Some people were meant to grace my presence for only a short time but, at times, that short time was enough for them to change the course of my life forever. I met one such person during a trip to Europe. We started out as total strangers on a guided bus tour of the Scottish Highlands and five days later, we parted ways as friends. As quickly as she had entered my life, she was gone but her caring and inspiring words will stay with me forever.
Everyone who travels alone knows that feeling. The anxiety and anticipation of meeting new people although I generally find it easy making new friends on the road. Perhaps being outside my normal surroundings makes me more likely to do things I wouldn't normally do like approach a stranger and quite literally ask them to be my friend. I've never had anyone turn down an invite for coffee, lunch, a stroll around a new city or an opportunity to get lost together in unfamiliar territory. These impromptu, unplanned friendships lead to unforgettable memories. I'm blessed to have had many such experiences and I'm blessed to have had one, in particular, that stands out from the rest.
I was exhausted that morning. As I stood outside Cafe Nero in Edinburgh waiting for my tour bus, other tourists began to arrive and I wondered which ones were in my group. A good thing about traveling alone is almost always being guaranteed a window seat on these tours and this one was no exception. I had an entire seat all to myself.
The guide must have noticed that there were two women on his bus traveling alone. When I got on the bus on the second day, he asked me to take the seat at the very front as he liked to give everyone a turn sitting in that seat. The other woman who was traveling alone had been sitting there the day before and I felt bad taking her seat. I felt better when it was her turn to get on the bus and she sat with me. I immediately liked her company. She was friendly and upbeat and we had a lot in common. She was quite a few years older and upon learning that I was traveling alone, she gave me some advice that some people back home are reluctant to give: "Travel as much as you can. See as many places as you can. Do this until you physically can't anymore". While my family and friends back home mean well, their advice is usually along the lines of "You need to get your priorities in order and settle down in one place and stop being a gypsy" or "it's too dangerous to travel nowadays, you should find another hobby".
We continued to sit together during the tour and I really didn't mind sharing a window seat with her. We talked about everything under the sun and shared things I wouldn't normally wouldn't share with a complete stranger. We talked about losing our mothers young, moving around to different cities for work, our families, out likes and dislikes. I realized over dinner on the last night of the tour that it felt like I'd known her forever. A comfortable silence came over us at one point and was only broken by her saying "I'm proud of you". Taken aback, I asked what she meant. "I was afraid to do what you are doing when I was younger. You are an inspiration. Don't let anyone tell you to stop following your passions". I held back tears. Besides my parents, no one had ever said that to me. My passion for traveling always seemed to generate negative comments from the people back home.
We ended up staying at the same B&B that night in Fort Augustus. When we left the restaurant, the air was cool and a light mist was falling. As we walked toward the Thistle Dubh, the rain became heavier. Soon it was a full-fledge rainstorm. We started running. I never laughed so hard in my life. We got lost. We walked around in circles until we were soaked to the bone. At breakfast the next morning, we said our goodbyes. I don't know why I never thought of it but now I wish I had of. I forgot to ask for her last name, Facebook or anything that would allow us to keep in touch. One thing I do know is she was meant to come into my life and she came into it at just the right time and stayed long enough to leave a lasting impression.