Day 22 of 30 Days of Indie Travel Project, from BootsnAll
Prompt #22: TRANSIT
“The word travel comes from a French word meaning “work” and sometimes, getting there is work. Between crowded buses, long airline delays, overnight trains and crazy rickshaw rides, transportation can be stressful, but it can also be a rewarding part of the tip. Tell us about a time when the journey became more important than the destination.”
The long delay and the long uphill walk
Edinburgh’s March night air was surprisingly warm as I walked out of Waverly train station. Looking over Princes Street Gardens to the Royal Mile, the moon hung high over Old Town Edinburgh and the Castle. The quiet night seemed to have hardly so much as a taxi, but then again, I’ve never had much luck with taxis.
Jaysus, I stank. That happens when you’ve worn the same clothes for days, traveled from the northwestern U.S. to Scotland, and are lugging around not only a rucksack nearly the same size as you, but also a large rolling suitcase. Over a day earlier, I’d been flying east across the U.S., fresh from visiting friends in my future home of Oregon. It was March 2000, and I was on my way back to Scotland, first for a quick respite in my former student-exchange-and-work-visa home of Edinburgh, then to Ireland on a 4-month work visa.
Everything had gone fine, until Philly.
From Philadelphia I was supposed to connect to a trans-Atlantic flight to London. From London, I planned to make my way by train back to my beloved Edinburgh. Only trouble was, my slightly delayed Philly flight had touched down at about the same time my London flight took off.
The airline managed to just squeeze me onto the last trans-Atlantic flight of the evening: Madrid, Spain.
I had just enough time to grab a pay phone and ring my old flatmate, Ewan, who was expecting me. He didn’t have a mobile, so I left a voicemail on the landline phone explaining the delay. With a layover in Madrid, a later flight to London and, of course, the train time, I’d wind up arriving back in Edinburgh nearly a day later than originally planned.
In Waverly, I called my old flatmate again. Still no answer. Some instinct began to jangle in the back of my brain. I rang another friend’s flat.
“Oh my god!” she said, husky Scottish brogue welcoming me back. “We’ve been wondering where you are! Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” I said, “I’ve been leaving messages with Ewan that there were a bunch of flight delays. I just got to Edinburgh.”
“Oh no!” she said. “He’s been sick, and went home to Glasgow to stay with his parents.”
Oh. He hadn’t gotten the messages. No one knew where I’d been.
“Come and stay with us,” she said. “Plenty of room.”
“That’d be wonderful,” I replied, telling her I’d find my way up there.
Luggage in tow, I trudged my way to Princes Street to snag a taxi. As I mentioned, taxis and I do not get along. I’m not sure at what point I offended the taxi gods of foreign lands, but there must be a nasty flier of me up somewhere, so that taxi drivers know I’m to be ignored. On one of the (usually) busiest streets in Edinburgh, I could not get a taxi to save my life.
After a few minutes of futile flagging and waving, I decided to start walking. My new destination was a couple of miles away, some of it uphill. The delays, trans-continental and trans-Atlantic flying had left me knackered and jetlagged. And now I had to walk uphill, lugging all my stuff.
Backpack straps cinched and huge suitcase in tow, off I went, beneath the full moon over Edinburgh. I was sweating almost immediately, my already-reeking shirt threatening to combust from my dirty, sweaty traveler foulness. Now and again I’d try to flag down a taxi, still to no avail. Soon I stopped trying.
Shortly after that, I realized something about me was feeling different. Step after step brought me ever closer to good friends, a hot shower, a cold drink and a warm bed. The toil became challenge, the exertion a sort of mellow traveler’s high. Stubborn determination transmuted into adventurous joy, and I realized that I wasn’t just trudging my tired body and heavy possessions uphill on a spring night in Scotland, I was enjoying myself.
An hour or so later, I could hardly see the moon for the taller buildings where I was. The cool night air had dried the worst of my sweat, though I wonder if my friends could smell me coming before I pressed the buzzer for their flat.
They welcomed me with hugs and relief. Soon I was cleaned up, and we were swapping stories over a relaxing drink. I was back amongst friends, in a city I’d come to love.
But for all its challenge, getting there had become just as fun as being there.
More like this: Urban Fantasy and Travel Stories from Rucksack Press »
What is the 30 days of indie travel?
Every day in November, the BootsnAll Travel Network is inviting bloggers from around the world to a daily blogging effort designed to reflect on how our travel experiences over the last year (or whenever) have shaped us and our view of the world. Bloggers can follow the prompts as strictly or loosely as we like, interpreting them in various ways and responding via text, photos or video posted on our own blogs. More information: Join the 30 Days of Indie Travel Project »