Neist Point Lighthouse, Scotland

June 2019: It’s 8pm and two “Scottish ladies” eat their dinner of bread, cream cheese, and salami out of the backseat of their compact rental car. A bagged side salad without utensils proves difficult for the pair as they take turns shuffling chunks of lettuce into their open mouths. They would have preferred to eat this meal elsewhere, but the downpouring rain (and the “no food” policy posted on the door of their B&B) had other plans. It’s been a packed day, hence the 8pm dinner. The morning afforded them the opportunity to visit one of Scotland’s most scenic destinations, Old Man of Storr. The Old Man’s vast views and massive surrounding mountains were enough to blow one’s mind and leave a jaw dropped for an entire day. But it was the final full day in Scotland, which meant 1 thing: pack as much into a 24hr period as possible. The Old Man, along with Mealt Falls and Kilt Rock, occupied all of the morning and much of the afternoon. Stop #2 was Portree, a small sheltered town on the coast with a strip of brightly colored buildings that attract all types of tourists. An additional couple of hours wandering around town and the drive back to the B&B left the pair at 8pm, now chowing down on dinner. Dinner done, the pair settle into their room. 5 minutes of stillness begs the obvious question, ‘why are we back in the room by 8pm?’ As one grabs the keys, the other loads a backpack. The pair repack their car and set out for the sheep-infested hour drive leading them to Neist Point Lighthouse. Rumors informed the duo that it would be glorious, but no statement could have adequately prepared them for the sight before them as they summited the final hill. Minutes turned into hours as the pair closed out their day exploring the space in solitude. The final checkpoint on a list of must see spots complete as the journey came to a close.

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October 2018: The adventure begins as 3 travelers arise early and start their hike up Bridal Veil Falls. Half way up the mountain the hike is rudely interrupted by a lightning storm that sends bolts and crashes directly to their feet. They huddle for shelter under a large displaced rock as marble-sized hail tumbles down the mountain all around them. The storm rages on as they sprint the descent. They reach the bottom, soaked and shaken but thankful to be in one piece. October 4th, a day the 3 travelers will likely never forget.

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Dublin, Ireland

March 2018: 4 college friends arrive in Ireland. The spring break trip of a lifetime already unfolding as they make their way north for a few more days of fun. Fun, a word that describes much of an overall trip yet fails at explaining the true underlying experiences often wrapped up in travel. Fun is good. But sometimes a trip’s most memorable stories would hardly be described with such a word. The following rings true for the 4 friends. The previous nights stay was not as expected. Affordable lodging took on the form of sheets with stray cigarette butts, dirt soaked mattresses, cobweb covered corners, and a half-eaten lasagna in the oven from previous occupants. Sleep seeming uncertain, the 4 friends made a pact to arise early and depart the unwelcoming space. Their caffeine craving bodies begged for a kickstart so they settled into a nearby coffee shop and mapped the route for the day. Before long, the 4 friends found their feet insecurely set on the slippery, water-soaked steps at Giant’s Causeway, one of Ireland’s most renowned national landmarks. A breath of fresh air, eyes overwhelmed, and a world stilled to slow motion, the 4 friends looked at each other, smiles ever widening across their faces. A new realization setting in. One in which good and bad are a series of stories, and fun a byproduct of this crazy adventure we call life.

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Delicate Arch, Utah

September 2017: We had seen it before, iconic Delicate Arch, on pictures, advertisements, and the hundreds of car license plates we’d passed while navigating our way to this popularized destination. Our lazy bodies, sleep deprived from the previous night of wind chilled awakenings in conestoga wagons, stumbled out of the car and onto the well defined trail as the early morning sun made its debut. Our frozen bones thanked the sun for its thaw as we slumped up a meager hill towards our destination. Dozens of fellow tourists joined us on the path, our minds remarking at the peculiarities of each one’s wardrobe, with high heels, sequined jeans, and fashionista dresses becoming commonplace. This place was far from remote yet our subtly rolling eyes still deeply yearned for glimpses of the remarkable structure ahead. Final steps took our bodies to a halt and sent our gaze mere feet afront. There she was: Delicate Arch. In all her glory. And she was glorious. Her refinement unmatched and her approachability alluring. Humbled by the giant before us, we sank back into perspective anew. Through complaints in overcrowding, of popularized placed, our hearts condemned towards the truth that our tourism is a privilege. The privilege to see new places and experience destinations as strangers in a land belonging to others.

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Reynisfjara, Iceland

June 2016: Summer break and 2 college roommates eagerly await their arrival in Reykjavik, Iceland. As the plane lands, they hold their breath and climb out onto the windy, frostbitten tarmac. The cold stings their bare hands as the wind throws its own tantrum at their arrival. A glance exchanged reveals a similar thought across the mind of each, ‘what now?’ The month long expedition seemed so far off, like that point on the horizon that maintains its distance with each step closer one takes. But here the roommates were, embraced by the moment, reality sinking in upon arrival in a foreign land. Multiple bus stops, Icelandic pronunciation struggles, and a quarter continent later, a cozy coffee shop in the town of Selfoss welcomes them in. The roommates manage to borrow a phone from which they dial their host and arrange a ride to their home for the month. The stun of a 20-hour sleepless period weighs heavy on them as they sink into the coffee shop chairs and breathe in relief from a long day of travel. Perfectly as planned, all was falling into place. But the roommates were naive. Travel rarely goes that smoothly. Within the hour, a series of unfortunate events left the roommates lacking lodging, income, and food for the month ahead. Plans and life are ever changing and the roommates, tired and bummed nonetheless, worked out a new plan. A new plan that left them with a wonderful family of hosts, 60 dairy cows, amazing adventures, and newfound perspective as to our adaptability as humans. A new plan that left them grateful for friendship and blessings poured out of the unknown.

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