Saturday, September 30, 2023

Cus Luchd-Tadhail

"Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded." - Yogi Berra 

We made it back from Scotland.  And Scotland is just as beautiful as remembered and the locals are just as friendly.  It’s a fine country and I am proud to have Scottish ancestry (from my mother’s side …Morrisons they were.)  

The only problem is “Cus Luchd-Tadhail” :  Too Many Visitors.  I’m not sure the locals would all agree with that.  Tourism is big business in Scotland and employs a lot of people.  It is absolutely essential to those living up in the Highlands.  But it’s a mixed blessing just as it is in all popular tourist destinations. 

 And no question, Scotland has become too popular.  It began back when Queen Victoria visited the Scottish Highlands and fell in love with the area.  Upper class English families began taking holidays in Scotland. It became the thing to do.  Then as train service spread even those with less wealth and leisure time could afford to visit Scotland if only for a few days. 

 It was the Loch Ness Monster that really put Scotland on the broader tourist map.  There were local reports in the late 1800’s about sightings of some odd lizard or large salamander-like creature inhabiting the Loch on the River Ness.  But, it was the 1930’s before “the photo” and story was published.  

 The bigger tourist explosion has been driven by books, movies and television.  From Braveheart, to Harry Potter, to Outlander; Scotland has been opened up to the world.  Scotland has become a key location for television and movie production.  The increased interest in ancestry and genealogy has also contributed to Scottish tourism.  When one’s DNA connects one to the Scots as well as to the Norse invaders who stayed long enough to inter-marry, build castles and otherwise leave their mark on the place; one feels compelled to go and see. 

 So now too many people are visiting Scotland.  The crowds are made worse by the lack of service.  Brexit and Covid have left Scotland and England short-handed when it comes to service workers, most of whom used to come from eastern Europe.  It’s not unusual to see restaurants closed or only open limited hours.  Some tourist venues are not even open due to the lack of staff.  All of which squeezes more tourists into fewer places.

Will I ever go back to Scotland?  Perhaps if I live long enough and remain healthy.  But first we want to visit Italy, Spain and Germany while we can.  And there are lots of places in North America I want to visit or re-visit before it’s too late.  The Holy Land used to be on my bucket list, but I know it too suffers from “Too Many Visitors”.  I think I would prefer to keep tourist-free images in my mind.


Thursday, September 7, 2023

Lost, Confused or Confounded

Next week we leave for Scotland.  Our first overseas trip since 2019.  Both Kayla and I have Scottish ancestry.  Kayla on her father’s side and me on my mother’s.  But mostly it’s just because we like it there.  We spent only a few days in Scotland when we went to England in 2018 and said then that we wished we’d had more time there.  So, this trip will be a full 12 days, all in Scotland. 

But I must admit that I am no longer a good traveler.  For years I traveled a lot on business and fared well enough.  Yet I never liked crowds and now I absolutely hate them.  So, airports are not a great experience for me.  Long flights are even worse.  Thankfully we are traveling business class.  But I’ll not sleep much and will start calculating how long before we land about half-way through the trip. Then there is just the hassle of traveling.  Especially burdensome for long trips overseas.  We always take too much yet leave something behind.  

Then there is being a senior citizen.  I don’t like being treated like an old person, but one must get used to it when one gets old.  Nevertheless, I am self-conscious about it.  When younger people look lost, confused or confounded everyone just thinks they are busy or  distracted by all of the important things they must be doing.   When an old person looks lost, confused or confounded; people feel sorry for them.  Or some may offer to help, usually in a condescending sort of way.  And occasionally a bad one will try to pick their pocket.  Therefore, I make the extra effort to appear confident and capable, a man on a mission.  But it's very tiring and only adds to the embarrassment when I actually become lost, confused or confounded.

We will celebrate our birthdays in Scotland, mine on the 15th in Edinburgh and Kayla’s on the 20th in Portree on the Isle of Skye.  We’ll see all the tourist attractions, take a lot of photos, eat too much, drink too much and sleep poorly.  We’ll be ready to come home before it’s time to come home.  We will miss our own bed, our dogs and the ease and convenience of just being home.  However, before the year is over, we’ll begin planning our next big adventure.  For we know that we have only so many years left to travel before one or both of us becomes permanently lost, confused or confounded.