Long story short: Three countries in one day.
Long story long:
We woke up bright and early at our haunted hotel, and set off immediately for the North. It wasn’t long before we had reached England, and our first stop: Rydal Mount. This lovely dwelling, 400 years old, once belonged to a particularly well-known poet named William Wordsworth. He lived in this beautiful home in the Lake District of England for nearly half his life, and it was easy to see why. The brightly lit white cottage stood atop a lush green hill covered in grass, daffodils, and trees. Little cobblestone paths weaved around the entire property. We could follow his garden paths to a spot that overlooked the lake, a sunny hillside covered in yellow trumpeting daffodils, or privately shaded areas. Although the residence is now a tourist attraction, the area was incredibly quiet and peaceful. I could leisurely explore his old study, the bedrooms, the library and living room, and the picturesque land surrounding the humble abode. The chirping woodland birds could be heard from inside the cottage, and the calm atmosphere of Rydal Mount caused all the visitors to speak in lower tones, walk more slowly, and take more time to enjoy the charming estate.
I’ve read Wordsworth’s poems before. I’ve heard them recited. I’ve even memorized some of his work, myself. But I’ve never thought much of him, at all. His rhymes have always been nothing but ink on a page; nothing I would care to spend my time looking into. However, as I sat in his little outdoor ‘writing hut’ looking over his gardens of splendid flowers, it was like I was sharing his perspective. It’s like I experienced the same moment that he once experienced, 200 years ago. The words of his poem, Daffodils, poured into my head, and I spent just a couple seconds in the mind of William Wordsworth.
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
There’s something about context that makes a poem have so much more meaning. It’s the background and the foreground and the history that gives a text its relevance. That’s what I learned today. The poems that once were dull and lifeless and cliché came alive right before my eyes as I retraced the poet’s footsteps, sought out the writer’s perspective, and finally saw the poems for what they were originally meant to be.
After piling back on the bus for another couple hours, we crossed over the border into Scotland. Our rest stop was called Gretna Green, and was actually rather interesting. It turns out that England had once banned couples under the age of 16 from getting married without parental consent. Scotland, of course, thought the law was rubbish, and still allowed for boys older than 14 and girls older than 13 to be wed without parental permission. Consequently, Gretna Green became the venue of choice for many runaway English couples hoping to elope, and now hosts over 5,000 weddings per year! The advertisements littering the quaint area were rather humorous: “A 10-minute ceremony that will last you forever- No reservations or bookings required!” How convenient.
Aside from our sweet little roadside stops, we’ve been staring out the bus windows at the scenery of Great Britain rushing past. Now, here we are in the land of tartans, shortbread, clotted cream, and bagpipes. Our home for the night is Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. From the little bit that we’ve seen this evening on our way to supper and then to the hotel, I have one word to describe it: huge. It will really be something to walk through these streets tomorrow afternoon.
To summarize, today has been full of travelling. Eight hours of driving can be draining, especially in a group of 40 people. But if I were ever to be asked for travelling advice, I would answer with this: While on the road, take what you’re given. Don’t demand better treatment. Instead, demand opportunity and experience. Take the window seat, and keep your eyes open. The journey is so much more exciting when you look forward to each new town, each new stop, and each bend in the road. When one thinks only about the final destination, they completely miss all the new sights along the way. It’s not just the famous places or the popular cities or the most well-known streets that hold the greatest potential for inspiration. The most memorable experiences often come at the most random times and from the most unexpected places.
If you’ve paid an arm and a leg to take a trip, be sure to glean everything possible from it. It’s the knocking opportunities and the surprises outside the window that can sometimes offer more than anything on the itinerary. Check out the side streets and the low-key restaurants. Visit the places where the locals live, and limit your time in the tourist shops. Explore without a map, and ask the residents, not Siri. Limiting your gaze limits your possibilities. Don’t expect the bare minimum, search for the maximum.
I guess my encouragement, in its simplest form, is this: Don’t just travel. Explore the in-between, and Wander.