Alone in the airport

Life Lessons, Living Abroad

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.

 

A new-found fear of sheep

Living Abroad, Prose, Scotland

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.

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My set up for the night. Note the obviously crooked tent tarp.

 

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.

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Blurry shot of said ram, but you get the picture. It looks like it fuckin’ means business! 

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.

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Quartz!

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“I like that boulder. That is a NICE boulder.”

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Kate Moss

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Everyone here hates the rain, but really that’s the reason everything is so incredibly green and lush! Like what’s a bit of rain when you get THIS BEAUTIFULNESS right outside your door always? Sheesh!

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The majority of the so-called path through the woods I “found” (slash made) was right beside a beautiful, wee waterfall. Coulda been worse.

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That jaggedy beast in the background is called The Cobbler. I was meant to climb that originally but I went for the smaller one in the end…okay so sue me!

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Another view of The Cobbler.

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Poetry about boots

Amsterdam, Living Abroad, Norway, Poetry, Scotland

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.

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These Boots

 

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.

 

 

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
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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.