NO matter where in the world you go, another island or other continent, travel is good for growth and understanding. The world is full of rich cultures and wonderful people, and the more of it we experience for ourselves the better.
There is no substitute for visiting a new place for the first time. Even by the second visit, a familiarity sets in and the novelty is worn away. I have been in Scotland for the last two weeks and the experience has been remarkable for its complexity.
My father loves scotch whisky and it has been his dream to visit the distilleries in Scotland, but until now he has not had the chance. This year, thanks in large part to Covid-induced low airfares, my brothers and I took the opportunity. I have been to the UK before but my family has not, so I have enjoyed observing them as much as the country. To them, everything is different and wonder-inspiring. Car conversations typically begin with “What is that? We don’t have that back home.” Which is what tourists always do, compare what they see to what they know. Mark Twain said it is the prerogative of the tourist.
The drive from the airport to the apartment was an experience itself. In the UK, they drive on the left side of the road, and since I am the only one in our group who has that experience, I was elected to do all the driving. My father and brothers took in the sights, smells, and sounds of Glasgow, Edinburgh and the country in between.
Our first distillery was Glenkinchie, which was good because it is one of our favorite scotches. We left civilization when we headed for Glenfiddich, Macallan and Glenlivet which are nestled deep in the northern highlands hundreds of miles from a cell tower and a thousand miles from the modern world.
Edinburgh is one of my favorite places, the city itself dating back to Viking times, over a thousand years ago. The entire city resembles on vast castle complex, where even modest apartment buildings look like something from a medieval documentary. The street life is vibrant and active, and it would take years to eat at all the restaurants. There is a safe, comfortable feel which my father picked up on immediately. As my brother said, “We have not heard anyone fighting or shouting, not one complaining customer in the restaurants. They all get along.” It sounds like the kind of place where we all would like to live.
Scotland is a remarkable place where the positives far outweigh the negatives. It would not take much effort to persuade me to live here. As for my father, although he is thoroughly enjoying himself, he constantly reminds us that he misses the warm, comfortable surroundings of home. He misses his chair in front of his television, sleeping in his bed and waking up to his coffee. I must have gotten my exploring DNA from the other side of the family. He is glad he came but one visit will be enough to get it out of his system. As for my brothers and I, we hope to come back soon. We have only scratched the surface of this wonderfully rich, old, diverse country.
BC Cook, PhD lived on Saipan and has taught history for 20 years. He currently resides on the mainland U.S.