Columns, Opinion

SMITH: Don’t let a tour bus stop you

At some points in your life, you encounter people and things that test you.

For me, this comes in the form of group tours.

For the record, I was absolutely terrified earlier this semester when embarking on a solo trip. I relied on the comfort of other people when traveling, or so I thought. However, after successfully completing the trip, I found that not only was I not scared, but that it is my favorite method of seeing a new place.

This weekend, however, my friends and I signed up for a student-only tour to see the Highlands of Scotland and the Isle of Skye in western Scotland. Despite the revolting idea of a large van vomiting tourists and then swallowing them up again, I joined the crew and registered for the trip.

In high school, I vividly remember hiking to the top of Mount Washington. It was an amazing, strenuous and exhilarating experience, and finally trekking the last segment was incredibly rewarding. Until, however, a massive van emptied its repulsive hold of coiffed and un-sweaty individuals who promptly shuffled over to the souvenir shop without even taking a moment to glance at the stunning view. It was then and there that I vowed to never go on a bus tour, but here I was, about to do just that.

Part of it has to do with the scale of the landscape of the Highlands of Scotland. Without extensive planning and a rental car, it is actually impossible to see what the van tour said it would be able to show us. I knew a tour would be, unfortunately, the most efficient way of seeing a breadth of landmarks and locations without the stress of considerable foresight.

At the beginning of the tour, our guide was nothing but charming and accommodating. He was funny, wasn’t afraid of cursing and knew that ultimately, we just wanted to have an authentic experience. I was ready to give it a shot.

The first plot twist came when other people started getting on the bus. Immediately, the gravity of the situation started to set in. This wasn’t going to be an exclusive tour at all.

A few hours on a bus and I was trying to stay calm. The Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” had already been played a few times and despite the scenery, I was ready to bolt.

The next day, we took the bridge to the Isle of Skye and immediately, massive mountains dominated the windows of the bus, then dramatically fell away to hidden bays with little fishing boats moored in their protection.

I couldn’t take my eyes off of the panoramas zooming by, and my only regret was that I could not take it in at my own pace.

We made our way north on the island, and I drowned out the Celtic music with my own playlist, snapping a photo occasionally.

The guide’s voice boomed over the speaker, announcing our next stop. At this point in the trip, the Scottish Gaelic words had melded and I couldn’t make out what exactly it was we would be seeing. It had a name, but we didn’t know the significance of it.

We wound upward and as the doors flung open, I walked swiftly from the shadows of the despised little bus. I was standing on a precipice, hundreds of feet above the Scottish coastal countryside and looking across for miles. Nothing interrupted my view.

There are sometimes moments in your life when you feel incredibly small. Nature’s immense scale has the ability of making your existence seem incredibly minuscule in some places, and I was standing in one of those places. A strong wind whipped across the face of the cliffs, and the experience was nothing short of stunning. It was, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen.

For longer than I anticipated, I even forgot that I had to take a bus to reach this point.

More Articles

Comments are closed.