Lately I’ve been afraid of being honest on my blog about how hard it’s been for me in the big city. I’ve tried to maintain an air of positivity about my personal purgatory but sadly, the happiness I feel here appears in small waves stifled by the overwhelming loneliness that comes from living in a place where people are often so disconnected from each other.Read More...
Perhaps it’s where we find ourselves least comfortable that we will learn the most.Read More...
I’ve been getting a couple messages from friends lately telling me I look like I’m doing great. And I guess for the amount of time I’ve been in Toronto, I am. I don’t downplay how far I’ve gotten in such a short period of time.
However, I don’t think I’m flourishing in the ways I really wanted to be at this point.
It took me a bit of time to establish myself in Edinburgh. As everyone who knows me knows by now, the first few months were some of the toughest of my life. But after a while I fell into a group of good friends and like-minded people and started finding the things in the city that made me smile.
Unfortunately, I grew accustomed to how easy it was to get off a train half an hour outside of the city and be somewhere with amazing hiking trails or hills or Monroes with views that would make me cry. Nothing warmed my spirit more or made me feel less alone than walking next to the ocean or doing my best to reach the top of a big hill (even if I did these things on my own).
In Scotland I found so much peace in nature. I forgot how hard it is to find places like that in or around Toronto, especially if you don’t have a car.
Currently, writing is my only solace from a city I’m finding very overwhelming. I’m trying my best not to be too negative and to just make myself be happy, the same way I did for a while in Edinburgh, but it’s been difficult. What about a big city like Toronto makes me smile? I don’t know yet. And realistically the only way forward is to suck it up, stop being a baby, and try new things.
To be honest, I haven’t laughed hard in a long time. And that’s hurting me too. I love to laugh until I cry. I love it so much and I miss it so much. I know in time I will laugh again and feel at peace again, and I really hope I can do so in a busy city. Time heals all wounds but as I’ve learned, happiness doesn’t just come with time. It comes with hard work. And for me, it’s become something I find when I’m alone in nature or laughing with others who support me and who I can support in return. Right now those people are few and far between but the one or two I do have treat me like gold, and I’m so lucky to have them.
Toronto has been showing me some different sides I haven’t seen just yet though so I’m holding out hope that soon enough I’ll find my niche and in a couple of months have a gaggle of hilarious, caring, and selfless people by my side who help expose those great attributes in me too.
I don’t want to be on this plane. I never wanted to be on this plane.
No, not just because the assholes in front of me have reclined all the way back to the point where I’ve spilled my rum and coke (I went for it). But mainly because I feel like I’m being ripped away from a home I could have easily spent many more years in. I feel like I’m being dragged away from a new family kicking and screaming, but without the dramatics.
It’s easy for everyone to tell me this isn’t the end but a new beginning and it’s tempting to think of it that way. But to me, to negate this ending is to erase the whole experience I’m leaving behind me. It IS an ending. It’s an ending to my time in a city that helped me become a much better person. It’s an ending to many friendships that I fought hard to cultivate and an ending to walking past architecture, green-space, and spots that hold hundreds of significant and not-so memories. It’s an ending, no matter how you package it.
Although leaving Edinburgh is an ending, I know that moving to Canada isn’t necessarily moving back, but moving forward. But I don’t want to. If I’m being honest, I feel like living in Edinburgh brought out the best in me. It helped me heal from an intense depression I didn’t even recognise I had until moving away. It helped me rekindle a love of reading and writing I thought was snuffed out for good. It built my confidence up higher than I ever thought it could have and it introduced me to some of the most inspiring people I have ever met.
I had a conversation with an incredibly wise friend while sharing our worries about the future in the Highlands last year. I expressed to him how I thought it was silly that I was nervous to move back to a place I associate with my worst self, when I’m sure it’s not so much Scotland that changed me but more so the lessons I learned while living there.
As he is one of the most honest people I know, he said something like this:
“Think of yourself how you might think of a flower that’s wilting in a corner of your living room. Generally you wouldn’t blame the flower for not flourishing, but blame its environment. Move the flower to a sunnier spot and perhaps it’ll grow stronger and more beautiful.”
