In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I live in “unconventional” mode as I endeavor to figure out this new post-Dan reality. I try hard to be a good person, but after decades of taking care of everyone else first, these days I do what I want. I don’t feel bad about eating or drinking like a rock star, sleeping in or staying out all night. I don’t feel guilty about leaving home to live the life of a nomad. I don’t feel guilty that I haven’t got a clue where I’m going next or when/if I’ll ever come home. I don’t even feel bad about the fact that other teenagers who have shown up with nieces and nephews were warned not to be shocked by their Aunty Pirate who SOMETIMES sports a colorful vocabulary that could make a Marine blush. Before you lecture me, they hear it all at school. And I kinda DGAF.
But there is one thing for which I give many f@#$s. I’ve recently learned there is a group of young people who are watching my every adventure move. Their parents are sharing my travel stories (language cleaned up, of course), or they are following on their own. (Dear parents, rest assured I keep Instagram clean). I have heard that teenagers sit around sometimes and talk about what adventure I had that week. OMG!
This knowledge is overwhelming on multiple levels. For the first time in life, cause it sure didn’t happen when I was one, some teenagers think I’m cool. I’d high five myself, but what a freaking responsibility. I’ve said from day one of this adventure that what I want my nieces and nephews to remember about me is that I lived the #$!@ out of every minute and that no matter how scared I was, I never let fear stop me from pursuing life and love. I want them to learn that risks are worth taking and that making memories will always be more important than acquiring things. I want them to know that sometimes life is $hit for no reason (thank you Sheila for this quote), but we have a choice in how we move forward when bad things happen. If your kids are following along, I wish the same for them too. And, no promises, I’ll see what I can do about the language.
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.
Before I left Scotland, someone in Glasgow described Belfast to me as very European, and I had no idea what that meant. I get it now. Belfast boasts a diverse population with a seemingly endless supply of shops, restaurants and pubs to enjoy. If Scotland’s landscapes and single malts are rugged and handsome, those in Belfast are smooth, charming and a helluva lotta fun. Wait, what were we talking about?
Unlike Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, this was my first trip to Northern Ireland. For those of you who didn’t pay attention in school, NI is a separate country and part of the UK. I’d heard that the people of Belfast like to have a good time, are iffy when it comes to the rules, and have a quick (and dark) sense of humor. All accurate from what I’ve observed. My outsider’s theory is that their experiences during the Troubles have cultivated a collective “Live Now” attitude, which resonates with my heart and might be why I fell in love with it instantly.
It hasn’t stopped raining since I got here, but it feels warm and welcoming nonetheless. I’ve spent a good chunk of my waking hours laughing, and laughter is good for the soul. The day I spent at the salon getting my hair cut, laughing so hard I was almost crying at my sassy young stylist’s descriptions of Irish men and football players by region. I’m laughing out loud right now as I remember it. She should take that comedy bit on the road! Or listening to my driver’s explanation why Belfast is the best city in Europe. (FYI every taxi driver in every city I’ve been in insists their city is the best value for the money). Or laughing while listening (it’s not eavesdropping if they’re so loud you can’t help it) to a group of university students’ thoughts on life, girls, and why they are going to solve the world’s problems. Cheers dudes, I genuinely hope you do.
Don’t get me wrong; Northern Ireland has its share of rugged beauty. With the Giant’s Causeway, the Carrick-a-rede (not for the faint of heart) rope bridge, and countless miles of gorgeous hiking trails, there is a lot more to this place than just the city.
Although after just one afternoon I decided to make Belfast my home base for this week. I had to hopscotch my hotels a bit since the sold-out FIFA World Cup qualifier between Northern Ireland and Germany affected availability significantly. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Right? I got laughed at by everyone I asked about getting a ticket, but thanks to some new friends I connected with a lovely gentleman who was too ill to attend (I really hope you’re feeling better Dave!) who agreed to sell me his ticket since I was a visitor. Wow. What a memorable experience! To all the doubters who told me to give up trying, this is a good reminder that all kinds of good things can happen in life if you have faith, friends, and don’t quit taking chances.
