Last night in Edinburgh: the small, majestic, and haunted Scottish capital. It may be cold and grey, but it’s got a lot of history that you won’t learn about in school. Clan wars and disagreeable weather aside, the Highlands are the stuff of myths. Traversing the rolling greens of Faerie Glen taught us self-acceptance. Hiking the snowy cliffs of Old Man of Storr taught us perseverance. And gazing at the eerie stillness of Loch Ness taught us tranquility. The story about the Loch Ness monster is a story about the monster inside each and every one of us, the one we fight to keep down or release with zealous fervor as a means of coping. The peaceful nature of Scotland was a soothing balm for everyone, regardless of how far along they were on their respective paths.
The world may be a small place, but there’s always something new to discover and learn. Mistakes, social cues and desire are all so human. People are more or less the same everywhere, and as long as you try to understand them and their culture–maybe even make an effort to speak their language or dialect–they will almost always share their heritage or their views with you. The younger the generation, the more prevailing is the need to feel connected and bridged despite myriad sociolinguistic differences. We’re all only as far apart as we make ourselves, and there is nothing good that can come from isolation or cold distance. We are all in this together, we just need people to show us the way.
Leaders are essential, but as the days go on they are harder and harder to come by–not many people want to step up and speak up anymore. Perhaps this is because of the information overload, or maybe because we do not know what is important anymore. I know I feel overwhelmed when I read the daily news. But the leadership-of-the-mass mentality is not totally dead. Aristotle once said that virtuous leadership requires character as its basis. Whether via citizens or institutions, the select few individuals who are sensitive to contemporary social sentiments must be spotted early and made aware of their talents. This is the best way to bring capable leaders to the forefront
There are a few people I have met while traveling whose company I did not particularly enjoy, but I found it important to just go with the flow and leave when I felt uncomfortable. The path of least resistance is sometimes the best path out there. It’s essential to take something positive away from each and every interaction, as well as to recognize when you are not getting anything from a relationship so that you can just leave it. Some people have a lack of regard for your well-being, and some are casual encounters. But be wary of first impressions– people can and will hold back anything they think you may not like or approve. That being said, every acquaintance has the potential to deepen into a longer-lasting bond, if only you have the faith and time to invest into it.
Always listen to your body. If you’re hungry, eat. If not, don’t. Sounds simple enough, but social pressures and the weight of your wallet may cause you to act otherwise. If you’re tired, go home. If you hate where you are and who you’re with, politely excuse yourself. And if you want to be alone, isolate yourself for a short period of time, and use that time very wisely. Stay away from excess and falsity—your gut feeling rarely lies. Live it up by doing everything you can within reason and by walking as far as your feet will take you. Never sacrifice your values, but never stop questioning them either. Don’t tell strangers about your fortunes or misfortunes–they are probably preoccupied with their own. Make it all about the other person, and hold back on your own opinions until they ask you. Preachiness is a huge turn-off. Throwing caution to the winds is an incredible luxury–take advantage of it at any available moment before you find yourself settled down with a 9 to 5, swimming through the murky depths of unemployment, or ensconced anywhere in between those two extremes.
Tomorrow morning, pitch black while the birds are still sleeping, I will find my way back to Paris. The United Kingdom fortified my spirit and renewed my hope in the benefits of being abroad. We can learn, we can grow, we can change. But only if we try really, really hard.