I recently returned from a trip to Scotland. Unlike previous trips abroad, I had no artistic or cultural objective: I was there simply to get away from the day-to-day grind and be open to whatever surprises the trip had to offer. With no expectations, I was rewarded with a beautiful country, welcoming people, visual inspiration, history lessons, and experiences that truly celebrated the art of life and pleasure. The town of Oban, known to me initially because of their whiskey, and then somehow affirmed through a Rick Steves video endorsement :P, best exemplified the experience.
The drive through the countryside to get there was simply beautiful. Rolling hills, green everywhere, sheep... just beautiful. The coastal town seems to originate from a cliff facing the ocean. Everywhere I looked, I found visual inspiration with a sense of familiarity that surprised me. The history of Oban is celebrated not only in the distillery (amen!), but several landmarks as well: McCaib's Tower and Dunollie Castle, to name a few. Unusually dry conditions allowed the rare opportunity to sit outside for a dinner at Ee-usk, watching a colorful sunset as our group enjoyed some of the freshest fish I've ever had - mussels, sea bass and properly paired wine and whiskey. As we were finishing our meal, one of the locals stopped by our table and started a conversation with us that ended in song; I believe it was "The Road to the Isles". I was a kid in a cultural candy store. In the end, each city shared its own story and they were all very satisfying.
I was refreshed in a way that made the end of the trip not only bearable, but hopeful. I believe travel is such an essential part of life, as it enriches our perceptions of what is ultimiately important, in addition to offering a release from the routines that we can get into as part of the discipline of life's work.