That’s how I feel about my move–well not moving to a sunnier spot, obviously, but one more equipped to bring me joy. Edinburgh and the people I surrounded myself with there encouraged me to blossom from a sad and wilted orchid (I like orchids) into one everyone would opt to purchase from their local florist.
I suppose what I take from this is that not everywhere in this world can help you to grow an amazing amount, but I guess that doesn’t mean you can’t grow a little from these places. Sure, I’m going back to a city I have negative feelings towards, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t regard it as an opportunity to learn and move forward. Currently I’m considering Toronto a positive purgatory where I can build up the mental stability and resources necessary to continue my exploring. I have an idea of the type of city or town that helps me to be the most positive version of myself, and being around family and old friends I love and enduring the busyness of a big city will more than likely help me get to my next home faster.
I will miss you, Edinburgh. After taking all I could take from your people, I’ve decided the most important lessons I’ve learned from living in you are self-love, acceptance, and patience. I hope that this time around in Canada I’ll grow in ways I didn’t expect. Maybe Toronto will envelope me in positivity the same way Edinburgh took me in and nurtured me for two beautiful years.
Scotland, I will never forget you: the challenging and dark beginning of loneliness and internal struggles, the educational middle full of healing, smiles, and new friends, and the end when I finally learned how to feel stable and balanced while living in the present.
I’m only 26, I’m not kidding myself. I know years or even just months from now I’ll probably reread this and think how foolish I was to be so nervous of moving to Canada. Tracking my progress through my writing has made me proud of my growth every step of the way, and I’m excited to face what’s next head on with the grace, confidence, tenacity, and love Scotland has instilled in me.
Amsterdam always feels a bit like a second home (or I guess third home at this point) when I visit. It’s tricky to navigate around the canals and busy streets of the city center, but all the missteps land you in interesting new areas and in unexplored shops and restaurants.
Looking back, one lesson I learned while in Amsterdam was that although it’s true that art inspires art, sometimes one requires an absence of art to be inspired. Yeah, it’s a bit confusing. Let me explain.
From the moment I arrived in Amsterdam, I was engulfed by artistic inspiration and creativity. Besides travelling with two incredibly artistic and inspiring pals, it was the city’s walls soaked in street art, classical museums, melodic sounds of buskers flooding the streets, and liberal attitudes towards self-expression that lit my spirit and began convincing me I should move into an artist commune and chop off my ear for the sake of my writing.
With all these avenues for artistic expression, I thought from day one that I’d be filled with inspiration to write, draw, sing, repeat. Though Dave, Jessie, Gary, and I did a lot of singing, the other two were in short supply from me.
Since encountering a few major writer’s blocks in the past couple years, I become incredibly nervous when I go through periods of a disinterest in writing. I tend to think well, I had a good run I guess. I should just accept defeat and hang up my pen. But being in Amsterdam reminded me that sometimes the best art comes from these creative dry spells.
Wandering NDSM—or “Art Island”, a 10 minute ferry ride from mainland Amsterdam—gave me some perspective on the creative process I tend to forget. Great works of art often come from a paint tray of random colours and bouts of instantaneous inspiration. I’m no believer in God, but inspiration is occasionally akin to a spirit that comes to your aid suddenly in a time of need, then leaves you in a quick burst. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just how it works.
There have been periods in my life where all I want to do is hole myself up in an isolated room and let my fingers fly wild across a keyboard, but oftentimes what I write makes no sense or doesn’t have the meaning behind it that I wanted it to. Looking back, many pieces of writing I’ve been most proud of have bloomed from ideas I’ve had while walking down the street, that got quickly jotted into a notebook or on a napkin. You can’t force inspiration I think, it just comes to you.
So when I look back on Amsterdam, at first I’m sad I didn’t take any time to write. But then I realise, hey dude, you had a pretty friggin fantastic and inspiring time even though you didn’t want to write about it then.
When I was in the city I was sad that the writer’s block was in full effect, but looking back on it now I’m glad I used my time to be with my friends and focus on enjoying my surroundings. I mean, as much as I’d like to say there was some spiritual, higher power convincing me to take every moment of the trip as it comes instead of worrying about writing, it was actually probably just all that weed I smoked, aye?
