Why I Chose Not to Trust My Gut in Scotland
I could not pull the covers off. I was frozen—nothing short of paralyzed in my tiny top bunk. My eyes were wide and I listened to the different accents filling the room: French, Italian, Japanese, Australian—but I didn’t dare to move.
This was a huge mistake, I should probably just book a flight out tomorrow back to New York so I can be with my boyfriend and dog instead of all these foreign people. I could especially do without the guy in the bunk below me who stares for hours without shame.
My stomach growled but hunger didn’t stand a chance against my anxiety. Nothing in the world, including my full bladder, could have made me get out of bed at that moment.
Finally, feeling the oxygen in the bubble of covers I occupied begin to lessen and the heat begin to rise, I thrust the covers off of me in one quick movement and looked around the surprisingly bright room. I immediately became self-conscious of what I must look like—sweaty and disoriented—but no one paid much attention to me. I didn’t know which was worse, the chance of someone noticing me in this dismal state or being totally ignored and alone.
My gut was desperate for me to get the hell out of Scotland. It didn’t care if I would disappoint myself and several other people who believed in me; something just didn’t seem right and it was determined to make me realize it.
It seemed that most of the people in my room (16 beds) were travelling with at least one other person. My sister and aunt had assured me that people outside of America travelled alone quite a bit, but I was beginning to doubt them.
My head was shouting at me to get over it. I would only be in Scotland for a little less than a month and I needed to do this—needed to see what I was made of after the past year had all but ravaged my mental stability. Was I not the brave, independent soul I thought I was?
My gut, however, disagreed with my head. My gut was desperate for me to get the hell out of Scotland. It didn’t care if I would disappoint myself and several other people who believed in me; something just didn’t seem right and it was determined to make me realize it.
I might as well surrender and at least avoid the catastrophic meltdown that is no doubt building inside of me.
The day before I left the States, I called a few people to discuss my fears about the trip. I had booked my flight months ago with thoughts that it might cure me of some heartache and give me a chance to “find myself” after a year of several friends’, family members’ and pets’ deaths, which had all left my reeling in grief.
Travel Scotland: Why I Chose Not to Trust My Gut.
My sister urged me to continue, saying that I would be fine alone for such a short period of time, that I was totally capable of doing this and doing it well. My boyfriend reminded me of just how excited I was for this trip only a few weeks ago. There was one person I knew would not say these things, though.
“You know if you’re really that worried you can always cancel,” my mother’s voice over the phone sounded sympathetic. Never one to break out of her own comfort zone, I didn’t expect her to push like the others did. She really didn’t need to say much to convince me that cancelling was exactly what I should do. “Trust your gut,” she said, as she’s said a hundred other times to me in my life. Good advice, really, because often your heart and head are not good enough judges on their own. In a way, our gut is the only thing we can consistently trust within ourselves, as our head and heart often betray us.
Travel Scotland: Why I Chose Not to Trust My Gut.
And as I sat frozen on the top bunk, unable to move or breathe or think, the only thing I could feel was my gut—pushing me off the bed out the door and out of the country.
But then it happened. For a split second—and that was enough—my heart and head overpowered my gut and I said hello to some Australian girls staying in my room. They were responsive, nice even. After some brief conversation it occurred to me that I had just agreed to do a hike with them in an hour, and that I had apparently made friends. They were only there for two more days but that was enough time to erase a majority of the ugly thoughts that had invaded my body until I met them. We hiked, ate, drank, talked, shared, laughed. Turns out they were just like me, only with cuter accents.
And after we said our goodbyes and promised to keep in touch, I felt five pounds lighter, like it was possible to take on this trip alone for the first time. And for that I am forever grateful to them.
Although my gut was quieted after this first friendship was made, it was not silenced. Every time I felt a little more secure, a little more independent, my gut was there telling me the comfort was just temporary.
Sometimes you must throw caution to the wind, abandon your gut and ignore your mother’s thoughtful advice in order to get to know yourself and make the best of a potentially terrifying experience.
As the week in Edinburgh came to an end and my trek to Inverness quickly approached, my gut was gaining an edge on my head and heart. The more people that told me the only way to enjoy the highlands was to rent a car, the more my gut achieved validity. When an alarm went off in the Edinburgh train station followed by a British woman’s voice demanding everyone leave the station due to a terrorist threat, I was pretty positive I should just be listening to my gut after all. But when the station manager came over announcing that it was just a drill, I was too shaken up to make any new decisions. So I got on the train like my ticket said.
And as I sit at this café in Portee, a city (town) on the Isle of Skye, with both Edinburgh and Inverness behind me, as well as a hundred adventures, I can say for the first time I was right to not trust my gut even though it threatened to absolutely kill my spirit if I did not give into it a few times.
There are things that my mother and my gut will always be right about, but I can say for certain that Scotland was not one of them. If my gut had gotten in the way I might have gone home to New York too soon.
Because the thing about guts is they are a lot like my mom. They have a very strict comfort zone. They protect you from danger because they know ways to keep you safe that your head and heart know not. But as we all know, playing it safe may not be the best way to fulfillment. Sometimes you must throw caution to the wind, abandon your gut and ignore your mother’s thoughtful advice in order to get to know yourself and make the best of a potentially terrifying experience.
There are things that my mother and my gut will always be right about, but I can say for certain that Scotland was not one of them. If my gut had gotten in the way I might have gone home to New York too soon. I might not have seen the Quiraing in Skye, a section of land that looks like real-life Jurassic Park. I might not have spent the one year anniversary of my dad’s death reading books by his favorite authors and eating ice cream and fish and chips at a local pub—just like he would want.
There comes a point in life where you can no longer always listen to your mom (something she undoubtedly already knows) and you cannot always trust your gut. And while it took me thousands of miles and the Atlantic Ocean to figure that out, I can say I finally have.
Travel Scotland: Why I Chose Not to Trust My Gut photo by Unsplash.