Wandering

Aheli, of Aheli Wanders, is one of my dearest friends. You should all absolutely check out her blog and follow along as she travels the world and finds all the best meals both local (Brooklyn) and abroad (any and everywhere). Last week she was kind enough to let me wander with her, answering questions about travel and racing, as well as food, books, and dogs – basically all of my favorite things! While I will absolutely have her return the favor over here at some point, in the meantime I thought I would tell one of my favorite stories: How Aheli and I met, and the moment we knew we would be friends.

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In Fall 2007, I studied abroad in Edinburgh. I had been looking forward to study abroad since before I even started college and I couldn’t wait to get off that plane and dive into a totally new experience.

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My first night, I nonchalantly hung out in the hallway, ready to meet my new flatmates. I managed to find a group of girls, all standing in a circle talking about plans for the night. One of them asked if anyone planned on going to the Fresher’s Week pub night and I listened as everyone in the circle said no. As soon as it was my turn to speak I’m pretty sure I shouted YES, in typical loud, anything but subtle fashion. The only other girl going, the one who had originally asked, was Aheli and I instantly decided that she was going to be my friend.

I love telling this story with Aheli, because when you hear our individual internal monologues from the evening it’s even easier to truly understand why we are such a good friend match. Namely, we’re both ridiculous. While there was no way we were ever going to be anything but besties, both of us spent the evening second guessing everything and taking turns, not at all dramatically, thinking that omg this is my one shot at having a friend (…) and she already has an established group. WHAT NOW?

“Established group” being relative – we both knew other people in Edinburgh from our home universities, and we both exerted way too much energy trying to figure out what the other’s friend group dynamic was. It’s not even that having a group is a bad thing! Far from it, in fact! But another thing we discovered that we had in common was that we both wanted our study abroad experiences to be different than everyday life back home. The other students from my home university were great, but they were all people I could see anytime. Similarly, the people Aheli knew were all so kind and lovely – and we are actually all friends now! – but back then, I wanted to make sure I made the most of my four months in Scotland and I didn’t want to stick too close to people or things that were familiar – to me or to my new, definitely-going-to-be-my-best friend.

So anyway, we wandered over to the meeting place, in turn walking with other students from my university, other students from her university, a ton of students from our brand NEW university, and talking up a storm, realizing that we have an insane amount in common. Including, apparently, a need to not leave the bar until the party is completely over. Around the time the lights went on and people were making their way towards the door, Aheli and I realized that we had outlasted everyone else, and so the two of us began the trek back to the flat.

Except Aheli wasn’t actually staying at the flat. She had one more night booked in a hotel and so assuring me that it was “just over there” (it wasn’t) she wandered off into the night. I was a little skeptical about this, but realized that having just met her it would be creepy to tell her that this is how ripped from the headlines Law and Order episodes are born.

That would probably be a good enough “how we became friends” story, except the moment that solidified the friendship actually came the next day. I woke up still concerned that I had made a friend, and then sent her out alone into the night with all the drunks and monsters, so as soon as I managed to roll out of bed, I meandered down to her room to see if she had made it back ok. When she opened her door, I’m pretty sure I just went “Oh!”, pointed into her room, and then started quickly walking back down the hall gesturing at her to follow me. Against all reason, Aheli did, and when we got to my room, I flung open my door and just said “sheets!”

When I was getting myself ready to go to Scotland, my mom became fixated on the question of bedsheets. She was a bit nervous about my going abroad by myself and so channeled all her nerves into the idea that if I was only able to make my bed that first night, everything would be ok. As a result, she had me order the bedding package from the university; sheets, a duvet, and pillows would be packaged and waiting for me on arrival. But my mom was not going to leave anything to chance – what happened if there was a delay? A bedding shortage? A duvet heist? – and I didn’t have clean sheets waiting for me? WHAT THEN? So, she insisted that I also pack sheets in my checked luggage, just to have my bases (and bed) covered. “Fine,” I told her, completely out of patience with The Great Bedding Fiasco of 2007, “I’ll bring sheets. But I’m bringing the flamingo ones.”

When I looked into Aheli’s room that first morning in Scotland. I saw that she had also brought bed sheets with her. THE EXACT SAME FLAMINGO SHEETS. It would be one thing if we had both brought, say, pink sheets. But no – we both packed bedding that was green and white striped, with a pink flamingo overlay. And with that, we confirmed that we were absolutely kindred spirits, and have been friends ever since.

All thanks to absurdly wonderful flamingo sheets.

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72 Hours in Scotland: The How

Or should I say the WOW?

No, I know I shouldn’t say that. Please stay?

 

I talked before about how this trip to Scotland was a balancing act – an attempt to go back to a place I love, while not limiting my opportunities (aka time and funds) to go to new places on my must-see list. So I turned to WOW airlines.

I’ll admit, I was not super optimistic about WOW going in. I’ve flown Ryan Air and I’ve flown Spirit and I sort of imagined that WOW flights would be equivalent…and also longer. But WOW had the best prices, so, after poring over the restrictions, limitations, and fees, I decided to book, simultaneously deciding to get to Scotland and back on only the base fare, no extras.

I have an old laptop bag that I’ve always found a little unwieldy and far bulkier than I can imagine needing, but it turns out that it is the perfect size to count as a free personal item per WOW’s restrictions (WOW: 17x13x10in; My bag: 16x13x6in). I made it my mission – my Everest! – to fit everything I could possibly need for 72 hours (including the wedding) into the bag.

In the end, I did it. I had a wedding outfit, some running clothes, and a couple of other comfortable, casual outfits, along with general essentials, in my one bag. I won’t lie – I was pretty impressed with myself, at least until I showed up in Scotland and found myself in the middle of a heat wave. It turns out I was frequently a little overdressed with not many options. I also would have preferred to have something with two straps – the single strap wore on me a little bit over the course of the weekend. But, it was definitely doable and nice to have as a tried and true option.

As for the flight itself, I think the WOW stars must have aligned because I have no complaints. I was checked in quickly, none of my four flights over the course of the weekend were delayed, and despite having opted to not select my seats, I ended up with three window seats and an aisle. I…thought I was going to have a more interesting story about this part of the trip? In actuality, on my outbound flight I fell asleep before takeoff and woke up to most beautiful clouds I’ve ever seen. The return flight had fewer clouds, but I suppose that is still acceptable. So spoiled.

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So, would I fly WOW again? Yes, but with caveats. This trip worked because I didn’t need any of the extras. For a longer trip, or a trip that required more luggage, I probably would not. When I was comparing prices before booking, WOW had the cheapest fares, but luggage fees made the difference in price less significant.

Similarly, this flight worked because I was in the no frills, budget state of mind and I was fully prepared to muscle through on limited sleep/comfort. I was lucky in my seat selection, but if I wanted to pick my seat or if I wanted in-flight entertainment, I would look elsewhere. Can I get by without an in-flight movie? Sure, but they do make some of those longer flights go faster, and I put them soundly in the quality of flight/happiness on arrival category of extras.

That said, going in with no real expectations and the student-travel mentality, WOW was a delight. The planes seemed well maintained and the service was good. I did not experience delays, cancellations, or luggage issues. The food at KEF airport (because obviously I refused to purchase anything onboard) was good. Most importantly, I was able to get where I needed to be without losing time or wasting money and for this trip that was truly everything I needed.

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I did not take any pictures en route. No one needs to see me mid-flight…