On the morning of December 16th, I sat anxiously at my door, bags packed around me. 3:30 in the morning has an eerie silence. The alert that my cab had arrived lit up the screen on my phone.
I stood up in the hallway, squinting in the florescent lights, thinking about how in 3 hours I would be boarding the first of three flights to take me to Edinburgh. I was about to travel halfway around the world on a grand adventure. And I couldn’t be more excited.
The lack of traffic in the early morning couldn’t distract me and I couldn’t help but think that an adventure like this was what Jack was all about.
Your friends will tell you traveling is what you do when you’re approved for a exclusive credit card and you’ve got 100,000 points to cash in. I suppose I’m here say that if you solely travel on points, you're missing out on the splendor and the sacrifice of living in another city, even for a short time.
I learned fairly quickly truly becoming a part of a new culture is not an easy task. Passing through cities quickly, you can learn the precursory phrases, map familiar routes and navigate local pubs and bus lines. But to fully reside is to give something up – to sacrifice your own culture and beliefs in order to understand what the world is like in a place totally different from where you feel most comfortable.
I remember the first days we walked the streets of Edinburgh, old buildings and culture popping up around me. I desperately tried to associate the sights and streets to things more familiar, more American. But if anything, those things I found comparison in, were in fact just duplicates of the originals I was looking at in this city older than any American one. Edinburgh’s George Street is littered with shops and immediately reminded me of the Back Bay in Boston. Even the university, reminded me of my own.
We walked Rose Street, named for the English, which runs parallel to Thistle Street, named for Scotland. These facts swirled in my mind as I tried to keep pace with my long legged friend. Locals sipped on their pints of “Heavy” ale, eyes narrowed, as if to say, “Why are you here?” This is certainly not unique; walk into a new neighborhood or borough in the United States and you’re liable to get the same look. But there is something odd when you get those stares as a visitor in another country. It's a feeling of difference, of distance. But it's not a feeling that has to break you – out of that sense of difference I felt a motivation to learn the language and ingrain myself as much as I could.
Your tendency is to want to retreat to those who are like you because there's comfort in that likeness. Fight it. Only by facing the cultural difference head-on will you gain an understanding of what it means to fully be in a new place, and, in understanding that, your worldview will evolve. To travel is to learn.
I find comfort in facts and knowledge. I had followed wikipedia trails deep into the abyss of the internet in the days leading up to my departure but I had no idea what I was in for once I stepped off the final plane. During the weeks leading up to my trip I stumbled across the Oliveria Bros and their video on Hogmanay. I immediately felt my excitement return. Watching Jamie and Grant experience Hogmanay, as Americans, as I would be in a few short weeks gave me so much comfort and pushed the fear away. I reached out for advice on what to see in Edinburgh, and to learn more about what they hope to do. We’re excited to work with the Oliveria Bros in the future, but check out their videos here, and you can see what we’re about to experience.
Ernest Hemingway has always reminded me of Jack. He is my favorite author, one who helped form so many of my ideals, my love of writing and my passion for adventure. I’ve spent countless hours pouring over Hemingway’s works. His characters, or at least several of these true heroes, were what I always thought of when we envisioned Jack. They were men who fought for their own cause, loved their women as best they could and broke under the life they ordered in whatever way seemed best to them. Here, one of his most famous quotes, is what he wrote about this matter:
“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.”
As the time spent in an unfamiliar city went on, so did the feeling it was unfamiliar. My fear turned into fascination. My curiosity got the best of me, and in the best way possible. We were here to experience Hogmanay and have a grand adventure. This I realized was what Jack was all about. Hard work, fun through fear and a desire to always keep learning.
The castle on a beautiful day.
I had no doubt Hogmanay would be my grand adventure. What outdoor venue in America ever held a concert in what had formerly been the swamp below a castle? Even without music, I looked over it from Princes Street and it put every dark cramped club I had ever been in to shame. The incredible views, the passion of the people and finely tuned outdoor acoustics. There’s no place in America that can beat that.
Cheers to Scotland, cheers to adventure, and cheers to 2017.