If you’re planning a trip to Ireland, don’t forget to head north. I fell in love with Belfast and will be back soon since a week wasn’t nearly enough time to get to know this city. (Details below as usual).
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.
St. George’s Market.
Looking for Belle and Beast at Belfast City Hall.
That’s right you typo maniacs, now that I’m in Northern Ireland that’s how you spell it. There’s lots of it. Some of it is crap, some blessed by the angels. Maybe someday when I’ve completed the Scottish single malt challenge, I’ll start working my way through all the Irish stuff. Until then, you’ll have to decide for yourself what your favorite is. My current splurge is the Redbreast 21, and I will forever owe a couple of cool Canadian dudes for this recommendation.
There is no way to get through all of them, so here are a few I recommend.
Brennan’s Bar (City Centre):
Fabulous service, decent pub food, good wifi, and Sunday’s feature an all-male staff. Don’t judge me. It backs up to a tiny street called Bains Place, so I was obviously meant to be there. That and it came highly recommended by some Idaho friends who were recently here. Thanks Jimmy and Michelle!
The Crown Bar (City Centre):
Owned by the National Trust and directly across the street from the Europa Hotel, the Crown features some incredible woodwork and stained glass. This place is worth a look even if you don’t like pubs, but it’s likely to be packed at all hours of the day.
The Harp Bar (Cathedral Quarter):
This one came highly recommended by my Belfast guru, and I can see why. We loved it so much we went back three times! The live music and atmosphere quickly made it our favorite place. My only complaint is that my drinks were always double the price when poured by a female bartender.
The Dirty Onion (Cathedral Quarter):
One of several pubs that claim to be the oldest building in Belfast. Friday night was rocking with fantastic live music, and the patio was full. Sunday night not so much. It’s around the corner from Harp Bar and The Duke of York, so be sure to stop in.
Just like the whiskey and the pubs, there are almost unlimited dining options, so here are my two favorites.
Hadski’s (Cathedral Quarter): An epic Belfast Pub Crawl can really work up an appetite. We found Hadski’s and lucked out. They were full, but had two seats open in front of the chef. Are you kidding me? Those are the best seats in the house because your dinner comes with a show. The food was plated so beautifully I felt bad digging into it. Then I realized it was so delicious I didn’t care and had to refrain from licking the plate. If you’re going to be in the Cathedral Quarter, go there. Happy noms!
Fratelli’s (City Centre): I stayed in City Centre for a few days. I liked Fratelli’s and dined there more than once. I’d describe the food as Italian with a delicious twist, and the restaurant has a robust wine menu. Hey, a girl can’t live on whiskey and pub food alone. Excellent service despite being a solo diner on very busy evenings.
THE RUGGED STUFF
Giant’s Causeway: This lengthy stretch of hexagonal basalt columns is geology nerd cool, and far more accessible than Scotland’s Isle of Staffa. That may also be why it was less impressive to me. Sorry, Northern Ireland. I still liked it, just wish I’d visited the Causeway before Staffa. My recommendation is to get there first thing in the morning (or late in the day) to avoid busloads of annoying tourists.
I promise to give it another shot. I do appreciate that so many people can go to experience the science behind this world heritage site, and it looks like some fun hiking. Minus the tourists. And before you say it, I’m a traveler, not a tourist. Completely different mindset and behavior.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge: They closed the bridge for crossing the day I visited due to crazy high winds. While disappointing, I didn’t come all this way to die. It’s a freaking rope bridge. It sways in the wind. If the wind were strong enough to push grown men (and one short girl) around on the trail, attempting a crossing would be beyond terrifying. I’ll be back to take on that bridge another day.
The Troubles: In my opinion, political history tours about the Troubles are necessary for foreigners to understand the current culture of both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. When I mentioned the Troubles to family and friends back home, I was surprised how few people knew anything about it beyond a song by U2 or some vague recollection of the IRA. I know it isn’t our country’s history, but it is part of our global history and no different from taking a tour of the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii or visiting the Hiroshima Peace Park in Japan. I won’t go into detail (click the link to educate yourself) but felt the tour I did was pretty neutral and fact-based, and I learned a lot. Kudos to my guide JR because I was unable to guess which side he’d grown up on, and he still won’t tell me.