It’d be easy to write a whole post about the scenery of Split, Croatia. It’s absolutely, insanely beautiful. But to be honest, I spent almost two years of my life blabbering on about scenery for a travel magazine and I’m quite sick of that shit. The flora and fauna blah dee blah dee blah. Instead, this is a retelling of one of the most magical nights of my trip to convince you all that you must pay Croatia a visit regardless of your interest in natural beauty.
Since a tan in Scotland is a rarity, I must admit I did spend the whole of my first three days in the city lying on beaches reading Trainspotting, and snacking on pizza and squid. I also ate some incredible veggie and vegan food—Marta’s Fusion for those of you looking for vegan food was wicked—and consumed a load of banana sorbet. But good eats aside the beaches were bomb.
On the bottom side of Marjan, a huge green space for hiking in the middle of Split, is a wee swimming spot called Bene Beach. It’s not just beautiful because of it’s crystal clear turquoise water (yuh can take the lassie outta travel writing but yuh can’t take the travel writing oot the lassie), but it’s also beautiful in its relative desolation. The other two beaches I visited were packed with plenty of beach-goers but for some reason this spot, with the best views, was the most private. There were areas a bit off from the main point of the beach that were completely human-free. I picked a rock, sat my arse down, and wrote the first poem I’d written in ages. Solitude and ocean air always make me feel creative.
Cut to day three. I had spent the majority of the day on Split’s only sandy beach—I wouldn’t recommend it, so crowded and covered in litter sadly. Because I had been foregoing party nights since arriving I decided to head home for a shower and a pick me up coffee before finding a cool drinking and dancing spot.
When I arrived back at my hostel I met a group of seven people from Germany who had all just finished a week-long sailing extravaganza around the Croatian islands. They expressed to me how tired they were but how stoked they were to spend their last night partying.
So I invited myself out.
The first part of the night was alright. I felt a bit out of place and a bit bad for intruding on their last night together and also felt guilty for not speaking any German, but it was a nice little sandwich and beer by-the-sea supper regardless. When we went for a post-dinner coffee, I was convinced the group were too tired to go for a boogie but I ordered a gin and tonic anyway and reminded myself that dancing alone was equally as fun as dancing with others.
On our way back to the hostel we stumbled upon a man playing and singing popular tunes with his guitar in the square of Diocletian’s Palace (an old structure used in the show Game of Thrones that takes up a large portion of space in the old town). Until about midnight we danced and sang along with the 50 or so others in the square as it rained on and off. There was some salsa, some line dancing, and some straight Elaine Benes-style nonsense going down; I loved every minute of it.
After capping off the tunes with the likes of Have You Ever Seen the Rain, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, and Hey Jude, all of us getting down in the square left in the same direction, collectively searching for more music.
As we entered into an echo-y dome located beside the square, one woman started to sing. We slowly turned to look at her and then all of a sudden at least 10 other women chimed in with all manner of harmonies. These tunes included Amazing Grace, Dancing Queen, and All About the Bass. The dancing and debauchery resumed until the women’s choir (apparently from Sloveinia) packed it in and headed off.
We finished the night at a spot called Academia Club Ghetto, where glasses of 85% absinthe were being set alight, a haze of cigarette smoke carpeted the dance floor, and a French DJ was mixing techno beats with live oboe playing. Oh how I danced. The music was so good my mates and I stayed at the bar for a good few hours before my feet started to swell and I had to call it.
When I left, the DJ was playing a mashup of tribal tunes, Irish folk music, and again techno beats to round it off. Needless to say, I was pretty damned impressed. You know you’re in for a ride when a man with a huge grey beard wearing gothic clothes in his early 70’s tells you he’s the owner and grabs your arms to admire your tattoos. Well that, and the absinthe thing.
The lesson here? Music brings us all together and strangers make the best dance partners. When I travel solo in the future, seeking out live music in town will now be my sure-fire way to meet new faces. Split, thanks for the incredible memories and major nose freckles.
