A good friend of mine loves to tell stories from his world travels. It always puts a smile on my face when I hear him deliver the script to a new ear. I’ve heard most multiple times and in no way is that a bad thing, but I didn’t truly understand the concept until I ended up at the table I now write this-in the back of a bus station coffee shop with fingers as frigid as the tea in front of me.
Scotland is cold-like really cold.
I don’t think I put much thought into that when I booked the train from Liverpool to Glasgow and by that I mean I put zero thought into it. You see, England can get cold, the sun doesn’t come out much and the rain + wind thing just makes for a wet, annoying endeavor BUT it sticks to the high 30’s, low 40’s range in the winter months. I didn’t have much of an issue with my long sleeve and insulated zip-up so paired with my excitement of traveling hundreds of miles for under 15 quid and the idea of red heads saying my name funny-I just typed in the security code dyslexic the first time around and got on with it.
So, when I stepped off the Virgin train at the Preston, I got a little worried. Maybe it was from sitting for so long or maybe it was because I hadn’t eaten in awhile. Those are solid guesses but they are completely wrong. It was just f*%#ing cold. Cold to the point my teeth were chattering while I chatter-chatted with this dude who lived in Canada for a few years, took some crazy three-day-long train ride, and was waiting for his girlfriend who was coming from the airport? I don’t know, my brain was so cold all I could think about was that one time I had a winter coat-like two weeks ago. Man those were the days.
“Once you go north of Carlisle there will be snow.”
The dude said snow, like the white fluffy stuff that somehow convinces you life isn’t so bad for a few moments of the year. That stuff. He also said north, which I guess makes sense because we have the same thing in the mitten, you know, where you say “up north” and it immediately means a shit storm more amount of snow compared to the over-exaggerated millimeter layer in the suburbs you live in (pick one).
But let’s get back to the blog post, because this is very important stuff here people!
I got into Glasgow station at five past twelve, just as the reservation had said, even though we had to combat the zoo of traffic we encountered the second city center started. Google had told me this place liked to party-a lot. That wasn’t too hard to identify as the second I stepped onto the concrete I heard the laughter, yells, and music of a place I can only rightfully compare to Edgewood Avenue, Atlanta.
Let’s fast forward. I couldn’t find a host on couchsurfing, the hostels around city center were more than 3 solid meals, and I only had nine hours until the Megabus left for Dundee. Issue was, thank you again Google, this party city dies after the hour of 4am for whatever reason even Google couldn’t tell me. There were no 24/7 coffee shops to take refuge in, no pub that would be serving pints into the wee hours of the morning-nothing. So, I decided to try out this couchsurfing thing for real and look for people like myself, travelers in the city. To my surprise, I got a response from a Latvian man who had just landed in Glasgow. He couldn’t find a host either and was heading to Edinburgh in a few hours.
We met up at McDonals. On the window read “Open until 4am” which I found funny because they must have put that there for travelers or drunk people. What other reason is there?
We got to chatting and it didn’t take long for me to notice two women sitting at a booth diagonal to us. They had big bags with them so I assumed travelers as well, but could they be in the exact same situation as us? I didn’t think so….until they opened the map. One was from Romania and another Mexico, both living in Dublin now. This is where they were trying to get to. I know this because I went over and asked if they were traveling as well. For the next three hours the four of us drank disgusting McDonalds hot chocolate and shared stories of our travels and countries.
And then all three of them left. The trains and busses started running at 5am so the Latvian went off to Edinburgh on a Megabus and the Dublin ladies went off on their journey back to Ireland. Issue was, Dundee isn’t a big city so my 8:30am ticket was still the first one out and the inside of the station didn’t up until 6am.
What do you do when nothing in the city is open and it’s 20 degrees out?
For the next two hours I walked the quiet streets of Glasgow. I might have seen five or six people by the time I made it back to the station. It was peaceful and quite insightful. I didn’t get angry or annoyed, and I think that was something I needed to show myself.
It was during that walk that I got it. I’ll be telling the story of my overnight layover in Glasgow where I met fellow travelers, hung out in a McDonalds with a ton of drunk students until 3:30am, and walked the city streets in the freezing cold, no winter jacket, until the sun came up.
Weather the cold people, whatever it may be to you. It makes for a better story.