Another thing I think I liked about Belfast, is directly related to the Troubles. I can’t quite put my finger on it and will probably butcher this, but there were so many widows created here during that time frame that my being a young W is no big whoop since everyone knows one and it doesn’t make me a freak of nature like I often feel at home with non-W’s. The loss of life during The Troubles is horrifying but, for the first time since Dan died, I feel like my tribe has expanded beyond my local widow’s group to an entire community. As I said, there is no clear or easy way to describe it, it’s just a feeling I have.
Irish Genealogy: Do you claim Irish heritage? JR gave me a good tip, and I spent some time at PRONI, the Public Records office, trying to track down additional information on my great-great-great-great-grandparents who left Co Antrim sometime after 1802 for the US. Unfortunately, there isn’t much information available before the mid to late-1800s unless you know what church your ancestors belonged to, so the only new bit of information I was able to glean was the name of their parish. Kudos to the lovely Paul who spent a fair amount of time helping me search, even though I could tell by his facial expression that it was hopeless. And the fact he said to me that it was almost undoubtedly impossible if I didn’t know the church affiliation. (Dear Paul’s Boss: Please give him a raise because he didn’t roll his eyes once despite my endless and annoying questions and “what if” optimism).
There is no charge to visit PRONI, but you’ll need valid government-issued photo identification to access the records. Your passport will do fine to get your new official ID card. PRONI is just a short walk from the Titanic Museum, so if this is something you’re interested in schedule adequate time to visit. And bring as much information with you as you can. Names and dates alone aren’t very helpful.
I’m sitting in my living room in Killarney, Ireland watching Hurricane Ophelia roll into town. Not exactly what I thought I’d be doing today, but Mother Nature does what Mother Nature wants, and I’ve learned not to try and fight that. While most tourists (and some locals) are freaking out right now, I’m curled up with my coffee enjoying the show. I can’t EVER see a storm without thinking about Dan. Honestly, I kinda wish I was at the beach right now for a better view. (Don’t worry Mom, I’m not doing it).
Dan’s favorite quote while fighting cancer was Fate whispers to the warrior, “You cannot withstand the storm.” The warrior whispers back, “I am the storm.” To this day our inner circle still calls him The Storm, and the moniker suited his personality. Maybe we were fated to meet. My Dad called me Hurricane Lisa for years, and together Dan and I were the perfect storm.
After diagnosis, he became a symbol of strength and grace in the face of adversity and a losing battle. But for a few of us that were there that horrible-no-good-very-bad last day, the storm took on a new meaning. Summer storms are common in our part of the country, but typically you’ll see them in the late afternoon or evening. When I woke up that morning I could no longer deny the end was imminent. And it wasn’t like the peaceful BS you see on TV. He fought to stay. He fought so @#$%^&* hard to stay. With me. It was horrific to witness. Unbearable. But as the battle raged within his body, a storm picked up outside. It was surreal. The winds were whipping the trees around and flinging bark and leaves and twigs against the house and the windows as if the storm was trying to get inside. It was powerful enough that a small part of my brain even made a mental note to go out and check for damage later.
Our inner circle was on standby at this point, so most everyone was awake and watching the storm. It mirrored both Dan’s fight to stay, and the agony that was crescendoing through my entire being. And then, with one last breath, The Storm died. All the winds and rain outside stopped instantly. He was gone, carried away on the winds of the storm like a mythic warrior in an ancient tale.
So on days like today when a storm comes visiting, instead of worrying about it, I get a big smile on my face. My Storm is back to remind me that nature will always take its course even if it makes no sense, like a hurricane in Ireland, or a healthy young man dying of a weirdo cancer. He reminds me that love never dies and that in the aftermath of the storm, we have the choice to rebuild stronger than before. And he never lets me forget that while my Storm is gone, I’m still the Hurricane.
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.
If you’ve been following along, you know about how ugly and beautiful this grief journey has been. My sister and I were talking, shortly after I shared my plans to retire and live out of a suitcase, about how it feels to emerge from the darkness into the light. Eyes blinking a bit, unaccustomed to what hope and happiness feel like, but slowly remembering what the warmth feels like on your face. That’s where I’ve been these last few months…just reveling in the heat of the sun.
