The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
By Miriam Rutzen
[Editor's Note: Using the opportunity between jobs to pursue her dreams of travel over the course of one year, Miriam Rutzen of Sciota is sharing this series of her thoughts on her travels and stops along the way over six months, sixteen countries, three continents, and "a great deal of jet lag", she says.
"I made a bet with my dad that I would make it to all seven continents by age 27."
Miriam already had ventured to Australia in 2009 and Europe in 2013 leaving her with only the most difficult-Antarctica. Her first columns were Peru, and Toyko, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Singapore, Germany and this week is.
In 1981 a British film was produced called "Chariots of Fire." In it the rivalry between two runners, Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams, is chronicled in their college years leading up to the 1924 Olympics.
Having watched this movie as inspiration during my own high school running days, my joy was tremendous when I thought I found myself at the home track of Eric Liddell, one of the greatest runners of all time.
I imagined the fans in the bleachers and surrounding the track, the athletes stretching on the infield, the gun going off, and I couldn't resist: I started running.
Just one lap and only for fun, I hummed the theme song in triumph as I made my way around the track, reliving my days of sprinting the forsaken 400m dash. I crossed the finish line, took my obligatory cheesy selfie:
And found out a day later neither Eric Liddell nor Harold Abrahams attended Oxford University, but rather University of Edinburgh (Scotland) and Cambridge respectively. A comedy of historical errors on the one hand or a fantastic 72 hours of learning and walking on the other, this trip to the United Kingdom was one example of last minute itinerary adjustments to capitalize on opportunities. Never having had a desire to visit Scotland, it took a Harvard teammate (attending the University of Edinburgh) and then a cousin randomly visiting to push me into the decision. As long as I could tack on a quick trip to one of my favorite destinations, London, and explore the campus of Oxford (this was prior to learning my error of course), the trip would be well worth it.
The United Kingdom includes four countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Although I did not make it to Wales or Northern Ireland, I did spend time in the capital cities of London and Edinburgh. During college I took a class called "The British Empire" and learned all about the triumphs and pitfalls of the expansion and reduction of the British-controlled world.
On a previous Europe trip, some new friends took me on an eight-hour tour of London and it had been a blast.
All of this played into my self-assured confidence in my ability to navigate the city as well as transport out to Oxford overnight without mishap.
Thankfully, my cockiness didn't get the best of me as I relied on strangers to help me when I found myself in a mishap or two.
Some well-known sites in London are Big Ben, the London Eye (a Ferris wheel), the London Tower and Tower Bridge, the Thames River, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and the Churchill War Rooms. In Edinburgh, the largest arts festival in the world was taking place: the Fringe Festival.
The streets were filled with live music, shows played every night, and tourists from all over the world flocked the streets.
I, in my ignorance, only learned of the festival upon arrival to the city and found myself right in the middle of the excitement.
Connection: While finishing off my time in Germany at the Black Forest Academy, I spent my evenings brainstorming my next step.
I had blocked out roughly two weeks of a completely open schedule with my only booked transit being a plane ticket out of Naples, Italy that would take me to Tokyo. The timing was mid-August when most European families were enjoying "holiday" (aka summer vacation from work and school).
I knew my Harvard teammate was attending the University of Edinburgh for her Master's Degree in Public Health, but a trip north to the colder weather did not sound all of that appealing.
When she called me out on skipping over her for a visit and I simultaneously saw that one of my cousins was in Edinburgh as well for a missions trip, the adventure was too hard to pass up.
Flights into Scotland were quite expensive, so I justified a quick less than 24-hour trip to London.
I flew out of Basel, Switzerland to London, took the Oxford Tube bus out to campus (about a two hour drive), spent the night at a hostel, rode the bus back in the next morning, walked from Buckingham Palace to the London Tower Bridge, hopped on a train that afternoon up to Edinburgh, then walked the streets with my friend until 2 in the morning.
New record of walking: 17 miles in 24 hours. Check.
Favorites: More like miracles. I mentioned mishaps:I bought the bus ticket for the wrong days: the bus driver was a gentlemanly saint and let me get on anyway, both times.
I had not made a reservation for where I would spend the night at Oxford and as I used the bus wifi at 10pm that night, everything was either really expensive or booked: hallelujah the highly-rated hostel of YHA had some room when I arrived at their front desk at 12:30am.
Waking up without an alarm at 5am to run all over the Oxford campus was a dream come true: not having anything stolen, also a dream come true. Strolling along the Thames was heavenly (roughly four miles) only because it was slightly overcast, otherwise it would have been rough.
Borrowing the phone of a true Scot because I had overslept and was off-roading to catch my bus for the Highlands Tour was a memorable moment. Loads of sweat included.
Not getting completely lost as I meandered around the Blair Castle grounds and wound up late, but not left, for the continuation of the bus tour also a miracle. Simply put, the adventures were numerous.
Challenges: Thankfully, many of the moments that could have been challenges only turned into memorable stories. I did not want to pay extra for international phone service; and while I am still content with my choice, that meant any time I was off of wifi service, I could only rely on the part of my map that was already loaded. This also meant running the risk of my phone dying and needing to recharge the battery. Not quite sure how I made it out in one piece, but here I am!
One unforgettable moment included a late night gathering on the Edinburgh campus to celebrate the birthday of one of the men's basketball players. His friend was quite talkative and from Glasgow. If you ever get the chance to listen to a Glasegian speak, your life will never be the same! Cheers!
Photos of my travels can be found on Facebook or Instagram: mrutzen25 and more in depth stories are chronicled at www.miriamrutzen.blogspot.com.