When I applied for the St. Lawrence University Travel Enrichment Grant, I was doubtful that the school would be willing to support my endeavor. Previous recipients of the grant had immersed themselves in research; this is not what I wanted to do. My project was simple, but unconventional: I wanted to go to Scotland to write. I would be studying abroad in London during Fall 2019, and planned for the trip to take place mid-October when the stream of tourists had slowed to a trickle. Thankfully, St. Lawrence and the Giltz family were incredibly generous and believed in this creative mission of mine.
I’ve taken many writing courses at SLU under inspiring professors like Natalia Singer, Joe Wilkins, Sara Schaff, Paul Graham, and others. Eager to apply what they’ve taught me to a larger project, I decided to write a story about Scotland. I had visited Scotland with my father for a backpacking trip through the Highlands three years prior, but the trip was somber and cheerless because of recent strains on our family. I’ll spare the details, but in a nutshell: Scotland was beautiful, but I was too closed-off and despondent to appreciate it.
My story, which proved to be much more difficult to write than I’d anticipated, parallels the two trips– the first and the second. I structured the piece around the locations that we visited on both trips: Mallaig, Broadford, Portree, Fort William, etc. Within those subsections, I wrote about everything from the weather and the land, to more emotional, familial subjects. The project blends together aspects of flash pieces, personal essays, and travel writing. Through writing it, I’ve learned about the difficulty in accurately characterizing people (especially family members, who you know so well); how challenging it can be to write originally about nature, without any clichés; and how to fill in gaps in your memory when recalling past events (always keep a journal!).
This project has helped me to get my foot in the door with travel writing, a genre that I’ve never written pieces in before. It has also given me plenty of content for a memoir, which I’ve just been approved to write for an Honors Project my senior year. And, of course, it was a great way for me to challenge myself and synthesize the skills I’ve learned throughout my three years at SLU. Finally, and most importantly, writing this story has helped me to work through my own grief. I’m incredibly grateful that the school, and the generous Giltz family, gave me the opportunity to write this story. Revisiting the Highlands gave me a second chance at experiencing Scotland, and I will be forever grateful for this.