I joked about how people kept telling me that I looked younger these days and how I must have aged a lot since Dan was first diagnosed. She looked at me and described the joy in her heart to see ME again. She explained that it wasn’t a matter of looking older. It was that, for a long time, I was totally unrecognizable. That grief had stolen the light from my heart, the light that normally shines through my face. That I was not just twisted by pain, I was hollow. A shell of the person I once was. Damn! Little sister can be super poetic when she wants to be.
She said the reason none of my family and friends have pushed back on my recent life choices is that they can see that I am not just happy again but that I am alive again. Living again. That while they are terrified in the same way you are when a toddler takes off running that they may fall, you are also so excited to see them growing you don’t stop them.
When you no longer know who you are anymore, not recognizing your face in the mirror can only make it worse. For those of you who still find this new you unrecognizable, don’t give up. It may be a slow process like it was for me, or it may happen quickly. But when you’re ready, the sunlight will be waiting for you.
Wow. It’s hard to believe I’ve been away for over a month on this grand adventure and, as I write this, getting settled into another new country. It seems like forever since I waved goodbye to my baby sister as she dropped me off at the airport. I was a little nervous, but filled with excitement. And it has been an adventure full of excitement and bliss and peace. As I continue to learn about the places I visit and the people I meet, I’ve learned a lot about myself as well.
1. I can do it! And I can do it by myself. Even though I hate managing the details, I’ve not been homeless once, and have lucked out with fantastic places to stay. I’ve learned not to wait too long, as tourist season runs a lot longer than it used to, but have ended up with some happy accidents because of that.
2. No matter how much thought I put into my packing list, I still brought too much stuff. It seems I end up visiting the local charity shop in every town I visit, shedding increasing bits of my old life (ten pounds o’ stuff to date). It has become surprisingly easy to learn how little I need and how little attachment I have to what remains. Even then, taxi drivers almost always complain about how heavy my bag is. Ahem, move aside gents and let a woman show you how to manhandle this beast up the stairs. <<Insert Who Runs the World? Girls! fist pump here>>.
3. I’ve learned that alone doesn’t mean lonely. I’ve met amazing people and had amazing experiences BECAUSE I was willing to go out and do things on my own. While I still have the occasional Table For One annoyance, for the most part, things have been great. I’ve been able to get seats on sold-out tours, free tickets to events when someone didn’t show up, and private history lessons in a lot of places I’ve visited. My favorites to date have been my spontaneous attempts that landed me a ticket to my first ever football game that happened to be a sold out FIFA World Cup Qualifier between Northern Ireland and Germany, and the opportunity to rappel (or abseil as they say here) down the side of the Europa Hotel.
4. I remembered I like meeting people. For a long time after losing Dan, I didn’t want to meet anyone new. I didn’t want to tell my story and had no room in my broken heart to learn theirs. That’s changed. Every morning I wake up and wonder who I will meet that day. I’m hungry to learn their stories and have no trepidation in sharing mine. Making real life connections with other human beings is glorious. I didn’t realize how much I’d missed it.
5. I can be pretty chill. I know some of you who have known me a long time are questioning the validity of that statement (or flat out laughing), but it’s true. In addition to the #LiveNow lessons I continue to learn along the way, I’ve gotten pretty good at going with the flow. I’m learning to sit back and enjoy the last minute changes that happen in this thing we call life. Somehow the universe always replaces it with something better, or at least something I need more.
If I can learn all this after just a month on the road, I can’t wait to see what else is in store for me on this journey.
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.
Random thoughts on a Thursday. I’m okay, just thinking out loud about how far I’ve come and the lessons I’ve learned on this journey.
