A journey of body and spirit begins long before the first steps on solid ground. I had dreamed the journey, I had cast spells for the journey, I had journaled my wish for the journey and set my intention to draw this journey out of the ether and into the world of substance. I began to weave the magickal and the mundane in preparation for those steps. My search engines and YouTube became dedicated tools as much as all my notes and books and magickal workings. In retrospect, I chuckle at some… for instance I became a frequent viewer of the very dated but very helpful You Tube series, “Speaking our Language…Learn Scottish Gaelic.” I chuckle a bit as I remember caring for my toddler grandson and rattling off “Ciamar a tha sibh? Tha gu math, tapadh leat.” Spoiler alert…I did not succeed in learning the language, but I did use that phrase a few times…especially the tapadh leat, which means thank you.
Having been to the United Kingdom before I listed areas that called to me to return. I compiled information on ley lines, sacred sites and especially places meaningful to me. I am a Vermonter and rugged landscapes with rock outcroppings always make my heart soar. I knew I wanted to walk in the Highlands as I had done years before. I wanted to feel the cold winds that carry the cold rains, I wanted to breathe sweet air and sink my feet into the dark Highland mud. I debated just getting off the plane with no plan verses having an itinerary with dots laid out on a map. I opted for drawing only broad brush strokes and coloring in lots of flexibility. Once that decision was made I made my first purchases: Guide Books, Rick Steves’ Guide Books for Scotland, Great Britain and Wales; Lonely Planet guide book for Scotland and the Rough Guide book for Scotland.
I have always opted for travelling light, whether an overnight jaunt or a month of travel. This has been somewhat of a challenge for me because often times in my ritual and teaching life, lugging heavy baskets and multiple items is the rule rather than the exception. I am convinced, however, that to travel via plane for any amount of time is to travel light, and that was especially true for this journey. I have learned that back packs work better for me than any size suitcase on wheels. When a suitcase has wheels it seduces me into believing that adding an item or two to the mix does not matter…usually those items are best left at home. The goal was not to check my luggage, to be able to carry it on my back for extended distances and periods of time, and also to be able to comfortably lift it into the overhead compartments of planes, trains and buses. For me, that meant that the pack had to weigh no more than 16 pounds and be able to fit in most of those compartments. I have climbed enough stairs in train stations and B and Bs to learn that carrying something on your back is easier than tugging something up a staircase, heavy and sighing with every stair. I have also witnessed my share of tourists who struggle to get luggage on and off the trains or wait in long lines for the elevators while the stairs are just a hop away. So, I did treat myself to a new Rick Steves Classic Back Door bag… the basic one, not the convertible one. The convertible one expands and I knew I would have a difficult time convincing myself not to tuck some other items into that compartment. That being said my bag is 21’X14”X9” and weighs less than two pounds. It does not taper like many packs and it’s squared off design is more easily organized. This trip I also planned to use packing cubes to keep everything in order and to eliminate packing and unpacking and packing again at every stop.
This trip presented some additional challenges for light packing. I was travelling in the Highlands where temperatures would still be in the 40s, but I would be there for an extended period of time, plus I might spend some time in England, so there was a chance I would experience much warmer temperatures. An on line search produces numerous resources and advice on light packing. I found a video on line produced by Rick Steves featuring Sarah Mudoch. Sarah is one of the Steves tour guides. She had just returned from a trip to Italy, so not only did the video show how and what to pack, but it was based on the pack she had brought to Italy. The video was so helpful that I subscribed to her blog: Adventures with Sarah.net. Not only was it informative and entertaining, but she was quick to answer emails regarding my particular dilemma. And Sarah is really hard core on packing light.
In order to help anchor the journey in substance, my first tether would be my airline ticket. I quickly discovered that flights from Tampa to London were considerably more convenient and less expensive than flights from Tampa to Edinburgh. Since I planned to purchase a British Rail pass to ensure flexibility as well as savings, flying to London seemed the best plan….it did however, cast part of my journey in stone…the beginning and the end. London, not Edinburgh; England not Scotland. Regardless of the free flow of travel, I enjoy the security of having reservations for my first and last nights of my journey. After a night flight from Tampa, I wanted to have an easy and comfortable, but still interesting place for a night or two to regroup and recover. There was York staring up from the map in bold letters. I am not sure what I love about York, but I had fond memories of my last trip, so without further deliberation, I booked two nights at the Arnot House. The Arnot House is within walking distance from the train station and just around the corner from the City Wall. Perfect, fly into Gatwick, navigate passport control, train to King’s Cross, hop a second train to York. Sigh of relief.
The need to decide on the last night of my journey forced me to make a major decision about where to spend both my birthday and MidSummer. My initial plan was to be at the standing stones in Lewis or at Tigh na Cailleach in Glen Lyon or even on Ben Nevis, but now that would not work because I needed to be near Heathrow for my return flight on June 22. A few years ago I had thought about MidSummer at Stonehenge, but that no longer called to me. Much to my surprise messages popped up everywhere…random thoughts, random images. During one of my walks I was playing an album by Kellianna. “Mists of Avalon.” Okay, Goddess, I get it…Glastonbury. I would spend both my birthday and MidSummer there before heading to London and Heathrow. I had to make reservations because it would be three, maybe four nights. Synchronisity…a pagan themed B and B. The name? The Covenstead, the room? Hedgewitch. Sometimes the Goddess changes your plans, sometimes they are different, but prove to be infinitely more magickal.