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  • I pulled the pillow off my head and glimpsed out the dormitory window over a vacant parking lot. Outside it was raining, again. Everything they say about Scottish weather is true. The national tourism bureau might want to try a new slogan: Scotland, a delightful location for the despondent.

    With only a few days left in August, I was supposed to be finding delight at the massive Fringe Festival in Edinburgh. But after three weeks of unfulfilling volunteer office work for the event, I had found the experience rather un-amusing, rather un-festive. In fact, a series of occurrences had led to a month-altering decision centred on two mutually exclusive options: continuing to trudge away at an unsatisfactory volunteer position or attending a Dolly Parton concert. Like any sensible human being, I chose the country-singing superstar.

    But now, after walking out, my month was a mess. I was a mess. I couldn’t conceive of getting out of bed, let alone continuing with my travels.

    Yet, I couldn’t cancel the rest of my trip –– and, what, run home with my tail between my legs? Only to have to explain to the people in my life why my plans didn’t work out? Calling it quits on my yearlong travel plans would mean acknowledging that I had failed to achieve a life goal. This was not an attractive option –– because of all things to fear in the world, I dreaded my own self-reproach the most. Besides, I didn’t even have a home or a career waiting for me back in Canada; I had intentionally quit my job and given away my apartment so that there would be no turning back. I hadn’t burned my bridges as much as snipped the suspension cords, just enough to make retracing my steps difficult.

    I had to keep going.

    But at the same time –– how? How would I summon the energy needed to navigate new countries –– or to fully appreciate the journey?

    For the time being, the only thing I could do was to remain horizontal, to take comfort in hiding. And so, I fell back against the mattress, and repositioned the pillow over my head.

    Outside the dormitory window, the rain just kept on falling.
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