Two years ago today I was on the receiving end of the private conversation that told me I was going to be a widow and that we needed to stay positive for Dan. This conversation was so private I didn’t tell anyone else about it. It hurt too much to acknowledge. I was auto-enrolled in “how to be a widow” training, which was the name I gave my Widow 101 counseling sessions provided by the cancer clinic. I was in shock and denial. There was no way this f’n diagnosis was correct. They don’t call it practicing medicine for nothing, and I told the doctor as much. I put my big girl panties and my war gear on and attacked cancer the same way I took on any challenge or project. I was Lisa By God Bain and still operating under the belief that I had control and could bend this diagnosis to my will. I put on the “we got this face” for Dan and our family and friends but cried in private every single day. Every. Single. Day.
A year ago today I was at rock bottom, fighting the effects of the PTSD and anxiety that no one warned me could come with grief. Instead of fighting to keep Dan alive, I was waging an internal battle every day to keep myself alive. Or at least breathing, since being alive and living are two very different things. Despite being surrounded and supported and loved by the amazing people in my life, I’d never felt so alone and isolated. I’d lost my will to live.
Today. Today I’m both alive and living. I’m happy and at peace, two feelings I wasn’t sure I’d ever know again. I’ve rediscovered my laugh, my sass, and my hope for the future. I love my life, and I’m grateful for each and every minute of it.
Like I said, just random thoughts about this journey. I’m okay. I’m better than okay. I’m Living Now. For my fellow travelers on our collective grief journeys, please don’t give up hope. Our paths are all different but it does get better. You will heal, even though you may not believe that now.
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce
It may sound silly to say a country could sweep you off your feet, but that’s exactly what happened to me. When I first visited in the spring, it was enough to make me swoon and put Scotland at the top of my list for this adventure. I wasn’t sure if I’d fallen in love with Scotland itself or if it were because it was the first place I’d felt joy in a long time, but I knew I’d figure it out. I’m thrilled to report that it’s all Scotland, and I love it even more than before.
Here are the top 10 reasons I love this country. Believe me; it was a struggle to narrow it down to 10.
1. The Highlands. I’m afraid photos just don’t do it justice. The majesty and power and magic of the mountains and hills, the glens, and the rivers are enough to make me wish I was a poet or painter or that I had the resources just to get out and walk every last inch of it.
2. The skyscape. If I take any more photos of clouds, my camera may quit on me. But it’s hard to stop myself from doing it. The clouds are ever changing, which alters the light and the colors of everything you see. Time-lapse photography was made just for this.
3. The beaches. Okay, so the beaches here are a little different than the ones I enjoyed growing up in the tropics, but that makes them no less beautiful. The white sand beaches up in the Orkney Isles are crystal blue. And despite the cold wind, I’m already dreaming about going back.
4. The ocean. I’ve spent more time on boats and ferries in the last five weeks than I have in the last five years. Rough or smooth, always cold and windy, I couldn’t get enough of it. One of my favorite memories of this trip will be holding on for dear life (it was a titch rough that day) on the top deck of the ferry as I headed to the Orkney Isles, laughing like a maniac and keeping an eye out for the infamous whirlpools I’m told can appear.
5. The history. Scotland’s history is deeply rooted in the culture and people. It oozes out of the very earth under your feet and the abundant water that runs through it. Researching my Scottish ancestry made it that much more powerful and personal. Recognizing clan names from both our family trees was like winning the long-lost relatives jackpot, even when I was advised not to tell anyone mine and to use Dan’s instead. (this is hilarious for a number of reasons). And no, it’s not Campbell.
6. The casual vibe. I like getting dressed up as much as the next girl, but when you’re living out of a backpack, it’s convenient to be able to go pretty much anywhere you want in jeans and hiking boots. (The LBD remains packed in the bottom of the suitcase, just in case). No one ever seems to be in a hurry. Scotland may be the most chill place I’ve ever visited. And did I mention super dog-friendly? Dogs are welcome in most bars and cafes, so Fido doesn’t have to be left at home or in the car. Izzy-booboo would be in dog heaven here.
7. The people. And not just the rugged, handsome, kilt-wearing dudes. (Seriously ladies, you can stop messaging me pictures of rugged, handsome, kilt-wearing dudes). Every single person I met was kind, friendly and welcoming. In Hawaii, we call that the Aloha Spirit and the Scots are pros. Maybe that’s why I felt so immediately at home here. The only rude people I encountered were middle-aged American women, but that’s a post for another day.
