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  • Megan Zavaglia

What not to do when you pick up a tick while trespassing.

You know that feeling you get when there’s something crawling on you and you can’t find it? Maybe you saw a spider and then it was gone? Try having that feeling for 3 days. Three days of uncomfortable. Three days not knowing or understanding why you feel just the slightest case of heebee jeebees every minute.

Then, after taking a shower and drying yourself off, you notice a small grey spot on your back. Did you get a blister from the backpack you’ve been lugging around for 8 days? It’s smack right in the middle of your back, so it’s a bit of a contortion move just to get your arm back to feel it.

And then you touch it, the small grey bump, and little legs spread out and move around.

Did I yell? You bet I did. I also invented a new naked dance across the floor that involved jumps and shivers and full body hugs. I’m sure it would have been a sight to see.

Let me set the scene… It’s 1999, I’m staying in a youth hostel room with two sets of bunks as I didn’t want to pay a lot for accommodations. I’d made sure that no one was there as I dried off, of course, but if someone had come into the room at that moment, I’m pretty sure they would have found a manager so escort me off to the local looney bin.

Once I calmed down a bit, I turned my back to the mirror and tested one more time. If I was going to find a resolution to the situation, I had to make sure what I’d seen really was a tick.

Yep, sure enough, the legs moved but the head was firmly stuck - in my back, in between my shoulder blades.

And then, sure as the sky is blue, I knew the moment I had picked it up. I’d had the feeling that I was toting a passenger for a few days now.

I’d been in Scotland for a bit at this point. I’d been through Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival, to Inverness to see the loch and castles, over to the Isle of Sky and Portree for caleigh’s and pony trekking. I’d been through Luss and seen the grave of a Viking from 1100.

And then I did one of the things that I had most anticipated on the trip. I visited my clan castle.

My mother’s maiden name is McCammond. My understanding is that it was MacCammon before my great, great (*insert a number of “greats” here – I’m not sure how many) grandparents came to the US. But was changed upon entry as it was easier for whomever checked them in to spell it the other way. MacCammon is a sept of the Buchanan clan (think of a sept as a family within the overall group.) So, Buchanan clan, they are my people. (And yes, I love that obnoxious plaid…. Recognize this from The Drew Carey Show?)

The castle, unfortunately is now part of a golf course. The clan went without a chieftain from 1681 until recently (fascinating story on this can be found here.) It’s in complete disrepair – a ruin as you drive in to shoot 9 holes. (Although I’ve found in my research that it’s now a part of the clubhouse and looks like it’s been landscaped nicely.) The original castle burned down and what remains now was built in 1855. The golf course lay on the eastern shores of Loch Lomond. (Yes, I did take both the high and low roads while visiting. Luss is at the bottom and the boat tour I took was up into the upper lands a bit.)

I had taken a taxi to the entry of the golf course, it’s a bit of a drive in and I figured I’d walk to the castle. It was a beautiful day, blue sky with puffy clouds and not too chilly. I walked up the winding road until I approached the castle. It took my breath away – this was it, the place I’d really connected to my Scottish heritage. I had danced exhibitions at the highland game at home, pretending I was in this very castle attending a wedding or celebration.

As I approached, I could see the trees growing through the roof and how overgrown it was. I stepped off the road and went around to the back to take a moment to let it all soak in.

The castle has been there for so long. So many stories and lives were wrapped up in the building and lands around. Preparations for war, marriages, births deaths, every day moments of love and hate. It took my breath away. I was also amazed at how quickly nature will take back what man makes. This building was abandoned in 1925 but looked like it had been left for a lot longer.

I decided to go into the ruins, I’d come all this way after all, but quickly saw the “No Trespassing” signs. Quite a few of them.

Yes, I should have obeyed the signs. Yes, I risked getting hurt, falling through a floor, or having something fall on me. But this was my moment, and a few signs weren’t going to hold me back.

I ducked past the trees, under the wire, and made my way in. I ran my hands over stones that had held Scottish history. I leaned against a wall the echoed the past in my head and ate my lunch in the company of ghosts. I dreamed of period dresses, maps spread on tables in preparation for war, stolen kisses and duels on the front lawn.

Once I was able to pull myself out of my daydreams I took one last look around said goodbye to my new friends from the past and pushed my way through the dense brush back out to the road.

And there it was. The feeling…. I thought it may be that I was nervous to be caught out next to the castle, or maybe it was the spirits of the past saying goodbye.

Nope, it was my friend, the tick.

As I stood in my room and stared at the mirror three days later I realized that I didn’t really have anyone to turn to for assistance. Karma had spoken and I had to find an answer to the problem. I sighed, dressed, and caught a cab to the hospital.

Luckily in the UK, your first trip to the ER is free – even for tick removal.

I was a bit sorry to see him go in the end. He was my attachment to my clan past. (As I said, I can romanticize anything.) But, on the other hand, my pictures and memories will do just fine.

Travel Tip: What not to do when you pick up a tick while trespassing? Don’t hesitate to get help. Don’t forget the moment that he may have joined your travels. Don’t worry about that crazy naked dance on discovery. I’m pretty sure we all do that when we finally discover that reason for the heebee jeebees.

Next up: What not to do when your manor houses hotel is haunted.

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