A toast to friends

Amsterdam, Life Lessons, Living Abroad, Scotland

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”

-Miriam Adeney

When I left Ottawa, three amazing friends accompanied me to the airport. After many hugs and kisses, I went through security and got to my gate. I sat down with my bags and when I looked up, I saw my buds waving and jumping trying to get my attention.

At that point, flurries of emotions ran through me like Usain Bolt and waterfalls of tears streamed out of my eyeballs. For the first time it hit me that I was leaving behind a comfort blanket of epic proportions.

After turning 18 I moved to a city five hours from my family. Ottawa became my new home and so many incredible people helped me transform from a delicate, bratty teenager into the woman I was when I left for Edinburgh. They understood who I was and accepted me inside and out, flaws and all. Would I find that in Scotland? Would I ever meet people who understand me the way they do?

For my first five or six months in Edinburgh, I really didn’t make many friends. Looking back, it wasn’t because I didn’t fit in or because I’m socially incapable—although for a while these were the reasons I continued telling myself—it was because I didn’t give myself the opportunity to meet like-minded individuals.

I worked mostly alone and didn’t pursue any hobbies outside of guitar and writing, both of which I like to do alone. By five months in I was the most insecure and lonely I’ve ever been.

A good friend from home came up for a visit and urged me to find different work where I’d immediately get to meet a bunch of people and give myself a real shot at settling in here.

Thank God she did because as soon as I met my new work mates, everything I found difficult about living in Edinburgh became easier. I didn’t feel as lonely anymore and always had invites to interesting events that inspired me creatively. I started writing poetry and music and going on adventures I never imagined would be had.

Now, again, I’m surrounded by people who make me feel at ease and at home. I owe so much to my move to Edinburgh. Inconceivable amounts of self-discovery and healing have occurred since moving here, and the majority of all this happened thanks to the people I’ve met. They’ve taught me more than I’ve taught myself, and helped me grow into a much stronger and tenacious version of me.

My visa expires this September, so I’ll have to make my way back to Canada. I went out with a couple of good friends the other day and realised I have no idea what I’ll do without these people who have become closer to me than I ever imagined possible. Once again I’ll have to walk away from family knowing it will be ages before we reunite.

The bottom line is, with every decision, even the most positive ones, comes sacrifices. If you decide you want your life to be full of movement, self-discovery, cultural experiences, and spiritual and emotional growth beyond your wildest dreams, you’ll have to come to terms with the fact that you can only be in one place at a time. The same way the magic of two or three places can’t exist in one city, none of the people you love most will ever be all in the same spot, and it could be years and years before you get to see them again.

I’m trying to keep in mind that, apart from constant social media interaction, post cards and phone calls, one way to really keep your friends alive in your life is by living the lessons they’ve helped to teach you. I’m a much stronger and understanding person because of the friends I’ve met, and the memories we’ve made will always keep me moving forward and growing.

So I propose a toast from all of us out there who have decided to explore: To the new friends we’ve made around the world, thank you for sticking by our sides, teaching us valuable lessons, and keeping us afloat when we had nothing else but your friendship. We salute you.

To all my friends new and old, in North America, Europe, New Zealand, Australia, and anywhere else your travels have taken you, I will love you forever, and am so grateful to have met you. I can’t wait until we meet again, and create even more memories and stories worthy of sharing with our grandchildren.

 

Perfect imperfections

Life Lessons, Living Abroad, Scotland

Writing and photos by Tori Dudys 

I’m currently watching a BBC documentary series about the Galapagos. It’s not just the creatures I love to learn about, but I also always love hearing the story of Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution by natural selection. Basically he theorized that creatures evolve based on birth anomalies that actually allow a species to prosper. For example, different tortoises on each of the different islands of the archipelago have different shapes of shells to allow for each type of tortoise to thrive in its distinct environment. Some have thick, low, round shells to shovel through grass and bush more easily, while others have peaks on their shells to allow them to reach the tops of cacti for food.

Darwin was 26 years old when he landed in the Galapagos, but made a discovery that changed the face of biology. 26? I’m only a year away from 26 and in comparison I’ve accomplished very little. That’s something I think a lot about and ask myself constantly: what have I done to make this world better? Why haven’t I done more? And then those are usually followed by: I can’t do more. I’m not good enough. No one likes me, etc.

Like most people, I do a lot of doubting. Doubting I’ll ever be something or someone important—whatever that means—doubting I’ll be able to make a meal as delicious as the photos in the recipe book; doubting I’ll find love; doubting I’ll do all the Euro travel I hope to do before my visa expires. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

I’ve been job hunting lately, trying to find a position more permanent that may allow me to stay in Scotland longer. As many of you know, there are few tasks more exhausting and disheartening than job hunting. You send out dozens of CVs and make a plethora of phone calls to basically hear over and over again that you’re not a good fit for a company. It’s quite demoralizing.

