Sunday, September 7, 2014

Lonely Planet: Traipsing Around Europe, Part II

Read this first: Lonely Planet: Traipsing Around Europe, Part I

EuroBen, Day 5

I am very proud for going on this trip—now in my second leg heading to Edinburgh, Scotland. I am carefree, shut off from work and daily responsibilities and routines. I am freed from time which both passes and leads to new futures, but I can do anything I want so time means nothing to me. I think I am addicted to traveling.

Random neighbor on train traveling around Europe
While passengers ride the Tube to reach their destinations in the shortest amount of time, trains are an intimate and charming part of the culture of traveling across Europe. Riding trains provides ample time to think about where you've been and where you're going geographically and in life. And what about other solo travelers, like the relaxed girl with the pretty pink socks and her shoes kicked off, well-dressed with a coat and scarf—where is she headed? What led her to travel to Scotland by herself?
I stow my carry-on between cars five and six and my crutches in the overhead in train car four. I move freely to different cars and seats, enjoying the views and experience. I could ride while listening to The Gaslight Anthem on repeat the entire day.

Ten minutes before we arrive at Edinburgh Waverly station I go looking for my crutches. They are not where I left them. I suddenly feel like the train car is a chamber that is tightening around me. Pop quiz: if you can retrieve only your luggage or your crutches before the train leaves your stop while you are still on board, which do you choose?

If I search for my crutches instead of my luggage then I may end up in Edinburgh with neither, so I push through other riders to find my suitcase. Whew, it's there. The doors are open and I rush out to speak with a station attendant. “I can’t find my crutches!” I say. “I left them in the upper left compartment in car four. I can't walk far without them.”

“You can get back on the train and search for them. The train leaves in seven minutes,” he says.

I leave my carry-on behind a post and hope nobody steals it. I get back on the train and run through the cars, jumping on seats for a better view of the open storage compartments that line the cars from end to end, forgetting I can’t run and jump. I would tell passengers to get out of my way but my eyes say it more clearly. I check under seats, in between cars, in every nook. The doors close and it feel like my lungs do, too. Now I must choose between continuing my vacation without crutches, or stalling the vacation—still possibly without crutches. I remember the rules that guide me, that I desperately want to live by: Live without regrets. Live for adventure.

I must go. I look at the sign above the exit describing how the door opens, but my brain can’t comprehend the words. A girl sees my despair and pops the window and pushes the lever for me. I walk away and retrieve my suitcase. I will visit the East Coast rail office at Edinburgh Waverly and get all the stations’ lost property phone numbers, but my crutches will never show up.

In my book I wrote that the best thing in life is health. I offer a revision: the best thing in life is freedom. Somebody stole my crutches. Somebody stole my freedom.

EuroBen, Day 6

Life just works out sometimes: I share my tale with the young woman, Ring, who is hosting me on Airbnb for two nights and she finds spare forearm crutches in her closet from when she broke her ankle last year. “I hope I don’t need crutches again, but if I do then they will be free thanks to our National Health Service. I can’t let this ruin your holiday. Take my crutches.”

Every so often someone goes out of her way to improve your life. The magnet from Edinburgh Castle that I gave Ring and my offer to pay 1.5 times the price of replacement crutches (which she declined) don’t compare to Ring’s gift, so I will keep my eyes open for my chance to pay it forward.

Edinburgh Castle, Whiskey Experience, National Museum of Scotland and Dominion Cinema
Counterclockwise from top: Edinburgh Castle, Castle cannon, best animal exhibit ever at National Museum of Scotland, 3,400 bottles of Scotch whiskey at The Scotch Whiskey Experience, and best theater ever with reclining sofas at Dominion Cinema. Edinburgh's landscape, architecture and whiskey are only surpassed by its people: always welcoming and so easy to befriend. This is among my favorite cities and I will surely return to Edinburgh and see more of Scotland.
Renting an Airbnb room in Edinburgh during the Fringe festival
My Airbnb room with the loft bed reachable by ladder. The view and host (Ring) were special; the ladder, not so much.

Keep reading: Lonely Planet: Traipsing Around Europe, Part III


Anonymous said...

That's Scotland for you. Dirty Bastards will steal a cripples crutches even though they could get a free pair from the National Health. I hope they get their independence on the 18th and good riddance to them.

Catherine said...

Unbelievable that they took your crutches. Frig. Think your insurance will cover it for you?

Benjamin Rubenstein said...

Catherine, I'm in the process of ordering new travel crutches (folding ones) and will wait and see what insurance says. Even if they don't cover a new pair, Ring was a vacation saver and I can't believe the coincidence that she had spare forearm crutches in her apartment.

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Ronni said...

Enjoying your writing and your journey. Hope your new crutches arrive soon!When I was 19 I thumbed through Europe and slept in tbe train station in Edinburgh. All rhe hostels were full.

Benjamin Rubenstein said...

No way, Mrs. Cook! Now that's an adventure that I do not feel the need to cross off my list.