Love, Tori xx
It’s taken me a wee while post-Krakow to process my few days there. It was a whirlwind of quick bursts of self-discovery, great discussions, lesson learning, and mind-altering experiences. So I’ve broken these down into four categories:
It was simple and comforting to tell myself that the majority of this trip would be spent alone wandering streets and inwardly contemplating my last two years. It was also foolish. I’ve already met so many new people and I’ve only been gone about a week.
I didn’t realise it was even possible to become best pals with someone in a matter of days (or day, in the case of an American BABE I spent the day touring Krakow with). Travelling has opened me up to the possibility of meeting people who can have a HUGE impact on you in a very small amount of time.
Speaking of huge impacts, did you know Oscar Schindler was responsible for saving the lives of more than 1200 Jews? One person was able to save not only one life, but hundreds when times were toughest. He risked his life because it’s what was right and seemed to do so with little hesitation. His quotes seem matter-of-fact in an “I could do it, so I did it,” sort of way. He’s an inspiration to everyone and shows the epitome of human goodness. In a time of such dark, it’s these stories of light and kindness that should give us the courage to save lives in our world today. Save one life and you save many, as they say.
What has this leg of the trip taught me about people? Lots. It’s reminded me that so many of them are good, it’s reminded me how hard it is to say good bye, and has taught me that timing—good or bad—is more than half the battle in the way we interact with and enjoy the company of others. Also I will never again travel with the notion that lonely is better. Travelling completely solo is great but it’s important to keep an open mind and talk to people you might not otherwise have chatted to (or gone out for many many drinks with).
When I’ve heard people talk about experiencing Auschwitz, I had a very different idea of what it would be like to walk where so many innocent people needlessly suffered. I thought it would be one of the hardest things I’ve had to witness. And it was horrible. But because of the mass amounts of tourists circulating both camps and the number taking selfies and smiling photos in front of firing walls, barracks, and archways stained with the memories of murdered innocents, I didn’t feel like I could take what I thought I would from it.
I had to have a good think about it outside of the actual tour and away from many people who I was, to be honest, a bit disgusted by. In the end my reflections have led me to a couple conclusions:
1) Too many people still haven’t seemed to learn the lessons this atrocity should have taught us. Too many groups and individuals still fear differences and boil people down to a shade of skin, choice of dress, choice of beliefs, etc. With so much of the western world beginning to close its borders, how can so many people not understand that we could be headed for similar brutal conflicts in the neat future?
2) As someone who is from a privileged background, I need to be more aware of the way I speak. I’m guilty of saying some of these in the past: “You are where you’re meant to be,” “what goes around comes around,” “enjoy where you’re at because you’ll never be there again,” etc. Who am I, a woman at the top level of privilege in the world, to say these things? Can refugees running from their government and terrorist organisations, starving and trying to save their families be blamed for their own circumstances? Were people born into poverty because they were meant be suffering? Were the victims of Auschwitz supposed to enjoy where they were in their lives? People of privilege need to recognise how lucky we are to live where we do with as much as we do.
As a straight, white, middle-class woman living in Canada I need to acknowledge and listen to what others have to say about their own experience, be accommodating to their opinions, and sympathise with their circumstances. Us privileged individuals need to raise the voices of people who aren’t in the same situations and support our neighbours no matter what they look like or where they come from. I understand it’s not necessarily as simple as just loving each other more, but if that’s the only thing I can do to help for now, then I’m on it.
Krakow, you did a bunch to surprise me. The majority of people are welcoming and kind, the food is incredible, the street art brightens up grey days, and it’s a city that’s easy to navigate and get from A to B on foot. Ultimately, the memories and friends made in Krakow will forever be in the back of my mind and front of my heart.
Day 1: Edinburgh – Krakow
I’m sitting at Gate 23 in Edinburgh Airport. It smells like French fries and ketchup and around me I can hear the buzzing of foreign languages (Polish for one) and the howling of the bathroom hand dryer. My flight to Krakow has been delayed by an hour. Classic. I’ve not experienced one single trip in the past two years that didn’t contain at least one delay or missed connection.
That’s alright though. Generally speaking it’s these delays that have forced my usual impatient and neurotic self to become a relatively zen and chilled out chick. It’s also often these wee bumps in the travel road that force my hand in some kind of creative or productive way, be that writing, drawing, or reading—I always make the most of my time in airports and bus stations.
