There is a beauty that is universal. The beauty of eyes opened: cultures explored, and eternity grasped. Someone once asked me, “Of the man waking from a dream, and the man still in one, who is happier?” I would dare to suggest that a man might not have to choose one over the other. I would dare to suggest that it is more than possible to awake from the unconscious dreamland, and step into the conscious dreamland – I have recently done it. I have lived the fairytale, and experienced the adventure, the danger, the excitement, the love and the happily ever after, beginning and ending without respite, in the time of one month.
It was a piece out of any good fantasy. Rolling hills, craggy boulders, harsh winds and unrelenting rain, ancient trees that stretch, bend and twist – beautiful trees. It was four seasons in one day; it was long, winding rivers; it was fairytale names like Kilmarnock and Cumbernauld and the Firth of Forth; it was the greatest accent on the face of the earth; it was Buchanan Street and Sauchiehall Street and Bellahousten Park; it was the most extraordinary thirty days of my entire life. Pubs, bookstores, cobblestone streets, castles whose only lasting opponents are time and tourists – every town, every city, was a piece of a young boy’s bedtime story cut out and placed in perfect proportions across the green paradise of Scotland.
Beyond the external awe burned the internal awakening. For the high school student who has never been off the west coast of his native United States – who has obsessed over his 25% Scottish heritage since his country report in the sixth grade – for this high school student, stepping into the Glasgow airport fifteen hours after leaving family, friends, and all familiarity behind, completely alone and completely thrilled…this was a different planet. This was my fantasyland, in my head, in my heart and my soul, having grown and bubbled and broiled in my mind for nearly six years. It was all that I had imagined – no more, and no less, so that I was dumbstruck from the first day to the last: I was living inside my own dream, and to my total and utter shock, it was perfect.
I lived among distant relatives whom I had never before met. They took me across the country, to all the famous must-sees and all the unpublicized Edens; they explained everything and told me wonderful stories; they set up train times and bought tickets and paid for meals, and never asked for anything in return. For an entire month, this family treated me like a Scottish king of old. I had VIP access to that every-day life that few tourists have the chance to experience, in the one country I have always dreamt of exploring, yet never expected to actually visit.
With this family I sat over tea in philosophical discussion, I hiked up a mountain called Goat Fell on the Isle of Arran – known as “Scotland in miniature” – I got lost for hours looking for a friend I had never met, and I sat in a dark room watching the Ardrossan ferry port in the evening. I ate all manner of peasant foods, and met Scots, Irish, English and the rare American. These people exploded my thoughts. I returned with fresh vision and rejuvenated imagination, appreciating all of life much more.
To anyone who has yet to travel, who is perhaps hesitant or perhaps doubting of its worth, I have this advice.
Never say never to living your dream.
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