Photo by Richy Ainsworth.
Right now I’m sitting in front of a set of floor-to-ceiling windows on the sixth floor of a West End library. It’s a tucked away vantage point I found on my last trip to Scotland: directly in front of me stands tall the Gothic steeple of Glasgow University. A little further south is the observation tower of the Science Center along the River Clyde. South and west, clusters of low rise city buildings mix with brightly colored parks, stretching towards a line of low hills on the horizon. It’s a rare partly sunny autumn afternoon in Glasgow, and, perched on high admiring the view, I’m pretty excited at the idea of calling this home for a while.
A little over two weeks ago I left New Jersey and flew eastbound for Scotland. I have a shiny new visa that allows me work rights anywhere in the UK and the freedom—for the first time–to stay longer than a year in one country. I don’t think the reality of that has really sunk in yet. My Scottish partner, Richy, and I are finally clear of that crushing feeling that this is one in a series of short fixes for how we’re able to continue spending our life together. And even though we were ecstatic when we got the news that my visa had been approved back in September, we’re just now starting to tentatively explore what it all means. Suddenly, we’ve been given the green light to move forward with our lives again, and there are a lot of solid options that just a couple months back were only pipedreams.
This much freedom is an exciting, but overwhelming prospect, and it’ll take a little time to figure out exactly how we want to proceed. In the meantime, I’ve been settling in to my new surroundings, procrastinating the job hunt, and exploring as much as possible.
Town and Country
One of the great things about landing in Glasgow is the ease of access I have to the city and beyond—something that normally takes a while to establish in a new country. Richy is from a town just north of Glasgow, and he has a pretty amazing network of friends and family that I was able to get to know during my extended visit last year. It’s been a lot of fun meeting up with people, exploring new neighborhoods, having a few pints in different pubs, enjoying amazing home-cooked meals with Richy’s dad, wandering solo around the city streets and my old hangouts, and reconnecting with a place I had come to know pretty well by the time I flew home a year ago.
Waterfalls near Loch Tay, Scotland.
The majority of Scotland is open space. A five minute drive beyond Richy’s neighborhood deposits you into empty, rolling land. The other day we were out for a short drive and ended up on a hilltop viewpoint looking across the central belt to Edinburgh and the opposite coast, then we dipped behind the hills into a series of valleys along a one-lane country road leading past tiny villages and miles of farmland. So close to the urban center of Scotland, I was amazed at how quickly we’d found ourselves in seclusion.
I’ve had a couple other chances to escape the city so far: on a trip with a friend a couple hours north to Kenmore, a town at the tip of Loch Tay, where we had lunch on the loch, walked to hidden waterfalls, and rolled around in a giant pile of leaves; and south through the Scottish Borders into northern England, where Richy and I visited a good friend we first met in New Zealand. The three of us hiked through the countryside of nearby Manchester, and I wondered at the fact that so many of my friends from traveling have all ended up on this same small rock in the North Atlantic.
Cycling on country paths near Glasgow.
Back in Glasgow, to cap off a good couple weeks, Richy and I decided to venture out for an easy bike ride through some nearby scenic trails. Four hours later, we’d coasted down the canal, pedaled along an old railway line, cut across a narrow dirt path that tracked through farmland at the base of the Campsie Fells, detoured through a maze-like forested park, and rode through a couple classic Scottish villages. In the homestretch, I got a flat tire and was forced to walk the rest of the way, but I’d seen some Highland cattle, made friends with a Shetland pony, and got out and amongst my new world. It was a good day, and there are many more to come.