I boarded the bus at 9:14am, southbound to Bonnyrigg and Dalhousie Castle, which would loom above field and forest. At least, I presumed I had boarded the southbound bus. Instead, I headed straight north, into downtown Edinburgh. You’d think that studying a local map and bus routes for an hour or two the night before would be enough to avoid such a simple mistake, but left-hand traffic sometimes adds a level of spontaneous oversight. So after ten minutes, nine stops, one pound, and forty cents, I got off the wrong bus and onto the correct one. Of course, I boarded after stopping to buy a soda and get exact change – the buses happily accepts any tips, regardless of your intent.
As I sat down, I noted the cabin was relatively empty, although I had spotted a face or two in the upper levels. The bus took me past my hotel, which I had left nearly half an hour earlier. With the intention of confirming I was on the correct bus and hoping not to embarrass myself, I walked to the driver and asked if this bus stopped in Bonnyrigg. He noted my accent (or lack thereof) and asked where I was headed. I mentioned Dalhousie and he was kind enough to give me instructions on how to reach the castle. I would have a short walk down the road from the bus stop, where the bus turned west, though I would continue south. Relieved, I sat back down and watched the houses pass. Perhaps this wouldn’t be so intimidating after all.
Although it began with a rocky start, my first journey alone through a foreign country went well. I reached Dalhousie Castle, toured the grounds and forests, and admired the castle itself, which didn’t loom, but was pleasantly nestled against a small river that carved the boundaries between the field and the forest. After the tour, I headed to the falconry area, where dozens of hawks, owls, and falcons perched, secured to their roosts by a leather tether. Some chittered noisily as I approached, others eyed me warily, and the rest ignored my presence altogether.
After wandering for a minute, I managed to find the falconer. After speaking with her about the birds and their place in Scottish culture and capturing some footage of her handling a plump little owl, I decided to consider the day a success.
Although simple and seemingly unexceptional, small successes like my trip to Dalhousie remind me of things I take for granted: things as basic as private versus public transportation, as personal as timidity and fear of the unknown, or as ingrained as my conditioning to blindly follow right-hand traffic laws. Being put into uncomfortable, strange, and entirely foreign situations forced me to adapt to them. Of course, this includes compensating for mistakes that are made as well. Although when has anything gone without a single hitch anyway?