I am jet lagged. I am very dehydrated. I am sore from dragging around a too heavy suitcase.
I am also hysterically excited. I am in love. I am in the place I am meant to be.
On September 4th, I started my journey from San Francisco to Edinburgh. The morning began with my overly eager and paranoid self insisting to my parents that we leave the house at 5:30am to go to the airport. Even though the drive only takes about an hour and a half at that time of day, and my flight did not leave until 11am, I fretted over the prospect of mingling with the commuter traffic and missing my flight. This resulted in a very tired family of travelsmiths getting to the airport a whopping four hours early, but no one seemed to mind once more coffee was consumed and a comfy place to sit and wait was found.
In the interim hours, I checked my bag. Overweight and nearly backbreaking, my insistence to fit everything into one massive suitcase, and my two carry on bags, seemed noble at the time. While anyone else leaving home for a year (or indefinitely) would likely pack two suitcases, as is logical, I had reasoned that whatever I needed could fit into one and under the 70 pound maximum weight limit.
This determination developed mostly from my desire to be able to safely bring my luggage on a train. While I would be flying into Edinburgh, and staying a few days in my favorite European city, I would then take a train up to St Andrews. In my preparation research, I had read somewhere that Scotrail, the main Scottish train system, passengers were only allowed two “big” bags and then a personal item. With a checked suitcase, a rather heavy carry on duffle bag, and a backpack, I assumed this fulfilled my allowed train luggage. Convinced from a weakly grounded irrational fear that if I brought more luggage I would be refused a seat on the train, I pushed aside any idea to bring an additional checked bag on my flight. Well intentioned family members tried to reason with me, logically saying that even if I didn’t bring more clothes, that just splitting my things into two bags would lighten the overall load and make the journey easier. Or, they offered the perspective that changing my carry on duffle bag to a small carry on suitcase might be better, allowing me to roll both bags instead of carry one. Their efforts were noble, but I was blinded and fueled by a stubborn determination that I was right, and dodged any and all suggestions. This would later become my downfall and haunt me through the rest of my travel.
After a tearful goodbye to my parents, I made my way through the security line, dragged my carry on bags to my boarding gate, and settled myself for a two hour wait. I began chugging water at lightening speed to stay hydrated and took out a book to read. About ten minutes later, an updated was announced for my flight. The flight was delayed, and I would miss my connecting flight in New York to Edinburgh. I felt irritated, but not stressed. People missed connecting flights all the time, and I knew that since this was the fault of the airline, I could be rebooked. I phoned a representative and inquired about getting on the next flight from New York to Edinburgh.
My blood ran cold when the representative told me that there would be no more flights to Edinburgh that day, and that the next one would not take place until midnight the following day. A surge of panic started to bubble up in my chest, and I fought to keep it down as I thanked the representative and then promptly hung up the phone call. My hands were shaking, tears were threatening to fall, and I was on the verge of a full blown panic attack. Worst case scenario bells were going off in my mind at high alert. In a sort of trance, I found another representative and explained what I had just learned and asked if there was anything else that could be done. I explained that I was leaving for school and that I needed to get on a flight out that day.
I’m not sure if it was my explanation or the wild look of panic on my face that did the trick, but the representative agreed to see if they could rebook my flight on another airline. After the longest fifteen minutes of my life, I broke into tears of relief when I was told that they found a seat for me on Air France to Edinburgh via Paris. I thanked the representative profusely and then began the tedious process of leaving the gate, collecting my already checked bag, rechecking my bag, going through security again, and then finding my new gate.
Once again, I was sitting tightly. The change of plans meant that I had woken up at 4:30am for a 3:20pm flight. But having just dodged a disaster, and without falling into a panic about it, I was thrilled. I treated myself to an airport lunch of Boudin’s tomato soup in a bread bowl and entertained myself with a book for the remaining hours. After shlepping my luggage all around again, I was exhausted, sore, and ready for the long flight to Paris. I was already regretting my heavy duffle bag and wished I had opted for a little suitcase to roll around.
