The Things I’ve Done For Luck.

If you’ve traveled anywhere, I can guarantee you have been told that by touching something, swimming in a certain body of water, or doing some odd activity will bring you luck and good fortune. I was thinking about a few things I did on a recent trip to the Caribbean that was supposed to be healing for the body and it reminded me of all the things I have done since beginning my travels in 2010, some silly, some scary, and some just plain gross. So I thought I would compile a list of the moments that stand out for me in terms of doing something because it was considered lucky or “rejuvenating”.

The Gift of the Gab

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The land of the Irish is filled with stories based around luck and good fortune, leprechauns hiding their pots of gold and fairy rings that should you step inside the ring, you’ll be cursed by fairy protectors or transported to a land of supernatural beings or forced to dance until exhaustion and death (nice things, fairies, aren’t they?). But most importantly, and often boasted about, they believe in the gift of the gab. The ability to talk your way out of anything or being a smooth talker. For those of you interested in being blessed with such a gift, you can take a ride on up to a town called Blarney, just north of the city of Cork.

Here, you’ll find Blarney Castle and the famous Blarney Stone, or the Stone of Eloquence. Up the tower you climb until you get to a human-sized hole. It’s in this whole, a rough back bend down, that the Blarney Stone sits in the stone wall. At 90ft. above the concrete, I lay on my back and put my life in the hands of a grey-haired old man. With his hands gripping my calves, I leaned my upper body backwards and down into the hole, hanging on to the bars mounted on the stone wall. With a quick glance at the concrete below, I kissed the Blarney Stone and shot back up to safety.

Eternal Beauty

On the Isle of Skye, Scotland, there is a particular river that I’ve forgotten the name of. Flowing under a bridge, we pulled up beside it and sat around listening to a legend of the most beautiful girl in the village. Many, many years ago on her wedding day, this girl was riding her horse across the river when the horse lost her footing and down tumbled the bride-to-be, smashing her face on a rock with a pointed tip. A gruesome event, the poor girl had an eyeball hanging from its socket, her face mangled. No longer was she the most beautiful girl in the village. Determined to be married, she popped her eye back in place, though not well, and hid her face behind her veil. I Do’s were said but when the groom pulled back her veil to kiss the bride, he recoiled in disgust and, being the superficial man that he was, refused to marry her.

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Humiliated, the girl ran back to the river, where she met a leprechaun.. or perhaps a fairy. After hearing her story, the leprechaun told her that all she had to do was dip her face in that very river for no less than 7 seconds and she would be eternally beautiful. As you can imagine, we quickly lowered ourselves down and dunked our faces into the ice cold water and counted to 7.

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Clear Skin in Trinidad

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Many bodies of water around the world are said to have healing properties, rejuvenating qualities, etc. On a recent trip to Trinidad, we stopped at Pitch Lake, a “lake” filled with pitch. All of the major highways around the world use the asphalt from this lake and every time, the lake renews itself, filling again and again with asphalt. Black and smelling of tar, you can walk on the lake as the top layer is hardened, a slightly squishy surface. Certain areas of Pitch Lake are filled with small pools of water, some green in color, others black as Coca-Cola. Locals come to the pitch lake to bathe in one of these small pools as it’s said to aid in healing psoriasis and arthritis due to its medicinal properties.

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Another pool of water in the Pitch is said to be safe to drink a small bottle cap-full once a day as it’s said to keep the skin clear from acne. After playing in the water a little bit, two of us were brave enough to fill up our bottle caps and shot it back.

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The Sai Sin Bracelet

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Thailand has more symbols and amulets for luck than anywhere I’ve been. You ask any vendor on the street what the symbol on a ring, image, or other piece of jewelry means and they’ll tell you it’s for luck. You can often tell a backpacker in Southeast Asia by the collection of bracelets adorning their wrists and ankles, but there is one bracelet in particular that is said to give the wearer great luck. The Sai Sin bracelet. Up on Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I knelt before a monk and a shaman as he blessed the piece of white string before tying it to my wrist and was told that it would bring me luck in my travels, my health, and my prosperity. Whatever you do, don’t cut these bracelets off. Rather, they must break naturally from your wrist when the time is right. If you do cut it off, all the luck it was supposed to bring will be gone.