8. The ease of transportation. For those days foot power just isn’t enough, you can get almost anywhere by bus or train. For everything else, you can hop on a tour or find a hired driver or a new friend who wants to take you there. It made it really easy to travel solo, especially since I didn’t want to rent a car and drive.
9. The single malts. You had to have known whisky would make this list. I accepted the single malt challenge while I was there. It will probably take me two years but, by the time it’s over, I will have sampled at least one offering from each of the 130 distilleries on my list.
10. The Idaho-ness. I haven’t felt homesick at all for Boise, but since Scotland reminds me so much of Idaho, it’s like I never left. Just like Idaho, Scotland is full of mountains, rivers, and people with a great love of the outdoors, family and friends. So yeah, Scotland reminds me a lot of Idaho, only with better weather.
If you’ve been thinking about visiting Scotland, do it. Don’t wait. And take me with you.
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.
11. Scotland’s national animal is a unicorn, officially making it the coolest country in the world.
Yesterday was the day o’ $hitty news. From the minute I woke up, to right before I went back to bed, the bad news just kept rolling in. It’s happened to me before. Remember that time I screeched at that young man that my life was a bad country music song? ‘member? Yeah, I can’t seem to make myself forget that embarrassing incident either. It went something along the lines of, Daddy died. Husband died. Suicidal. House flooded. Dog died. Legal battles. Someone drank the last of my favorite whiskey. Oh wait, that was me.
That song sucked! And just to remind everyone, I did go back and apologize to that young man who was very gracious about the crazy woman scream-crying at him. Or was it cry-screaming? Whichever.
Well, yesterday’s stream of bad news felt familiar. I woke up to learn the Parkinson’s community back home had lost a wonderful human being and advocate. I’ve been blessed to be a part of this advocacy community since my Dad’s diagnosis. We’re a family. I know they’ve been by my side and had my back from day one, just like I’ve had theirs. We were all in it together, and James Trussell was a pillar many leaned on.
Then, as I started my first cup of coffee, news reports started rolling in about the devasting and horrific loss of life in Las Vegas. I was still reeling from learning about James, and now this? I couldn’t believe the headlines I was seeing. I breathed a sigh of relief with every “safe check-in” that popped up on Facebook, but my chest hurt and it was getting hard to breathe.
My evening wrapped up with the news that Tom Petty had died. A man I’ve never met, but his music has been a big part of my life, so it felt like I knew him. Or that he, at least, knew me. I’ve learned not to ask, “what else can go wrong?”, but c’mon!
I read an article recently that talked about how the grieving have a much harder time dealing with the stress of disasters and other crises. And it’s true. It doesn’t take much to tear open the soft pink scar tissue that’s slowly stitched the pieces of our hearts back together. It comes with the grief territory, and sometimes we have to close up shop and protect ourselves from any more bad news. For some, that means turning off the TV and logging off social media for awhile. A great strategy for everyone, if you ask me. For others, burying yourself in busy stuff can work great. Some of us use inappropriate humor, my personal favorite, as a coping mechanism. Sometimes you just need to be with other people. Whatever works for you, do it.
For the first time since I started this grief journey, I had to deal with this kind of bad news day alone. While I’d typically impose a digital detox, my phone was my only way to connect with my support network, so I kept it on. As I wandered about town, the Vegas tragedy was the topic of conversation in many places. I’m currently in a country with strict gun control, but when people realized I was American, they offered their condolences and their empathy, not their judgment. Maybe I wasn’t as alone as I’d thought. Maybe none of us are.
I don’t really know what I’m trying to say here, except you don’t have to carry the grief alone. And you don’t have to shoulder the outside grief that sometimes comes our way on days like yesterday. And it’s okay to shut down and hide out and protect yourself. And I love you.
The Wandering Widow
Live now. Dream big. Love fierce.
Over the last few months, I’ve written a lot about going with the flow and trusting my intuition as I navigate this new post-Dan reality. Unfortunately, there isn’t a process map for picking up the pieces and starting over, and I have had to learn to trust my heart to guide me. It’s something I encourage my fellow W’s to do as well. No one knows you, or what you need, as well as your heart does. As much as I try to live that way, every now and again I still need a reminder, and Oban was most certainly a beautiful one.
