Being “in the moment”

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“The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself”. Henry Miller

In 9 days I’m off to Scotland! So excited. As usual I’ve spent hours combing the internet looking for interesting information. I’ve poured over maps, plotted distances, read blogs, watched video, checked ferry schedules, and researched “must sees”. They say planning is half the fun of travel and I agree.

While researching I started thinking about being in the moment (or not) when traveling. When I started traveling in the 90s I wasn’t experienced or confident enough to arrange my own itinerary and accommodations so I went on escorted tours. I saw many wonderful things, and those trips gave me the courage to travel solo later.

After some of those trips I had a niggling sense of disappointment and now I think I understand why. I was looking at these incredible wonders, like the Acropolis, Pyramids, Great Wall, Sistine Chapel and so on – and have the pictures to prove it – but can’t remember what it felt like to be in those amazing places. I took the pictures and heard the tour guide (well most of the time) but was then herded off to the next amazing site without looking back – I wasn’t really taking it all in. I remember standing in front of the great pyramid at Giza, after a lifetime of dreaming of being there, but I wasn’t really paying attention. Taking multiple pictures, most of which would be thrown out years later, and keeping track of time so as not to be late back to the bus, I missed the little thinks that set images in our mind forever. Much older and more experienced now I know I was surrounded by sensory awakening sights, sounds, and smells; vendors speaking rapidly in Arabic, the pungent smell of camels, young children giggling as they gawked at the amusing tourists, and the feel of the warm dry desert breeze on my skin. I didn’t take the time to stop everything and be in that moment. Take it all in and let my senses stamp it on my brain forever.

Today, as a more experienced traveler, I can imagine standing in front of something so old, stunned at a how much bigger it is in person, amazed at the creation of it, the reason for its existence. Not to be misunderstand, every trip I took and every wonderful site I saw is a gift that I cherish and I have no regrets. However as I get older I’m more introspective and realize I will only have one chance to see these places and I want to remember them in full detail. I travel differently now, at a slower pace, with all my senses working, and my sense of wonder fully engaged.

I’m traveling to Scotland with my teacher/traveler friend Gail. We have the same travel style and philosophy so we travel well together. We’ve created an itinerary and have our accommodations and car reserved, but our days are open to chance. We know what direction we’re going on the map, but we’ll go at our own pace and stop when something looks interesting. Scotland has an incredibly fascinating history, which I intend to be mindful of, but what drew me to go to Scotland in the first place is the land and the people. We’re looking forward to off-the-beaten-path pubs, whiskey tasting, conversations with locals, (meeting men in kilts – wink, wink), and taking in incredibly beautiful scenery – as much as touring castles, crofts, and cairns. I will take the time to write everyday so stay tuned.

Bye for noo – See ye efter – (love the Scottish accent!)