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From Insomnia to Scotland: Climbing Arthur’s Seat

It is  2:11 am and I realize that I took my first international flight twelve years ago. Twelve. As in two more than ten, as in… I’m freaking old. Insomnia has struck.

I couldn’t have asked for a better first trip abroad. My high school was asked to perform at The International Fringe Festival in Edinburgh and we would spend four days in London, and the other ten in Scotland. What a dream trip.

Besides a couple afternoons of  rehearsals and a few organized programs set up by the University of Edinburgh, where we were staying, we pretty much had the days to wander around the city.

The Fringe really deserves its own post because the amount of insanely good and dreadfully awful shows I saw, at all hours of the day and night, some puppet shows, some in the nude, could really fill many pages of a memoir, detailing my love and passion for theatre, that I’ve yet to write. But tonight, at 2:11am, I’m thinking about my climb up Arthur’s Seat, a climb up a mountain to see the entire city and a test of skill and unique friendships.

A small group of us were eating lunch one afternoon- me, Addi, Allyson, John and Aisha’s mom. (I’m actually not quite sure where Aisha was or actually if that was even her name. It was 12 years ago.)  As we were finishing up our meals, we all started talking about climbing Arthur’s Seat and if we thought we could do it or not. While the tension grew, everyone at the table was thinking the same thing; we wanted to climb the mountain. John was the first one to burst and exclaim that he must climb it before we returned to London. Alisha’s mom was next, proclaiming that we should do it that day, right then. Allyson and I excitedly agreed, pressing Addi to see if she would join us. She was reluctant at first, but finally signed up.

We all raced off to our rooms to change into proper hiking gear, or whatever half way appropriate sneakers and sweatpants we had brought with us. As we met back up, I sized us up- we looked ridiculous.

before we climbed the mountain

As it was still pretty chilly out, we all had on the only coats we brought with us- some wearing down jackets, others in rain proof wind breakers.  I’m pretty sure I was wearing a fancy cardigan as my second layer and Allyson was wearing Doc Martens. No matter what we had on, we all looked the same. Huge smiles tattooed on our faces as we were so pumped for this spontaneous adventure we were on.

Walking up to the base we weren’t the only people to have this idea; Dozens of small groups and solo hikers were around us. Even so, I never felt like the trail was crowded. Instead it felt like we were apart of some bigger group, plus we were the youngest around (besides Aisha’s mom) and we all felt like we were accomplishing the impossible.

Hiking up was no joke. And, thinking back, it might have even been the first real hike I had ever done, growing up in Florida we really only have sand dunes!

from the scrapbook

Even though it was really hard, I remember us joking the entire way up. Addi, maybe the smallest, fittest girl in our group, was struggling the most. She was a great sport about it and made fun of herself the whole way- even stopping to take a picture of Aisha’s mom fake carrying her up the mountain. Getting to the top with everyone seemed like it could take hours.

When we finally made it, something swept over us all. It was actually really emotional- and really windy. The kind of wind that if you stare right into it it makes you cry. John blamed the wind, but tears were streaming down all our faces. Looking out over the city was unbelievable- not only because we did it but because we did it on our own. We each took silly photos of ourselves on the top, arms high in the air, stretched out like we had won some medal. It was really special, and to break up the emotion a little, Addi kept screaming, “we did it, we did it, how did we do it?!”

The way down was way easier, taking hardly any time at all. Before we reached the bottom, Alisha’s mom said stop. She said we had to roll down the hill the rest of the way. Without questioning her at all, and just like little kids, all five of us laid down stretched our arms out and started rolling.

It was another really intense moment- this time of pure joy. It took a few rolls for me to completely let myself go, to not try to see where I was going and just let the gentle slope bring me down the hill. Alisha’s mom was screaming her head off, John and Allyson were hollering crazy obscenities and Addi and I were both laughing so hard.

So much joy- pure joy.

If I was going to have insomnia tonight, I’m really happy my mind drifted away to this memory. So many nights I lie awake thinking about what I need to do the next day or what I should have done today, it is nice to take a moment to relive complete happiness. Because ultimately, that is why I travel.