there are the workers who permanently call L'Abri home. After a few weeks thought, I decided to spend three months at the Canadian L'Abri on Bowen Island. I went back to visit in 2011 (I spent all December housesitting on Bowen Island), 2012 (for an afternoon), and 2013. During my travels this year, I've been able to visit a few of my L'Abri friends.

Now, two years later, I'm back at a L'Abri. This time, I'm in Greatham, England and I've been here for just about a week.


Regardless of the branch, going to a L'Abri is like coming home. The smells may be different, the people different (although there are crossovers and joyous reunions), the homes different, but it still feels like home.


One thing I love about L'Abri is that the people here actually care. I've spent months wondering if they just pretend they do, but I've come to realize that the people here actually care about you. Feel the love, yo.

Even though I'm one of  over a hundred students that will pass through L'Abri this year, the workers still take the time to not only ask my name, but learn it and use it each time they see me. People take time through-out the day to check up on me and ask how I'm doing. And, the thing is, this isn't always just a passing question. If there's something on my mind, we can take the time to talk about it.


People are intentional, here. They are intentional about how they treat others and how to keep the community going smoothly. There aren't many rules here at all so it takes a lot of awareness to keep this many people (39ish in totality, maybe) living peacefully. Folks are prepared to work hard and, with all of us working together, the work is almost always enjoyable. Communication is open (usually) and we're all here (most of us, I assume) looking to become better human beings.

They put us to work in the garden, cleaning house, picking, apples, packaging apples for the winter, cooking, taking care of the workers' children, and anything else that needs to be done to keep the Manor House running.

In my time here, I've felt loved. I've felt inspired. I've felt challenged. I've felt a whole lot of emotions and done a lot of dreaming. I've felt like questioning my beliefs. I've felt joy as I'm surrounded by a whole lot of beautiful.

Tomorrow I leave and, were it not for the fact that I've been changing locations every few days for most of this year, I'd be getting out my tissues. I'm going to miss this place. It's assuring to feel a part of something swell in such a short amount of time. In this one week, I've satisfied the craving I've had for deeper connections that you don't always get when you bounce about from place to place.


I'm going to miss sharing a room with eight other girls and a bathroom with sixteen (it works, it really does). I'm going to miss lugging a hot water bottle around the lofty, frigid rooms of the manor. I'm going to miss Laura playing the guitar while I read about the history of hospitality and its role in Christianity. I'm going to miss Samuel's never-failing-enthusiastic greeting each time we spot each other. I'm going to miss people saying, “Hi Mägi, each time they pass me by.” I'm going to miss running up and down the giant staircase that spirals around the center of our home. I'm going to miss the constant incoming flux of humans from around the world, knowing that I'll get the chance to know each of them. I'm going to miss the collaboration of accents. I'm going to miss the box of wellies in the mudroom. I'm going to miss tea time twice a day. I'm going to miss people greeting me with just as much enthusiasm as I feel when I see them. I'm going to miss getting existed about things like apple-day. These people know me as me and, for some crazy reason, they still love me.

But I'm not going to miss it all too much because, great thing about this place is it'll always be here. Well, not always and forever, but for a great while. You can always come back to L'Abri. I can leave and in a year, come back, and I'll feel at home again.

I'm not going to miss it much because, peculiarly, this year has been such a rhythm of letting go of things every few weeks that I've gotten rawther used to it. Guess that's not really peculiar at all.


Love this place.
Love these people.
I'm grateful.
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