This is it, I keep telling myself. I’m considering this adventure one more challenge on the long, never-ending road of Dudys self-discovery. I’ve lived on a different continent than home for two years now and still have yet to do any extensive solo travel. So this is it, my time to nut up or shut up.
Two years ago, three weeks of backpacking would have been a pipe dream, or really a pipe nightmare. The idea of going anywhere outside of my local spots on my own was not just unsettling, but out of the picture entirely. I think I’ve always pretended to be some tough, independent, bad ass bitch on the outside, but on the inside I couldn’t sit for longer than an hour on my own without feeling pathetic, lonely, and incredibly depressed.
I thought when I moved into a one bedroom apartment that I was proving I was independent and could take care of myself. Although looking back now I always had people over: a best friend, a boyfriend, an acquaintance, or anyone else who could keep me from noticing how disgustingly and pathetically lonely I constantly felt. I was in no way happy with what I was doing, where I was, and ultimately who I was. If I hated who I was so bad, how could I ever like being alone with not but me as company?
Not anymore. My two years away have instilled in me a desire to live and a love for myself I’ve never before experienced. I’ve pushed myself to and right fuckin’ past almost all my previously perceived limits and now thinking about it, I’ve only got a thirst for more: more sights, more colours, more culture, more lessons (hard ones and easy ones), and more love.
Sitting here, waiting for Ryanair flight FR6624 to Krakow, I’m reminded why pushing myself past my comfort levels is so important. It keeps me inspired. This is the first time in about three months that I’ve written anything. And my fingers are itching to write more.
Throughout the next three weeks, maybe good shit will happen, maybe bad shit will happen, but hopefully I’ll continue to be this excited to write it all down, share my story, and blog the way only an incredibly lucky and privileged, travelling, naïve, twenty-something can.
The short, sassy, and stupid tale of a city girl taking on a night in the Scottish wilderness
Through and through, I was a true city girl. I adored shopping, shoes, the hustle and bustle of a city centre, business folk storming subway stations in suits, and taking Ubers in exchange for 20-minute walks (this remains true today as well). I was a sucker for busy cocktail bars and huge cinemas, hectic streets and expensive eats. That is, until I decided to sell all my belongings and move to Scotland.
Once I arrived in Edinburgh, the peacefulness of the nearby ocean and excellent hiking spots right in the middle of the city forced me out of my usual comfort zones. I started to understand what all the fuss was about when it comes to beautiful natural surroundings. And since the sun is a rarity in this part of the world, one’s desire to spend time outdoors skyrockets, everyone sharing the mindset that if we don’t soak in some vitamin D at every opportunity we’re sure to die of rickets.
One rainy day I found myself in bed watching the film Wild—you know, the one where Reese Witherspoon takes on a three month hiking journey from Mexico to Canada and battles inner demons and coyotes and rapists and such. It’s based on a true story and sure enough started making me wonder whether, with my new-found love of nature and desire to roam, I could fare on my own solo, Scottish spirit-quest.
The next day I ventured out to the Mountain Warehouse closest to my flat and spent far too much money on shit I really didn’t need. After buying two pairs of “hiking socks,” a spork, water purification pills, and a well-stocked and bulky first aid kit, I felt as prepared as I ever would be. I booked a return ticket to an unmanned train station in Loch Lomond National Park and was given a map of the area to navigate myself up the top of Beinn Narnain (a Munro or small mountain) and find a smooth, sheltered, grassy spot to pitch my tent and toast marshmallows.
When I arrived, I managed to make it to the nearest town and find what I deemed to be a woodland path up to the peak of the Munro. Alas, t’was not a path. I ended up wading and fumbling across a very large beaver dam and sliding through mud and what looked like deer shit for about two hours before finally making it to a clearing. My obvious inability to properly read a map led me to believe this clearing would be near the top, when in fact the summit was still about an hour walk away.
A woman defeated is not a woman tae fuck with, so when a bunch of fellow hikers yelled at me from across a cliff and took the piss for walking slowly, I waved a giant middle finger in their direction and sat my tired ass down on a boulder, ready to call it quits.