Oban is best known for its single malt distillery, but this Western port has got a lot more than that to offer. The seafood is legendary, and it’s the jumping off point to explore the Hebridean Islands. I did a lot of research for this trip, so before I left home, I’d put it on my list of possible home bases.
But when I passed through Oban a few weeks ago on my way to the Isle of Skye, I found it underwhelming so took it off my list of places to stay. That was shortsighted and dumb. Due to some scheduling limitations, and the encouragement of my friend (and Scotland expert) Gavin, I decided to go back. Yay me! (Or, yay my intuition and Gavin). Out of all the places in Scotland I’ve fallen in love with (which is most of the country), Oban is the one I feel I could put down roots and stay long term. I can’t believe I almost missed out on that.
So my dear W’s, trust your heart. Trust your instincts. Only you can decide where this journey will take you. And wherever that may be, it will be the right place for you.
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.
Since I chose not to drive in Scotland, I relied on public transportation. Oban is a four-hour train ride from Edinburgh. The train ride was incredibly beautiful, and you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your trip through the Trossachs. TIP: The earlier you buy your tickets, the less expensive they will be.
I knew I wanted to stay on the Corcoran Esplanade, a short strip of super cute B&Bs right on the water and a five-minute ocean front walk to the center of town. I’d been referred to Kilchrenan House by my B&B Hosts at the Pipers Lodge when I was in Skye. Availability was an issue since I’d waited so long to decide where I wanted to go. So instead of a full week, I was only able to get four days. Four beautiful days! Book early, especially if you want to stay for awhile. I don’t think four days was enough and would have liked at least a week if not two. Frances and Colin are super friendly and welcoming hosts, and you can’t beat the amazing view of the ocean at breakfast, or the sunsets in the evening from the front porch.
If you tried to force me to choose between the ocean and the wooded hills and mountains, I couldn’t do it. Thankfully, in Oban I don’t have to.
The Inner Hebrides:
I decided to do a day tour of Iona, Mull, and Staffa, which are part of the Inner Hebrides. My scheduled tour got canceled due to weather the first day, but I was able to get on one the next day. Good thing, since it was sunny and the ocean was pretty calm.
It was freaking fantastic, although Mull was just a pass-through so shouldn’t be advertised as part of the tour. Staffa is the famous basalt column island that is home to Fingal’s Cave. I wish I’d had several hours here, but did get down to the cave and also had a chance to scramble around up top and enjoy the views.
Iona was stunning. Crystal blue waters, white sand beaches, and the greenest fields I’ve seen outside of Ireland. If you like to hike, you’ll want to spend a whole day here. I’ve already decided on my next visit that I’ll need to overnight on Iona to fully explore the trails.
I’d been advised by fellow travelers to make reservations at EE-USK as soon as I got to Oban, which I did. Wow! The seafood and service were superior. And despite being a Table for One, I was seated at a window table so I could enjoy the best view they had to offer. Top notch, so be prepared to pay for it.
First of all, whisky in Scotland isn’t called Scotch and isn’t spelled with an “e” so please stop messaging me about typos. This whisky woman knows what she is doing.
Now on to the business of single malts. Oban grew up around the distillery. That means it’s an entire town centered on the production of an amazing single malt. It also means that the distillery can’t expand. Their Instagram boasts “great from small, ” and they rock it. Their copper stills are works of art, and I would encourage you to do a tour (even the short one) to check it out. Here science and art come together to make beautiful single malt babies. If you’re a whisky fan, I also recommend doing the four taster, since we can only get one or two of those easily in the US.
Beyond the tour, go across the street to the Oban Whisky and Fine Wine Shop and talk to James. He was able to turn his single malt hobby into a business, which is both cool and makes me a little envious. And he knows his stuff. In addition to the tasters and education, he gave me suggestions on which newer distilleries would be coming online soon, and which whisky bars in Glasgow would likely have the lost and silent stuff on my single malt challenge checklist. And, now that I know the Old and Rare whisky festival is a thing, it’s going on the bucket list.