Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Backpacking, Wanderlust and Edinburgh

There is, in my view, only one way to see the world. If you travel and stay in hotels and cart around ridiculous amounts of clothes, in cases you could be buried in, you never really experience what travel is all about. It’s about taking the smallest amount of stuff you possibly can, shoving it into the smallest bag you can possibly fit it in and forgetting everything that you’ve left behind.
Travel is about turning up in a city that until that day was just a name, and finding in it treasures you’d never imagined. Travel is about staying in tiny dorm rooms when you have to and cozying up with fellow travellers when you can.
Travel is about things working out when by rights they shouldn’t and things going terribly, scarily wrong and being able to laugh when they do.
I love backpacking and I love travel. The two for me are inseparable. It’s sad that in the past couple years I’ve done so little of it; especially this year, when I’ve had so few commitments.

I went to Scotland first and foremost to see my brother, who lives near the border with England. As soon as I’d booked the trip I realised I needed the break. Staying in Ireland for too long makes me jumpy and cranky. I love Ireland and Dublin but travelling is a passion and wanderlust an infection I’ve carried a long time.

I considered seeing both Edinburgh and Glasgow but on the advice of just about everyone I opted to avoid the more industrial city.

My flight to Edinburgh was due to take off just after lunch last Wednesday, which coincidentally was when my airline, Aer Lingus, had said they’d start flights again after the Eyjafjallajokull ash cloud.

I didn’t expect the plane to take off. So I went through the considerable rigmarole of packing (love travelling, hate packing) without a lot of optimism. I got a bus to the airport, again, expecting the worst. There was a tiny queue to check in, which took a ridiculous amount of time to clear and when I got to the desk I was surprised to be handed a boarding pass straight away.

After that the trip was plain sailing. I spent my time doing what I most enjoy, wandering around a city to get a feel of it, reading books (I bought 6, read 4) and when the urge struck me, writing.

Edinburgh is a really gorgeous city. My hostel was smack in the middle of the Old Town and that meant I didn’t have to see many modern soul-less buildings or wander very far to see the sites.

I went pub crawling with the hostel crew each night I was in Edinburgh and discovered that I am currently a backpacker magnet, although why this is I have yet to decipher. I don’t intend to analyse it too much, lest I break the magic.

My trip south was less impressive. The train from Edinburgh to Carlisle cost me £40 which shocked me a bit, and the terrain in Southern Scotland (the lowlands) is really not as impressive. They did have some awesome castles down there though.

Seeing my brother was great. In the last five years I’ve only seen him a handful of times and he and his girlfriend provided some really awesome meals for me while I was down there.

In all it’s been a good trip. However I’m left with a stronger sense of wanderlust then ever. I want to start an epic trip, drop everything and just keep moving. It’s starting to get higher on my list again. When the marathon is run and the 365 challenge over I think I might take out my backpack again.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Photos in Absence

All the shots I uploaded to flickr while I was in Edinburgh but didn't get a chance to post them to Facebook or Twitter: