Finding Kindness in Strangers: Why a solo trip to Scotland changed my outlook on the world

Scotland to me, has always been somewhere too close to feel like a holiday but too far away to make a day trip of. Living a 14 hour non-stop train journey (or 24 hours if you’re like me and need a bed to sleep in overnight) from the border from the home of haggis and highlands has just made Scotland unappealing…

Since deciding Scotland wasn’t going to be for me, my best friend up has moved up to a small town in the centre of Scotland, meaning the dreaded trip was going to have to become a reality- so last week, I packed up and began the mammoth journey to Glasgow, by train, planning on spending a few days exploring the city before meeting him.

So, I set off at midday, stayed overnight with friends in Birmingham and arrived in Scotland 24 hours later. Arriving in central Glasgow at midday gave me a chance to see the city at its peak- busy businessmen on a lunch break, buskers singing their hearts out, the myriad of charity workers trying to make ends meat for their organisation. The first thing that struck me was the sense of community, in a city that felt so far away, yet so much like home. Most of my life in the UK, I’ve had London, Bristol, Manchester and Sheffield to call on for my local nightlife and Topshop trips- so they’ve always felt quite homely to me. But strangely, I got that vibe from here too, how is it that somewhere so unfamiliar can just feel comfortable? Maybe it was the mass of concert venues I pictured myself in on a Saturday night or knowing I was in exactly the same shoes and the young man from Worldwide Cancer donations, energised with energy drinks to keep him going after every head turned away from him.

Of course, it would be naive to think that I knew exactly what goes on in this city, I knew I couldn’t trust myself to get around without google maps- but the open invitation of warm smiles and gentle voices instantly helped me to find trust in strangers on where to eat, what bars to avoid and how to understand the Glasweigan accent without being ignorant (yes, I’m that person that struggles with anyone talking faster than an MP). Being my first solo trip, I had written this off, I thought I was going to be that quiet person in the corner, avoiding eye contact in the hostels- but no, big personal boundaries were overcome and turned into positive memories.

A few days in Glasgow taught me that turning locals is a magical part of travelling, you make friends you’d never have spoken to if you saw them in your local pub- you learn new languages, make new friends and experience so many exciting opportunities if you have the confidence to say yes. Obviously, I was still quite guarded and had my wits about me (don’t worry mum), but having read so many horror stories, it was refreshing to set the narrative straight and realise that the kindness in others is still alive, in Glasgow at least!

I went to The Lighthouse and learnt about Mackintosh and his influence on modern art. I read about AI voting systems and got a rooftop view of the bustling city below. I read Hemmingway in the Oxfam book store and drank coffee on my own. I found the best cooked breakfast in the world, to date but couldn’t quite commit to trying haggis. I met someone who lives in my hometown, I met another who knew my friend from way back when, I met an international sports star, I met a Brexiteer, a remainer, a Christian, a Muslim, a librarian and an artist. I met so many wonderful people, from socially mandatory pleasantries to what I hope to be lifelong acquaintances.

But if you’d told me a year ago, I’d radiate confidence and find myself actively seeking out conversation- I would have laughed. ‘You can’t trust everyone‘ I would have said ‘they’ll think you want something of them, or they’ll want something from you‘. And yes, you can’t trust everyone, but sometimes all people want is a smile and an ear to listen, sometimes people want to hear your stories and want to tell you theres. Sometimes, it’s as simple as that and I’m incredibly grateful that I was able to experience this and see strangers slightly differently.

How do you make friends when travelling? I’d love to hear some of your stories on the road or even at home! Tweet me or comment below x

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