Eventually my flight boarded, took off, and began its journey to Paris. I sat in a comfortable aisle seat close to the restrooms, and prepped myself to sleep as much as possible. I put in ear plugs, popped some Benadryl, and wrapped myself in the plane blanket. I was just getting drowsy and comfortable when a clumsily passenger tripped on to me on their way back from the bathroom, spilling a drink they were strangely carrying all over me. Frustrated and cold, I desperately tried to dry myself, but it was no use. I would now be taking this flight somewhat damp. The only thing I could do was ask for a new blanket and wait. I tried to seem politely irritated in my conversation to the flight attendant, saying things like “Yes, I am quite frustrated” and “Is there anything you could do for me?” I felt slightly positive about the whole situation when I thought perhaps it could be my free ticket to an upgraded seat. But my French flight attendant just handed me a new blanket and moved on to the next passenger.
By the time my flight landed in Paris, I was dry. I was also deliriously tired, having not slept much, and uncomfortable. My neck was stiff and my legs were sore, but I was happy to be one step closer to Scotland. I began hauling my carry on bags through the airport, hunting for my next gate. Once again, I regretted my decision to carry on a duffle bag. No matter what way I carried it, it proved a heavy lump, hindering my speed and cramping my style.
On my way to find the gate, I stopped for coffee, hoping some caffeine would bring me back to life. In a true testament to how my travels were going, I spilled the coffee two seconds after I got it. Embarrassed, I went back to buy another coffee, getting a very judgmental look from the person serving me. In that moment, I was glad I hadn’t decided to go to school in France.
Armed with a new coffee and some snacks, I sat myself down at my gate and entertained myself for the next few hours while I waited for my flight to Edinburgh. Every forty minutes or so, I reaffirmed the fact that I am my mothers daughter when I disturbed my comfortable seating situation to find a restroom. I likely dragged my bags with me to and from the gate to a bathroom six times. My back was aching and my feet hurt. I felt like I had just completed a HITT workout. I had never been so thankful to get back on a plane, just so I could leave my bags in their spots in the overhead bin whenever I made a trip to the restroom.
The two hour flight from Paris to Edinburgh, I tried to take some time to reflect, practice gratitude, and prepare myself for the amazing journey I was beginning. I started to think about how I would be back in the city that inspired so much love, determination, and positivity. I wanted to imagine myself re-exploring Edinburgh, falling in love with it all over again. I hoped to have visions of myself in St Andrews, in absolute awe of it and consumed with an overwhelming feeling that this was what I was meant to be doing.
In reality, I passed out cold on the flight, and woke up with start two hours later when the plane landed in Edinburgh. I collected my bags, dragged them through security, and then hauled my checked suitcase off the luggage carousel and to the taxi line. While in the taxi and en route to the Airbnb I was staying in, I could not peel my eyes away from the window. Familiar sights surrounded me at every turn. Happy memories from another time filled my mind one after the other. My cheeks burned, and I realized that I had been smiling for quite some time. An overwhelming feeling of intense joy coursed through my veins and kept me alive. It helped keep me awake despite nearly 36 hours without sleep. It helped give me strength when I arrived at my Airbnb, only to find that I needed to drag my bags up six flights of very narrow stairs to get to the flat I was staying in. And it motivated me to go out and explore Edinburgh for the two hours of daylight that remained before coming back to the Airbnb and getting some much needed sleep.
I was jet lagged. I was very dehydrated. I was sore from dragging around a too heavy suitcase.
I was also hysterically excited. I was in love. I was in the place I am meant to be.
I felt like I had come home.
P.S. Thank you for reading! If you liked this post, please give it a “like.” To stay tuned for more content, press the “follow” button to get an email whenever I write a post. Next time, I will recount my time in Edinburgh and share my first impressions of St Andrews.