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travel lessons and coming home

As many of you might be aware, last month we returned from a pretty significant trip (to us). Since coming home from Scotland, I have been mulling over exactly what it is I want to say about our experience. However,  rather than saying anything,

I have been gently lulled away by the events of early summer: a family reunion, some work, obsessively reading the Outlander series, worrying too much about politics etc….and so time has passed and  I have said nothing.

It’s time to write again, though, even though I often resist getting back to my computer. For me, experiences seem to need to simmer and percolate for a while so I can draw out what is actually worth being said.

Perhaps it is the introvert in me that always needs time and space, much of it, to simply make my own sense of things. I have also been thinking lately about the idea,

that sometimes we can honour experiences and events  by not talking about them.

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Nevertheless, here are the golden nuggets from Scotland that are asking to be published, lessons learned both across the waters and after coming home….

People are kind everywhere, people are hurting everywhere

It’s so obvious, but there it is. We have been so tempted as of late, to find way too many differences among us.  However, the more we travel the world, the more that we ultimately realize that throughout time and space, we really are in so many important ways, the same.

We love, we despair, we rejoice, we grieve. We laugh, we reach out, we make ourselves vulnerable,

and, in our own ways, we all hope for a better world.

 

Food is a gift

I am so curious about food, food prepared with delight and love never fails to bring me joy.

Food, to me then, is often what I am most curious about when I travel. How cultures prepare their food, where they find their inspiration, reasons for giving importance to certain foods, particular creative quirks, new ways of combining ingredients, new movements and philosophies  around food –

all of this deeply inspires me.

 

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Breakfast is my favourite meal. How yummy does this look?!?

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Seriously delicious seafood pasta dish at Jamie Oliver

At the tiny and quaint Kilted Lobster, for instance,  we were greeted with absolute hospitality, our kids as well. We truly felt welcomed into their space with open arms, as if it was their honour to feed us. The kids bravely tried an appetizer of delicate pigeon and haggis. Dan and I ordered the special, which was a half lobster with perfect green beans and a glass each of champagne. Simple, lovely perfection.

At the Gardener’s Cottage we celebrated Father’s Day with a brunch of the best meatloaf I have ever eaten served on top of heavenly sweet brioche topped with homemade Hollandaise. When I peeked behind the restaurant/cottage afterwards,

I saw a gorgeous rambling garden, a big wooden work table, a bbq, a true farm to table set-up in the very heart of a city.

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And then at the Glennfinnan House Hotel we ate in the dining room of our Highland inn, feeling as if we were encased in an old world of giant wood-burning fireplaces, plaids, dark wood and rich colours,protected from the driving rain and a sometimes forbidding landscape. We ate smoked fish, sausages, potatoes, porridge,

heartier foods stemming from a landscape where people need warmth and rich sustenance.

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History is so messy, present times are messy

My god, we have not been good to one another.

We forget, sometimes, our brutal and horrific pasts. Gory accounts from medieval times still haunt and shock (just ask my kids). Rivalries and wars, unthinkable crimes, and betrayals among nations are as old as time. Though we cannot use this is an excuse, that events have always been dark and challenging,

we do need to see that we have made some progress and acknowledge how far we have come.

 

We cannot escape ourselves and it is good to be together

We have a tendency to expect much of ourselves on holidays,

that we will see every sight, try every great restaurant, that every experience will be favorable, that we will all be on our best behavior, that we will come home completely rested and renewed.

These unreasonable expectations can create frustration and resentment as well as prevent us from simply being open to what happens. I have always struggled with expecting too much from vacations, and this trip was certainly no exception. However, this time I was able to reach a point where I felt a great deal more acceptance around the idea of simply letting things unfold

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Letting things unfold.

and enjoyed the experience of just being together in a new and beautiful place.

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All over the world, we need green spaces/ beauty

Dan and I often measure the worth of a city according to its green spaces and walkability.

 

                      Beauty and nature heal, restore hope and calm.  

Edinburgh, in particular, is bursting with green spaces and everywhere people are walking and enjoying the precious bits of sunshine that gift this perpetually wet country.

 

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It seemed generally, too, that their gardens, buildings, displays, museums and homes were quite often altars to beauty,

thoughtfully and carefully arranged.

 

Yet perhaps it is also the case that when we are discovering a new place we look up more, we see the beauty that’s right there for us to see.

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Many times in Scotland people said to us ‘we would love to see Canada’ and we would think to ourselves, ‘yes, but do you know how beautiful this place is too?’

 

And so it always is.

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Olivia, inspired, bought tulips for our little kitchen in the apartment we had rented

 

We can always find ourselves, a little more

All those rituals that I learned and lived in my grandmother’s home;

making tender, buttery shortbreads and big, dense fruitcakes at Christmas

constant summer tours of the garden and her yard: her precious roses, lily of the valley

eating rich stews and dumplings for family dinners, savouring sticky toffee pudding while tucked in beside her on the couch

standing in her bedroom excitedly trying on the red plaid kilt she bought for me

drinking sweet milky tea together in her kitchen in the afternoon,

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and of course I would think that teatime is the loveliest and most civilized ritual of all

Parts of me that I thought were me but were grandma, were Scotland, all along.

 

We think back through our mothers if we are women.     Virginia Woolf

 

Yes, and our grandmothers too.

 

 

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and in every church (kirk), I lit two candles

And coming Home is good.

And now, understanding myself more,  I can suddenly see things at home more clearly too.

I look up,

and I see my beautiful kitchen with so much light streaming in and I am inspired  to cook again.

We see our mountains and lakes, too, and are reminded that, my goodness, they are so very magnificent.

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I am reminded, too,  that there is such love here to bask in, from family and friends.

 

And…I have many projects and ideas simmering as I re-work plans and new directions,

but I feel less desperate, less ambitions, less in a hurry, more here, more grateful. Dan tells me he feels the same.

 

Coming home is good.

 

7 thoughts on “travel lessons and coming home

  1. Sharon says:

    As always Karen, your words take me along with you and let me glimpse over your shoulder for a moment to feel and smell and imagine a small part of what you have experienced. Thank you as always your writing are worth the wait.

    Liked by 1 person

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