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.
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:
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.
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.