But I decided to continue on to the top of Beinn Narnairn, tent, sleeping bag, and other gear on my back, floor mat in hand. It was tough but I was proud of myself for doing it.
On my descent I was searching for the perfect camping space, which I found. A great little flat patch of grass next to a river where someone had already built a fire pit.
As a bonafide city-girl, camping doesn’t come second nature to me. So of course I took the proper precautions and practiced setting up my tent in my living room the night before. It seemed excessive at the time, but I’m glad I brought that bulky kit full of useless shit. You see, somewhere on my hike I managed to drop my bag of tent pegs.
Nae tent pegs? I thought as tears welled in my eyes. I decided I could either turn back before it got dark OR I could suck it up, MacGyver something together, and be the strong, independent woman I’d wanted to be since three days prior while watching Witherspoon win at womanhood.
Nae tent pegs? NAE PROBLEM!
I pulled out two pens, a Swiss Army knife, rope clips, and of course, my trusty plastic spork, and started fidgeting around with the tent and tarp.
I did it! I thought, completely in awe of my genius. I’ve got this now.
After the tent debacle, I lit a campfire, toasted marshmallows, boiled some water for tea, washed a bit of myself in the river, and settled in with some crossword puzzles, snuggled tightly in my sleeping bag.
But at approximately 3:30 am, shit got real.
I woke up to the sound of hooves muddling around and short, loud, breathy, grunts echoing outside my tent.
It’s just sheep. It’s just sheep. They’re harmless, go back to bed and when you wake up you can get the Hell outta here and enjoy the majesty of nature on YouTube, like you shoulda done to start with.
Though it was definitely just sheep—there are no large predators in Scotland—my mind kept creeping back to a certain headstrong ram that, hours earlier, was staring me down as I stood above it on a hill. It looked about ready to charge so I made a speedy U-turn to the next path over.
It must be the ram, I thought, Swiss army knife in hand whilst sitting up straight and petrified under my sleeping bag. He’s come back for revenge. I’ll be the first person in history to be murdered and eaten by sheep. What have I done? WHAT HAVE I DONE?! Goodbye cruel, cruel, world. I’ve lived a full life.
Waiting for the sun to rise with no cell service and sheep brushing against my tent felt like years. When I checked the time and saw it was nearly 5:00 in the morning and that a bit of sun was starting to creep through the tent fabric, I made the daring decision to unzip the tarp flap and loudly flail my way out of the tent in hopes of frightening away those fluffy, white, terrors.
To my surprise, when I emerged frazzled and in a cold sweat, there were absolutely no sheep around. No animals, no people, no birds, no nothing in sight. In my panicky state I managed to spend an hour and a half making up noises and confusing the wind rustling the tarp with sheep trying to break in and kill me.
Even after all my stupid mistakes and unrealistic fears, I made it through. And though I’m proud of myself for doing it alone, I will never look at a sheep and think “wow, what an adorable, beautiful, harmless, little mammal,” ever again. And rams? Rams, you can go f*** yourself! From now on my adventures will go back to consisting entirely of hikes through shopping malls and pushing my physical limits with late nights of dancing and short walks to the fridge.
Here’s a quick poem about my boots that have been to so many places over the past couple of years. If I’m being honest, the ones I wrote the poem about have now gone to shoe heaven (may they rest in peace) BUT all the things I said they’d seen they really had.
No, I’m not referencing
the back trunk of a car.
Instead I mean the soles on my feet,
the ones that have travelled oh so far.
They’ve seen the highest mountains.
They’ve seen the brightest cities.
They’ve seen sublime castles,
and things that weren’t so pretty.
The scattered sands of beaches
sprawled across the toes
have left wee little stains
like scars left by noble foes.
These boots down on my feet
have been left sitting by the sea
waiting patiently for me to surface
in not but my skivvies.
From the top of Mount Floyen
to the red lights of Amsterdam
they’ve walked every where I have,
reminders like passport stamps.
Their black, worn-out leather
shows new marks from year to year.
Stains from grass and dust and soil
and the salt from several tears.
These boots have left footprints
almost everywhere I’ve stepped,
but what’s more are the imprints
on my soul those places left.