David Attenborough just made me feel a whole lot better though. The anomalies that exist due to natural selection can be considered imperfections. The first turtle ever born with a peak in its shell was probably made fun of by the other tortoises and she probably looked in her tortoise mirror and hated herself for her strange peak (I know how that sounds but just go with it). But it’s that imperfection that actually made it survive and thrive and change the face of that breed of tortoise.

If I can take anything away from Darwin’s theories, it’s this: though we all have imperfections, these flaws not only make us special, but make us stronger and more beautiful too. Ultimately the flaws from which self-doubt stems may help us to survive this crazy thing we call life.

There are so many castles in Scotland (the country has seen more than 3000 during its time), and though I’ve only been to a few, I have to say my favourite is Tantallon Castle. It was built on a cliff overlooking the North Sea so views of the castle and from the castle are breathtaking. It is described as “semi-ruined” meaning that though it’s still viewable inside and out, it is very decrepit and broken.

In my eyes, it’s this brokenness, those imperfections, that make Tantallon look more picturesque. Of course after standing since the 1300’s any piece of architecture is bound to have some chips and cracks, but the fact that it’s gone through so much and is still even partially standing makes me confident that no matter how broken I may feel at times, it’s the tough experiences that make me stronger and more tenacious. And our little imperfections? Those are just battle wounds. They are the scars from fending off demons and problems that will remain to remind us how strong we really are and that we can conquer anything, no matter how insurmountable it may seem.

 

Mountains intersecting behind the Glenfinnan Viaduct, or more commonly known as the Hogwarts Express bridge.

Remembering

Life Lessons, Living Abroad, Scotland
IMG_5648.JPG

Glenfinnan Viaduct, aka the Hogwarts Express Bridge

Writing by Tori Dudys, photos by Tori Dudys and Dave Kingan

A few days ago, on a long, rainy walk (as they usually are in Edinburgh), I spent a bunch of time hopping into puddles and contemplating memories. I have 25 years full of memories and quite frankly I can’t figure out why. Not why we have memories, but why each memory we have sticks.

From what I’ve learned we don’t get to choose what we remember. For example, right now I’m in the west of Scotland with a dear friend. The scenery is incredible. There are geese, chickens, a rooster, guinea fowls, sheep, cats, and a dog. The house we’re staying in is a beautiful wee cottage with cedar wood floors. When I walk out of the front door I see mountains peeking through cloud cover and more trees than I can even fathom. As Scotland always is, it’s lush green as far as the eye can see.

It smells of dirt, grass, and humidity. It’s one of the most peaceful places I have ever been to. Needless to say, I want to remember every single detail of this trip (besides the overwhelming amount of cocktails we made and drank last night). But how do I? I know I can’t. I know I’ll maintain memories of drinking and laughing with my friend and I’ll remember there were cats and mountains but sooner or later the smell in the air will dissipate from my mind and what the cats look like will leave me as well.

I think back to my first few days in Edinburgh, and although I remember a lot of it, I’ve also forgotten a lot of it. I remember feeling at home and meeting a few new people and starting my first job. But I can’t remember the order things happened in really and everything is a big mess of bits and pieces.

Our memories will never be able to make a full story. Putting memories together from your earliest to most recent can’t make up your life completely. There will always be missing scenes. As much as we can take photographs and write things down to fill in some of the gaps, there will always be gaps.

Travelling has taught me so many lessons. I’ve been writing them all down to remember them. But there are already so many things I’ve forgotten simply because there’s not enough space up in my brain to remember all of them.

My grandmother has dementia and has lost nearly all her memories, even simple ones like the faces of family members. It terrifies me to think that basically the only thing we can be sure of in life—our experiences—can slip away so quickly. And although losing memories and forgetting certain instances is a part of life and we need to accept it, it really does make me sad.

One day it could become true that each memory from this life-changing trip will be gone and I’ll have nothing but my body and the moment. Until then I’m trying my best to live life to the fullest, to create memories for myself, and—most difficult of all—to just be. To just be right now and soak in the scenery while I’m here. To live day to day and write as much down as I possibly can not only to share with my family and friends, but to remind myself of the experience and lessons I need to be reminded of when they start to slip away from me.

 

Departures

Life Lessons, Living Abroad
Sitting, waiting, wishing, scared shitless.

Sitting, waiting, wishing, scared shitless.

