One year ago, I took my first holiday from my first foray into an actual career in the business consulting world. Destination: Edinburgh. How ironic.
A friend from Toronto, Claudia, was visiting. A friend whom I had not seen in two years. A friend who last saw me on that final, sunny summer day of exchange in Switzerland, when I was a carefree, flame-haired 22-year-old, dancing in the streets of Lausanne, backslider extraordinaire, reluctant to go home but optimistic about the future.
We flew budget airlines and lived in 12-bed hostel dorms, walking everywhere we could and not once looking at computer screens. We dined generously, we boogied, we saw new places, we learned new things, we met new people and we had D&Ms aplenty. I even got a sunburn while climbing Arthur’s Seat, as the temperatures were pushing 30 while we were there, Scotland having broken out its full yearly quota of sunshine those few days.
One of the many great things about being on holiday is that “holiday mindset” you get. You know what I mean – you’re not a different person exactly, but taken out of your usual context and routine, suddenly you start making friends a lot more quickly and frequently, because you are striking up conversation with strangers, fellow travellers and locals alike. New mates and experiences snowball when you’re in that zone. Having a Canadian by my side (they’re born friendly) didn’t hurt.
Talking of Canadians, at our first Scottish dinner (and first haggis experience. Verdict: delicious!), we left my number with our waiter, a super-adorable, giddy Canadian boy called Brandon, who joined us later that evening, bringing the chef with him, and we proceeded to party together all night. Indeed, Brandon could not have chosen a better moment to turn up at that bar and tap my shoulder. I had been flirting with a handsome American hockey player when he shocked me by suddenly embarking on an impassioned rant about how “America is the best country in the world; it’s our job to police all the other countries, everyone should speak English and we should fuckin’ respect the American flag, man”. He was really getting into it when Brandon, with perfect timing, interrupted with a bit of Canadian cheeriness. Thank you, Canada! I miss that boy.
Still, you meet all sorts of characters when you travel, and whether charming or odious, I was glad of every encounter, each of which coloured my life that little bit more. And walking back through the relatively quiet streets of Edinburgh that night (summer holidays, school was out) and never dreaming of what would be in store for me in a year’s time, I thought to myself, “it must be pretty cool to be a student here in Edinburgh…”