The Best Disease I Ever Caught

Recently, due to many very big and scary changes, I packed up my life in Victoria BC, quit my job, and moved to Scotland. Random? Perhaps to an outsider, but for me it’s been a long time coming. When I was 15 years old I visited Scotland all by my lonesome for a month to attend a creative writing course at the University of St Andrews (smarty-pants, right?). While I can’t say the course taught me anything specific about creative writing except to loathe every word I’d ever written, the experience did plant within me a powerful and enduring feeling of what the Germans call heimat: a connection, especially to a place or land – a profound feeling of home. I vowed that I would one day make this place my home, perhaps not permanently, but at least give it a good go.

Eight years later, and I find myself in Edinburgh, Scotland. Not the exact place I’d had in mind, but still an incredibly beautiful city.

I have always been a traveller. I was born to a Canadian mother and English father technically “on vacation.” My parents – two of the most brave and adventurous people I know – met and fell in love on a small Caribbean island called Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. They both found themselves there having followed their own dreams of long-term travel. When they were expecting me, they decided to take a trip to England to “visit family” and also to avoid the slightly-sketchy 1980’s small-island hospital. As it turns out, my mother flew to Britain first and travelled around Scotland, pregnant with me and met my father down in Cornwall, England a few weeks later.

My mama, pregnant with me in front of Edinburgh Castle. The root of my Scottish obsession.

My mama, pregnant with me in front of Edinburgh Castle. The root of my Scottish obsession.

Three and a half years later, my brother Tyler came along and a few years after that, my parents decided that island living, while running a busy hotel, was not the kind of environment in which they wanted to raise a family. This is how we came to move to Canada’s beautiful West Coast. “Super, Natural British Columbia.” “The Best Place on Earth.” A few examples of this:

Saltspring Island, BC

Saltspring Island, BC

Quallicum Beach, Parksville BC, on Vancouver Island

Quallicum Beach, Parksville BC, on Vancouver Island

The view from my old house before my parents moved. I know, right?

The view from my old house before my parents moved. I know, right?

Jellyfish forest in the ocean outside my old house, Brentwood Bay BC

Jellyfish forest in the ocean outside my old house, Brentwood Bay BC

Growing up, we often travelled to England to visit family, and around Vancouver Island quite a bit.

My first trip on my own was when I was 12 years old – I flew to Edmonton, Alberta to visit my cousins for a weekend. I wore the “minor” badge proudly around my neck and I was very determined not to ask anyone for help! I got a few funny looks from passengers and flight attendants before one flight attendant approached me and asked very sweetly: “Hi there, I’m sorry but, why are your wearing THAT?” pointing to my minor badge. I sat up straight and said, “because I’m 12 years old!” The flight attendant blushed, apologized and stated that I looked more like I was 16. A very proud moment for a young girl!

My next trip alone was to Toronto, Ontario. I was 14 and no longer needed the minor’s badge. I went for a week to visit my aunt, uncle and gran. It was, incidentally, also while the Pope was visiting; the number of pilgrims who had followed him there packed the city. Many of them seemed to appreciate the short, tight skirts I was unfortunately prone to wearing at that age… Oops!

The next trip on my own was the month-long course at St Andrews University. A month alone in Scotland at only 15.

I never really thought anything of travelling alone because of these experiences in my teens. When I was 20, and attending the University of Victoria, I did a year abroad in England at the University of Exeter.

A typical shot of Exeter Cathedral.

A typical shot of Exeter Cathedral.

The River Exe.

The River Exe.

A beautiful part of the University of Exeter campus.

A beautiful part of the University of Exeter campus.

When I decided to do this year abroad, and many of my friends were shocked and couldn’t understand my desire to do something “so big” “scary” “hard” “too stressful”, I realized that the travel bug that I have wasn’t, as I had assumed, universal.

It IS certainly genetic. Once my brother Tyler shed the almost paralyzing shyness of his childhood, he left. I don’t even know how many places he’s been. Mostly he’s covered Europe so far, but his hunger for adventure (and his fear of boredom) is boundless. I expect that if someone in our family achieves the somewhat cliché dream “to see the world,” it will be him.

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About amblingalana

Just a Canadian girl who abandoned British Columbia to try her luck in Bonnie Scotland. Feminist, long-term travel enthusiast, aspiring writer.

5 responses to “The Best Disease I Ever Caught

  1. Heather

    Hi Alana. I too have ‘the bug’ and a special connection to Scotland so will very much enjoy your blog I’m sure.
    Heather

  2. Shay Bowick

    Alana that was awesome!!! I hope you keep writing these often! Hope you’re doing well over there!

  3. Barbara Richards

    Very good writing Alana. That early writing course was obviously time well spent! Please keep up the blog and posting your wonderful photographs.

  4. Aroha

    And thanks to your move to Edinburgh I had the pleasure of having you as my flatmate and best friend. Hopefully this bug will bring us back together soon. Xxx excellent writing hon.

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