The joys of being a tourist at home

I’m Elsie and I’m about to enter my final year of a Spanish and Music joint honours degree. I spent my year abroad in Salamanca and had some amazing experiences, although I’m really looking forward to starting a new year in Birmingham!

Chances are that your summer plans have changed, whether you planned to travel or not. In my case, being at home has given me a chance to rediscover my local area – just the other day I took a walk through the ruins of a Roman fort about a 10 minute drive away from home, that I didn’t even know existed until this summer. Being able to ‘travel’ close to home has given me the opportunity to reflect on the country I live in, the beautiful places within it, and the places I’d like to learn more about.

In 2018 I took a trip for a few days around the Highlands and the Isle of Skye. We went with a tour company that departed from Edinburgh and drove all the way up to the islands by bus. The fun thing about the trip was that it was designed for tourists (obviously) – I was the only Scot in the group and the company made sure to portray Scottish clichés as much as they could. We made sure to take part in typically Scottish activities like whiskey tasting and spotting the Loch Ness Monster, all while our guide provided a running commentary on the ancient myths, legends and history of Scotland. Most importantly, he was always in a kilt while he did so. We travelled through the Highlands and then onto the Isle of Skye, stopping every so often to explore a castle, stop in a glen or visit a sleeping giant! We ate delicious seafood and enjoyed each other’s company while taking in arguably some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world.

As a child, every summer my family and I would spend the school holidays in the Highlands. My parents were really keen on us enjoying nature, walking and history, while my siblings and I loved seeing wildlife and being able to play on an empty beach. As the years went by, however, our trips became less and less frequent, as we all grew up and life simply changed with us. To be able to visit the Highlands again and travel around these places that I hadn’t seen since childhood was a really beautiful experience. 

During my trip as an adult I was really struck by how much there is to explore in your own country, which I had forgotten. We’re often so quick to romanticise travelling abroad – I know I have always done it – and how can anyone really blame us? Films, books, music and society as a whole often encourages us to dream of far-off lands. Of course, this is a great thing in many ways as developing a global outlook can be so important to our development. However, it can come at the expense of overlooking the adventures we can have closer to home. My trip to the Highlands gave me the chance to re-discover a part of Scotland that is close to my heart, and learn more about my own home as a result. 

Elsie Haldane

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