Three Wishes at the Trevi Fountain

On our very first night in Rome we found ourselves at the Trevi Fountain. There’s a number of legends about the fountain, which started many years ago. It’s said that originally, tossing in a coin or taking a drink from the fountain would ensure good health. Today, the Trevi Fountain has become a mecca for tourists from all over the world. We were told by a traveling family that you could make three wishes, on three different coins, of three different currencies. Swapping coins with one another, we each had three coins of different currencies and, with our backs to the fountain, tossed them in over our left shoulder, one at a time. Each coin had a different wish and, though I’m sure you’d like to know my wishes, they will forever be a secret.

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The Cursed Tomb of Alexander Stewart

Despite all the things I’ve done for luck, my reckless self also did something that is said to curse the individual for as long as they live. In the small Scottish town of Dunkeld sits a cathedral. Within that cathedral, is the resting place of the Earl of Buchan in 1812. After leaving his wife and six children, he was excommunicated and, as a result, he burned two towns to the ground. They say that anyone who touches his tomb will be cursed with bad luck for the rest of their lives. Whether this is true or not, perhaps the many things I have tried for good luck outweighs the curse. Either way, whenever I get a bout of unluckiness, particularly without explanation, I blame Alexander Stewart.

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These are just a few stories of the things I’ve done around the world in the name of luck and beauty. For more stories, you can read about swimming in Tobago’s Nylon Pool for rejuvenation, rubbed Juliet’s breast for luck in Verona, and doused myself in mud in St.Lucia for soft skin and healing properties.

Sunday Snapshot: Kilt Rock, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Kilt Rock, Isle of Skye

On the beautiful Isle of Skye is where this photo of Kilt Rock was taken. With these cliffs towering 55 meters above the sea, Kilt Rock and it’s cascading Mealt waterfall has become a popular tourist attraction on the island. I had the opportunity to visit the Isle of Skye with a wonderful tour group through Haggis Adventures. It was a Wednesday, and our theme for the day was magic, a fitting theme for this island. Have you been to the Isle of Skye? Visited the Kilt Rock?

That Time I Visited The Same Café as J.K Rowling

Okay, so she wasn’t actually there at the same time I was. But she had been there before and this café was known for being the very café where J.K Rowling began writing Harry Potter.

The Elephant House is a café located in Edinburgh, Scotland and is the self-proclaimed Birthplace of Harry Potter. I am a Harry Potter fan. I will admit it with no shame because only the best people truly love Harry Potter. I was eleven when the first book came out, which Harry is eleven in as well, and I grew up eagerly waiting for the next book to be released; Only to finish it within a day or two. I have read each book multiple times as well as the movies although, as always, the books are much better. The books were my childhood, a series that I will always remember and most likely will continue to re-read again and again. I plan to read it out loud to my unborn child when that day comes.

When I found myself in Edinburgh three summers ago, I had to find this café. Luckily, I was traveling with two friends who were just as crazy about Harry Potter as I was, so that worked out well. Together, we searched the cobblestone streets high and low until we found The Elephant House. There are three wonderful things about this café: J.K Rowling wrote parts of Harry Potter there, the food is pretty cheap and delicious, and it is filled with elephants!

A very popular café in Edinburgh, the Elephant House can get quite crowded at times. Despite that, this café has a peaceful, sort of inspirational feel to it when you sit down there. My friends and I went there twice and each time we had a pleasant experience. Our second time there, we were seated in the back room next to a window at a rather large table for the four of us. As we were mulling over the menu, one of us noticed that this table had drawers that opened! Being the book-loving, cheesy-story-loving group that we were, we all got incredibly excited to find that within these drawers were what seemed like hundreds of letters.

