Gorse and Goodbyes: A Week in Scotland

I have wanted to write about the week I spent in Scotland for years now, but never knew where to start.

Because Scotland was a lot of things. Scotland was a week of new love, saying goodbye to an old friend and discovering a beautiful, wild and wind-whipped country. Scotland was finally figuring out that your travel life and personal life will collide sometimes, and that the result can be complicated.

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I quickly booked a place to stay and headed to Edinburgh to meet my childhood best friend and her boyfriend. I was about to study abroad on Mallorca and figured, why not squeeze in a trip to Scotland beforehand?

Back when I was 20, I wasn’t happy. My long-distance relationship was crumbling and my family situation was intolerably hard. But much of my discontent came from inside; I was stuck in a rut. And despite my valiant efforts, I felt I would always be overweight and unhappy.

But as always, travel alleviated my sadness if only briefly. As always, travel gave me respite from my worried head.

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Instead of thinking about life back home, I threw myself into enjoying Scotland. And Scotland was easy to love; it was Celtic and gorse-covered and gorgeous.

When I think back on Scotland I remember the wind whipping my hair across my face while climbing Arthur’s Seat…

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The starkly beautiful expanses of land on the train ride north…

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Stumbling upon a rainbow AND a castle on the Isle of Skye…

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Meeting a kind and hilarious Australian with whom I’d spend the summer with across Europe, in Paris, Rome and Sardinia.

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When I remember Scotland my heart stings as it was the last time I ever saw, or will probably ever see, my childhood best friend. While we had fun in Scotland, things quickly fell apart once we got home. But on some level, I’m glad our friendship ended the way it did. As high-schoolers we had always dreamed of our trip to Europe, so it was an apt and poetic ending for our friendship to finish abroad.

But more than that, Scotland taught me that compartmentalizing travel and real life is a fruitless endeavor.

Before Scotland, I equated traveling with freedom and discovery and bliss, and my home life with all that is banal and sometimes painful: bills and grades and and friendships that just aren’t working anymore.

In Scotland I learned it’s impossible to saunter around unmoored from reality. Because no matter how far you run, you can’t escape the things you inevitably carry with you: your insecurities and your history and your shame, your fears and your friendships and your heartbreaks.

So thank you Scotland, for helping me grow up. Thank you for giving me a beautiful week with my friend and someone wonderful to spend the summer with. I’m sure (or I certainly hope) that I’ll be seeing you again.

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

10 thoughts on “Gorse and Goodbyes: A Week in Scotland”

  1. Beautifully written. I think real life always has a way of sneaking up on you…even when you’re on the road. Scotland looks stunning, by the way.

  2. This is such a touching story, Ashley! It’s so interesting get get a peek back at your earlier relationship with travel. And oh my goodness, those photos are stunning!

  3. Beautiful photos, as always. Lovely insights as well, it’s interesting to see your take on the situation long after it happened.

  4. Lovely piece, Ashley. Scotland is stunning; it’s definitely one of my favorite places. I too lost a friendship abroad, so this story is especially poignant. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Scotland is one of the cities I’m most fascinated with. Your story is inspiring. Hope you return to Scotland and relive your chummy days with your friend.

  6. I need to stay away from your blog unless I’ve got extra money, because every time I read a new post, I start planning a new trip!

    Thanks for also pointing out an important fact about travel – you can’t actually escape your old life. I just moved abroad and I realized that very quickly. There is no “new” Genny just because I live in Holland now. I am still the same old me with the same old problems, only in a more fabulous location, and I’m starting to feel okay with that. I think travel has really just made me more confident and comfortable with the imperfect person that I am, rather than changing me completely.

    Great post – thanks for sharing such personal stuff, it was a really good read and I can really relate!

    • Thanks, Genny! I was really nervous about sharing this because I wondered if it would seem off-topic or too personal. And I totally agree- no matter where you go, you always take yourself, if that makes sense.

  7. Tourist attractions in Scotland include charming castles and country houses, fascinating museums and friendly wildlife parks. But there are also other things to see in Scotland which include visiting the stunning variety of hills and lochs, and maybe even the Loch Ness Monster, Nessie!

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