That time we went to Glencoe.
I was going through a rough time. I remember feeling terribly homesick (no idea that a couple of weeks later I would feel even worse) and stuck. I always imagined my semester abroad as the one thing that I needed to clear up my mind, find myself and make the choices I knew I’d have to make very soon. As always in life, it was not working. I know now that actually it was, very slowly, at its own pace… but no, I wanted it to happen fast, I wanted to touch that strange land and instantly feel a change. The change.
By the end of my first month, I was feeling rather defeated and terribly lonely. I missed my family, my grandma’s food, the commodities of home. Probably the cold, rainy weather wasn’t helping either. I still didn’t know who I was. I kept asking myself the same question: Who am I? If someone asked me right now who I am, what would I say? And the problem was that I actually couldn’t find the answers to those questions: I had no idea who I was. I didn’t feel like I knew what I wanted or where I was going. I felt like I was just floating.
I panicked. I wanted my answers: I had travelled for answers to those questions. Where were they? Where was I? What was I doing?
I was in that disastrous stage when we did the trip to Glencoe. We took it because it was actually called “Glencoe and the Harry Potter Bridge,” so you know, the Harry Potter part was the important part. But no, I was not struck by the bridge. Since the moment I sat on that bus, I couldn’t keep my eyes from the window.
I never felt like an “outdoor” person. I always considered myself a city person, that kind that needs the noise and the rush of big places and that is happy enough with beautiful park with lots of trees. But I just couldn’t stop looking through the window. The road to Glencoe is one of the most beautiful roads you will ever see in your life: it is so incredibly green, and when you’re finally there in the middle of it your mind stops working. At least mine did.
We got off the bus in one of the main spots there, and our tour guide (cheers to Gary!) made us climb one of the mountains that had a small waterfall, and from which you could see Glencoe from the top. I climbed it without expecting much from myself –because I never thought of me as someone even capable of climbing a small mountain – and yet after a while, we were there, and I felt I could keep climbing and climbing. The view was simply breathtaking. I wanted more of it, and of that feeling that I couldn’t name but that was there, burning.
And then we reached the Harry Potter Bridge and the lake you can see in HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban. We first walked to the lake, and it left me speechless for a reason I still can’t quite understand. Maybe it was the warm sun, or the almost electric color of the water, the rocks or the mountains you could see rising from the water on both sides of the river. I just sat there, on a rock, with my eyes closed and listening to the wind in my ears. I could also hear my friends right next to me, laughing and screaming out of excitement, taking pictures and even getting their feet into the cold water.
The bridge was not far away from there, but I only walked for a while before stopping. I was not that interested in touching the bridge, and I was still carrying all of my troubled thoughts with me. I stayed down, walking by myself, until I heard the sound of running water again. Walking and walking I reached the bottom of the bridge and found a small river that crossed it, getting lost in the distance between the trees and the curves. I stepped on a wooden bridge on top of it, closed my eyes and stayed there for God knows how much time. Just listening. Just feeling. Just accepting and understanding and letting the river and the sun and the water and the trees numb my senses and my mind from anything else.
The peace I found in that hidden place still surprises me. I sat on that bus to Glencoe feeling hopeless and more lost than ever, and in the way I somehow found answers. Not the answers I was looking for, but rather the ones I needed. I realized that it was okay not having the answers yet. I realized the importance of the process, and of appreciating the present by what it is, and not by what you expect it to be.
The thing is, I was doing nothing to find my answers. I wasn’t changing anything, I wasn’t searching for them. I was just waiting for them to fall from the sky in front of me. Who the hell gets answers that way?! Glencoe taught me the importance of patience, and that challenging yourself is one of the best things you can do. It helped me to surprise myself.
I’m not saying I found all the answers, because I’m still working and looking for them. But I’m not anxious about them anymore. I’m content with my search and my journey and its own pace, just as I was standing motionless in front of the river.
Bonus: Stu Larsen (an amazing australian songwriter I love with my soul) released this song called “By the River” like one or two days before I went to Glencoe. I listened to it during the entire trip, and it was the soundtrack of this amazing moment.