What had been planned as a quick stop for lunch turned into hours spent going through all of the drawers and reading all of the letters within them. Letters from others who had been seated at this table, many of them from travelers. There were letters from people who were unsure of where to go in their life, letters of doubt, letters from people offering words of hope and encouragement, letters of happy things to put a smile on your face and letters of inspiration that made me want to do so many more things in my life.  Of course, we all left a letter of our own to tuck away in the drawers for the next person to read.

I thoroughly enjoyed my two experiences at The Elephant House. Although it has been made popular due to J.K Rowling’s having written there, it is charming for other reasons as well. I will leave it up to you to find out why.

 
*Breaking News: according to my brother, who also had the pleasure of visiting The Elephant House, there is a wall in the bathroom dedicated entirely to people writing lovely things about Harry Potter! Wishing I had gone into the bathrooms, now!*

Memories of a Summer Highland Fling PLUS Bucket List: Sleep in a Haunted Building

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change
that goes on, deep and permanent, in the
ideas of the living,”
– Miriam Beard

In the summer of 2010 I slept in a haunted castle. Or so I was told that it was haunted by several ghosts and well, that is good enough for me. Carbisdale Castle is located near the Kyle of Sutherland (in the Scottish Highlands) and was built for a duchess. How cool is that? Nowadays, Carbisdale Castle is used as a youth hostel and it turned out to be one of the hostels that I stayed in for a night during my five day adventure of the Scottish Highlands. Nestled up on a hill and surrounded by woodland, the castle was a beautiful place to spend the night. However, that didn’t stop me from being terrified to go to the washroom, look in mirrors, or open my eyes even a peep once the lights were out. Unfortunately… (ok, so I’m secretly thankful!) I did not encounter any ghosts. But I did sleep in a castle that was said to be haunted. So, that bucket list goal was accomplished! Maybe now I need to add on a new bucket list goal: have a real, ghostly encounter? Even the thought gives me the creeps.

I’m hesitant about joining tour groups. It doesn’t matter where I go, if I go alone or with a friend, I am always convinced that I can just do it on my own.. and also, I always think it will be a lot cheaper than it would be to go on an organized tour. Despite that, I chose to sign up for a tour of the Scottish Highlands with a friend of mine. The two of us, along with a girl she had met earlier on her travels were all booked for the same tour: The 5-Day Highland Fling, a five day tour through the company Haggis Adventures. Those five days turned out to be the best five days I had ever had and, to this day, they are certainly still very high up there on my mental list of best days ever. I was extremely happy that I decided to book through Haggis Adventures. My group, whom we all dubbed “The Ayemac Clan” and even got a girl to draw a lovely crest for ourselves, was amazing. Truly the greatest group of people.

During the next five days, memories were made that will continue to last me a lifetime. Within five days I did many things. I did whiskey shots before lunch. I called out to Nessie and was fully prepared to offer a girl from our group as a sacrifice. I played in Neverland, the home of Peter Pan. I touched a tomb that has now cursed me with bad luck for eternity. On the other hand, I dunk my face into a freezing river in order to have eternal beauty. I rode around in the biggest, brightest yellow bus with the words Wild and Sexy on it for five days. I sat and saw a train cross over the Harry Potter bridge. I learned some traditional Scottish dance moves. I kissed Hamish the Hairy Coo. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. And whenever I see the letters DSL, I think of Deep Scottish Love, without fail. I actually asked a Scottish guy last summer if he knew what DSL meant and I was very, very disappointed that not every Scottish person knew what that meant, as I had believed.

I have always meant to write a post about my time on the Highland Fling tour but for some reason just never got around to doing it. Over the last two days, a video made by one of the guys in our group was rediscovered and has been circulating Facebook. I’ve watched it five times today already and have shown it to people who probably don’t actually care. So, I thought I would show it to all of you as well! Enjoy! And thank you, Rob, for the incredible video!