Written by Swati
February 1st, 2023
Mom, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry. It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission, right? The question I needed to answer for myself this week: If you’re alone, are you ever really lonely? Recently I’ve fallen in love with traveling alone and witnessing the world for the first time. While there were times I wished I had a companion in particularly closed off, unwelcoming areas in Paris, at the end of every road I look back with nothing but crazy admiration for this body and mind of mine. While solo travel isn’t for everyone, and reasonably so, I’ve always been a limit tester. It’s the reason I studied abroad in the first place. And there’s always been a desire at the bottom of my heart to adventure alone. The sheer freedom and ability to go anywhere, anytime, do anything, to turn around and strike up a conversation with people from different corners of the world felt unparalleled. Now that I’m beginning my 20’s, I’m teaching myself to be more independent and selfish with my time and energy. This is the only decade I feel like I’ll truly be able to live for myself, by myself. At the end of this experience I want to see myself as inherently capable of anything, someone who can tackle any problem with confidence knowing I’ve navigated situations in foreign countries and had the types of adventures that people write movies about.
While the goal of this trip was to see keshi, one of my favorite artists (top 2 on my Spotify wrapped, second only to a very intense phase I had in early 2022 with Mandopop artist, Eric Chou) The main reason the trip was non-negotiable in my eyes was the fact that my mom deems Scotland her favorite place in the world. It’s high praise coming from the homebody of my household, and I just had to see what made the city shine so bright in her eyes. And as soon as I got there, I knew. The people are kinder, the air is warmer, the sky is clearer, the water feels softer, the sun shines brighter. Scots are truly a warm and cheery bunch, the ones that remind you that life is gentle and kind. And they open their arms to the weariest of travelers, visitors who seek refuge from their abysmal, monotonous lives. In both Glasgow and Edinburgh, I felt safe, I felt comfortable, and I felt unstoppable.
I’ve always considered myself a bright and outgoing person, but after arriving in France I found myself suddenly fearful of the European eye. There’s something that makes you want to shrink under the microscope of mispronounced words and unfamiliar social cues. I talked softer, gestured more, and walked straight ahead without meeting strangers’ eyes. But in Scotland, I felt the smile come back into my eyes. I met perfect strangers who became costars in the Scottish movie that was being written before my eyes, and I’ll always look back on them with such fondness. Ryosuke, a 3rd year Japanese Computer Science student from the University of Tokyo who was on a year exchange at the University of Glasgow, gave me a little tour of the campus after a chance encounter at the Hunterian museum and let me sit in on his Information Retrieval class. Then we wandered through more exhibits at nearby museums before he walked me to the subway station with a list of Glaswegian recommendations. Seungah, a Korean international student studying Graphic Design, and Safiya, a Glasgow native of Pakistani descent and recent graduate of the University of Glasgow, two girls who stood behind me in line at the keshi concert, quickly became good friends within just an hour of meeting. We grabbed post-concert fish and chips at midnight and got Korean food for lunch the next day. Being in college and having the opportunity to venture out and meet others of the same age with similar goals is such an incredibly unique experience, and one that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
If you asked me to sing the praises of Scotland, I would all day long. But at the end of the day, this trip taught me to take chances. I had researched, read, and checked all the boxes to make sure I’d be safe, but at the end of the day I left it up to fate to see how this trip would go. And I realized that life gives you some crazy opportunities if you’re bold enough to take them. And I’ll spend my whole lifetime chasing the feeling that this trip gave me. Scotland is truly where the soul grows and glows, and this trip couldn’t have gone better if I had planned it to.