Writing and photo by Janine Lameiras

As I stood in departures, a one way ticket in hand, I felt consumed by a sense of loneliness, fear and vulnerability. I kept trying to make sense of these emotions pouring through me, and couldn’t comprehend that I was about to leave behind all that I knew to be right, a life I had built for myself, that housed a sense of comfort, security, and certainty. In that very moment, my desire to explore the world quickly diminished. I couldn’t process all the uncertainty that awaited me nor could I make sense of the journey ahead. The one that, up until now, I longed for.

Some of my favourite childhood memories are set in airports. Every time I would step through the doors of an airport, I felt a sense of adventure, desire, or happiness, even if I wasn’t the one leaving. For such a long time, I admired what these walls contained: the untold stories of lovers embracing one another, tearful goodbyes, and the excited faces of those preparing to explore the world. Yet, all these thoughts and moments in which I had always found comfort felt like reasons to resent where I was now.

While trying to avoid a mental breakdown in the security line, I thought about how I was going to write my own story of the faraway places and new faces I would come across during my travels. How one day, I’d be back in this airport and remember standing alone, fighting my own thoughts on abandoning this move, but not yet realizing what great moments were ahead of me. I started to enjoy the idea of not knowing what would become of me and being able to experience things far greater than I could ever imagine.

Humans seem to be conditioned to find a sense of security in things like our jobs, our communities, and our families. Consistency makes life seem a little easier and bearable. The moment you have none of that, no home, no exact plans for tomorrow let alone the next few months, you feel vulnerable and you begin to question whether or not you’ve been chasing happiness in all of the wrong ways.

I’ve always craved a life of adventure, having a desire to live an unconventional life. So far I’ve learned that chasing this lifestyle comes with a lot of self doubt, days that cease to end, breakdowns in bar bathrooms and seeing yourself in a state you never knew (unkempt hair and smelly clothes). That being said, as the days of not having a home, sleeping on someone’s couch, and living out of a backpack continue, I realize I’ve already grown more than I had ever imagined.

I try to remind myself that life has a mysterious way of working itself out, even when you feel like you have finally got the hang of things and it all changes. There are so many uncertainties that lay within taking a risk and changing your surrounds. All you are ever promised in life is this very moment in time.  As much as I have felt as if my loneliness was consuming me fully or that traveling across the country is physically and mentally draining, there are moments where you find peace in the unknown and start to love all that comes with it.

Now that we’re beginning to settle into Edinburgh and I have time to reflect on the first days of our trip, I realize that I’m not as frightened as I was before. If I’m honest with myself, it’s been a challenge to move here. But truthfully I’ve never been happier. Though I don’t know what the future holds, for once, it’s a thought I can actually come to terms with.

Edinburgh strolls

Enter: Edinburgh

Life Lessons, Living Abroad, Scotland
Edinburgh strolls

Sometimes when Janine sees something she thinks is cool-looking, she asks me to stand in front of it. I hate it. But I love her so I do it anyway.

Written by Tori Dudys, photos by Janine Lameiras

There are those cities that suck you in to them. They grab your heart and squeeze, tugging on heart strings you didn’t know you had. Those places that look and feel magical in even the dodgiest corners. The ones that seem to hold a piece of your very essence. It’s almost like this place knows you better than you ever knew yourself and what you wanted in life.

The minute I stepped into Edinburgh, it felt like I was transported to one of those incredible nights where you meet a new person who you know is going to become a great friend. It’s like the city and I talked for hours and clicked in every way possible. Everything feels like home here. I even had a perspective-altering experience in a church, of all places. No, I didn’t see angels, or speak to Jesus. I just wrote.

I’ve never been much for God. There’s something about the act of worship that doesn’t sit well with me. But being in a church always puts me at ease. It’s this inner peace I don’t manage to find in many other places.

So there I was, sitting in St. Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh, feeling more peaceful than I’d ever felt. It was the first time I’d sat and written in a church. And surprisingly to me, after months and months (I think 5 in total) of not wanting to write anything at all, it was in the presence of God that I came back to myself.

I’m not trying to imply that I had a religious epiphany or that it was God that bestowed upon me the desire to write, but I did begin to realize the importance of being open to believing in something. Or at least not rejecting the spiritual because it’s impossible, but rather appreciating it for its possibilities of inspiring. Whether inspiring people to be better people, inspiring people to find closure when their loved ones pass away, or inspiring dried up writers to finally put a bloody pen to a piece of paper and scribble down a string of words that wouldn’t mean much to readers, but that mean everything to the sanity of that writer.

Bottom line, from the first day we landed in Edinburgh, I felt a sense of tranquility I hadn’t felt in a long time. And after a 13-day tour through Scotland and Ireland, and a short blip in London, I’m happy to be back here in Edinburgh, sleeping on the couch of a kind, used-to-be stranger, feeling more excited about just being alive than ever before in my life.