Travel, oof. Some days, man.
It’s one of those days when it’s critical to remember how powerless we are when crap goes sideways. Bend like the willow, bend and don’t break.
I’ve travelled to Scotland today. I’m sitting here with a cream ale and my first-ever proper steak-and-ale pie. Joy!
It was supposed to be a leisurely 4-hour-and-20-minute train ride here, but like I say, some things leave us powerless.
Like when there’s a major gas leak by one of the country’s largest train stations and half the nation’s trains are rerouted as a result.
Oh, the Drama: Train Clusterfuckery
Instead of a 3:20 arrival in Edinburgh, I got here four hours later. The gas leak occurred when I was a stop away from Durham Station, in Darlington. They decided to backtrack us to another route, to Northallerton. Then they stuck us on a train to Newcastle, so we could disembark and transfer to Edinburgh. But that train went to Darlington. Again.
In Darlington, they decided Newcastle was a bad plan, so we all got off the train there, hopped on a slew of buses, and then took those to Newcastle. Once in Newcastle, we were all sent onto a train that was too full, so I spent the next 90 minutes standing in the space between two cars, crammed in with 8 strangers and all our luggage, where other people would squeeze and shove their way through to use the bathroom, whose door was my only back support for the duration of the ride to Edinburgh.
And so unfolded my “dream” train ride to Scotland.
But that’s life, man. So here I am with a steak pie and a beer and a weary soul but still hopeful my trip will be great.
My Queendom for a Lovely Bed! No?
I checked into my hostel and the bed was not to my liking, so I’m waiting to see if I can get tomorrow night refunded in addition to the next three nights after that (which are officially cancelled). I’m also trying to book an AirBNB that I hope is superior, despite it not being in this very apt area for exploring old town Edinburgh.
So, it’s 9:00 and my travel uncertainty continues.
But that’s my life now. That’s what you absolutely have to be ready for if you’ve got wistful dreams of being a “digital nomad.” No, it’s not all glamour. No, it’s not all fun. Some days are excruciatingly stressful and frustrating.
And so it happens that a digital nomad needs to use the Boy Scout’s motto: Be prepared. I had a train seat with a dedicated plug outlet but I still charged my Tripmate backup battery that has two complete charges, before I left today. And lucky I did, or I’d have run out of juice before I got to Edinburgh and wouldn’t have known where my hostel was nor how to get there.
Misadventure is Pretty Awesome
If planning ahead for misadventure, being willing to lose the occasional night’s prebooked stay because the lodgings are terrible and you’re upgrading, and being able to adapt to things when your travels go sideways are all things you don’t think you’re cut out for, then the travel life is not for you.
But you know what?
I got to ride through Darlington, Newcastle, and all the country in between, stuff I wouldn’t have seen on a train, and it was a sunny day for it. I discovered the greatest invention ever, a little plastic wine glass sealed with foil, so I could drink a glass on The Train Ride From Hell for the final leg to Edinburgh. And I got to talk to the neatest old Scottish lady for the duration of my final ride. Turns out she never even had a passport until her 59th birthday, when her son got a job performing for Cirque du Soleil and he flew her to Japan to visit him. Since then, she’s been a bunch of places. 71 now. I really enjoyed meeting her, Mary.
The Random Misadventure Chat that Changed My Life
In October, 2013, I talked to a lady like Mary, who played a role in changing my life and inspiring me to travel to the extent I am now. (She was a house-sitter from Australia and we got on the wrong bus together and talked for 90 minutes. If that 70-year-old woman could travel the world non-stop, surely I could!)
Those conversations can be incredibly inspiring but it involves getting over the frustration and getting into a new headspace.
Fatigue happens, though. Not long after that, I was so disoriented when I got off the train and made my way to an elevator, that I kept hitting an arrow on a sign indicating that the street level was one up, instead of hitting the “up” button for the lift. A passing woman had a good laugh and saved me from my silliness and rode up with me, and when she heard about my day, she took a moment with me after we stepped out of the lift, surrounded by Central Edinburgh and all her historical glory, and she pointed to All The Things and told me what they were. It was a five-minute crash course in the city’s places to visit.
So I had the option of just pissing and moaning and being worn out and angry about having to ride standing up all the way and lugging my bag from train to train to train to bus to train to bus, or I can think how cool it was to see some smaller towns and other sights, talk to locals, and get that intro to Edinburgh.
So now I’m sitting in a Scottish pub, listening to the locals’ banter, slowly enjoying my pint, telling you about my day. I’ll probably have a crappy sleep tonight, but on the upside I’ll get out and explore early.
Travel’s a mixed bag. Even when it all goes completely to hell, there’s usually something worth salvaging. It’s 100% your choice. Attitude is the most important tool in your bag, not just when travelling, but in life.