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  • Megan Zavaglia

What not to do when your travel guide’s fly is “open”.

The year was 1999 and I was on my second international and first solo trip. I was in Scotland, Inverness at this point, and enjoying the cool and wet weather that comes with mid to late August at this longitude.

Why had I chosen Scotland for my first solo trip? The Edinburgh Fringe Festival was in full swing, a can’t miss for any theater major (I’d missed Sean Connery by 30 minutes). It was also the 50th anniversary of the Military Tattoo (a sight to be seen …. I’ll have to get into this on a future post, too much great stuff here.). This where some of my ancestors came from and a culture that I truly loved. And, they spoke English…. I wanted to have an adventure but be comfortable and sure I was understood.

On arrival in Scotland I spent some time in Edinburgh, traveling the city, seeing theater productions and attending that Tattoo, etc.. But, let’s press on, it was a busy trip and we are going to the second location on the journey, Inverness.

What does one do in Inverness as the weather is starting to turn gloomy and rainy? Why, visit the castle, search for Nessie in the Loch, and of course, take a ghost tour of the town.

There are many places in the area that are said to be haunted; from the Isle of Ness to the Falcon Foundry, Culloden (last stand of the Scot’s in the mid 1700’s) and Inverness castle itself (having been blown up twice and purported the home of Macbeth once upon a time).

I met up with the tour group early in the evening and spent the next hour and a half tromping through the narrow streets and closes. The city grew more dark and ominous the further along we got. Our guide was a short, stout man with a long face and large nose. He was dressed in period clothing complete with a ruined top hat. What was different about his choice of clothing were the pants. They were obviously corduroy, very worn, and had a hole in a very delicate location…. He had hiked white socks up over the pants, I think in an effort to make them look period, but that wasn’t working.

I really enjoyed the tour as our guide was marvelous at weaving history into the stories. He’d bring light to the mysteries that each alley presented and brought the city around me to life. But I’ll be honest, the pants distracted me. Didn’t he know pants with that a hole in that part of the pants was probably not the best choice to wear? As the tour ended, I waiting for my turn to offer him a tip and thank him for his time and knowledge. I thought about how I could let him know how off-putting the pants were…. It bothered me that maybe other people would find it as distracting as I did and not hear the great history that he was telling.

But then I stopped. And I had a moment of realization that put a lot of the last 5 years of my life into focus.

Question: Why did it bother me so much??

Answer: I had spent my time in college ensuring perfection for others, looking for the small flaws to fix. I had worked hard to make sure that I had good grades, graduating cum laude. I was chosen to stage manage a brand new program for my university which had me spend my final summer working at the theater. I was lead crew for many of the main stage productions and was the one that you could generally count on if you ever needed anything. I was there for everyone else and I was the one that “fixed” it.

Now that I was out, on my own, trip planned as I wanted with no one to slow me down, I didn’t have to fit perfection. I didn’t have to be the one everyone depended on, I had to be the one that I depended on.

When my turn came, I politely thanked him for a great tour and offered up my tip. He doffed his cap for me and suggested a pub where I could find some local spirits, both the kind for drinking and the more ethereal type. I spent the evening drenched in the knowledge that I was finally on my own. I didn’t have to parade or bend or flex or BE anything or anyone but who I wanted to be at that moment. The knowledge was pretty freeing, so I had another pint or two to congratulate myself. And maybe a pint or two more for good measure. Let’s just say, it’s a good think my hostel was within walking distance when I left the pub in the wee hours of the morning.

Travel Tip: What not to do when your travel guide’s fly is “open”? Don’t feel like you have to fix it. If it’s polite and obviously an error, be kind. But otherwise, step back, enjoy the tour and watch out for the ghosties that may be waiting at the next turn.

NOTE: Please, be kind to the young woman in this picture. The hat should let you know this is the late 90's....

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


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