Yesterday, I met my cousin Kim for ice cream and a delicious conversation about our upcoming trip to Scotland in September. Now that it’s mid-May, it feels more real that this is finally going to happen. Like many others with travel plans, we were supposed to go in 2020– before Covid changed everything. Our mission is for Kim to honor her mother, Yvonne’s final request to scatter her ashes over Skye, the largest island of the Inner Hebrides off the west coast. Kim’s maternal grandmother’s family originated there, part of the McDonald clan. Yvonne had wanted to go to Skye but never got that chance; she made her daughter promise to fulfill that dream.
Yvonne and my mother, Mary were first cousins, like sisters, and best friends. Growing up, their families spent a lot of time together. My maternal grandmother, Ola Gilchrist Smith and Kim’s maternal grandfather, Jones Gilchrist were close, and likewise, Mama and Yvonne were close. Both were born in 1923– just four months apart.
When Yvonne and Mama were nineteen, they boarded a train in Fayetteville, filled with other young women who traveled overnight to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In that city, that seemed big to those two Harnett County farm girls, they learned to work as Civil Servants in the WWII effort. They had many adventures there and at Pope Field Airbase where they used their newfound skills until the end of the war.
Afterwards, they traveled together to Kansas City, Missouri to work with the airlines. Those cousins shared an adventuresome spirit that they nurtured in their daughters. Now, Kim and I can carry on that legacy by venturing out together in our mothers’ footsteps.
Over the years, I’ve taken many solo journeys; now, I’ll be going with another person and it’ll be a different experience. Kim and I have had discussions about how we like to travel. It’s important for us to be up front with this so that we know some of what to expect. Sometimes, we’ll need to have time alone, striking out on our own to explore by ourselves. No matter who I travel with, this would be the case. We have similar and different interests from our travel partners and each should be free to have some separate time.
It will be comforting to know that I’m not alone on this trip. I’ve been in situations when I’ve traveled by myself when I wished I had someone with me. The most vivid memory of this was when when I went to Colorado Springs in 2013. I came down with altitude sickness when I rode the Pike’s Peak Cog Rail to 11,600 feet–not even the summit because the high winds prevented us from reaching the top.
I survived the ride and afterwards could barely walk to my car from the train depot–so dizzy and weak from fever, chills, and body aches. I had no one to call, no one to drive my rental car to the Old Towne Guest House. I was fortunate to be staying in a place where the owners knew about my sickness and checked on me; that wouldn’t have happened if I’d stayed in a motel chain. Even with their concern, I felt very lonely and vulnerable being at such a distance from home, sick and by myself. Traveling with Kim will help both of us to feel more secure.
Another advantage in planning this trip with another person, is that I have someone with whom I can share the excitement of what’s ahead. Like I referred to in the post, Sweet Anticipation, the shared joy of anticipating my high school reunion with my classmate was as sweet as the actual event. Kim has been researching the McDonald clan and has found relatives that were murdered when they stood up to the British monarch in the Jacobite upraising in 1746. Other ancestors, including Captain Alexander McDonald, escaped to America. They journeyed from the bonnie banks of Scotland to the banks of the Cape Fear River in Harnett County.
Yesterday, I asked Kim what she was looking for in this journey.
“This will help connect a lot of the dots” she said. “It’ll be surreal being in the place where the McDonalds share a history as Jacobites. I’ll be going to the land they were forced to leave because they were being persecuted for their religious and political beliefs.”
Indeed, looking at our travel itinerary, on Day 6 of our trip to the Hebrides, we’ll be traveling back through the valley of Glencoe in the Highlands where McDonalds were killed. When we visit the places we’ve only read about, they really come to life and whisper their history, leaving a deep memory that goes beyond head knowledge.
As we draw closer to September, I’m feeling my excitement grow with this trip becoming a reality. Unlike when I plan solo journeys, I’ve had the help of a travel agent and the support of a co-traveler; it has taken less of my personal energy and given me more security.
I don’t know what you may be planning for the months ahead. Hopefully you’re getting to do some of the things that were interrupted by the pandemic. Hopefully you’re stepping forward to realize your dreams while you’re still able to make them happen.
Whatever your plans, I wish you the best–whether you go solo, or you take off with a travel companion who shares the joy and the stresses of the journey.
Best to you all,