How long do you think it takes to see a city? Like really see it… One week? Three days? How about ONE HOUR??
I am currently in Scotland hanging out with some family visiting from Australia. I met up with them on the Isle of Islay in the Hebrides, and apparently there is no direct flights (or anything remoted resembling one) from Munich. As a result, I made an epic journey via London and Glasgow including a four-hour layover at Glasgow Airport.
I had originally planned to spend those four hours chilling at the airport. Then a colleague told me about a horror 8-hour layover she experienced in JFK (it was post 9/11 and luggage deposit areas had become outlawed for security reasons) and I realised there was another option: I could actually leave the airport and sneak a peek at Glasgow.
Four hours in an airport vs one hour in Glasgow
By all accounts, Glasgow had not been sold to me as the most inspiring city. Perhaps if it had been, it would have seemed worse to venture in there for less than an hour.
As it was, Glasgow airport did not appear to deem luggage-deposit a security threat, the bus journey transpired to be less than half an hour, and there didn’t really seem to be THAT much to see in the city. So I resolved I would live a little, and head into Glasgow for 55 minutes.
It would be very unfair of me to base my opinion of Glasgow solely on this one hour of aimless wandering.
However, an hour is enough to gain some first impressions, and even before I left the airport some small encounters began to indicate to me the character of Glasgow.
The guy at the luggage deposit tried to come on to me
Or rather, his Manager did on his behalf. I had just finished responding to the standard procedure questions and was in the process of leaving my contact details when he quipped “whatever you do don’t give him your phone number, he’s single and looking for a girlfriend.”
The luggage deposit guy winked and said: “he doesn’t know you’ve already given it me,” pointing at the contact sheet. I felt myself going very pink.
In Munich, guys don’t act like this at all. Maybe it’s just me, but if the guy behind the bar tries to make some pleasant conversation then you’re doing well. And flirting in general takes a very efficient and business-like manner (plus there’s always the risk that the guy you meet on Tinder turns out to be bi-sexual, but that’s a story for another time).
Note to self: must learn to toughen up quickly, as I suspect this will only get worse as I travel to London.
A lady stopped me in the street to say “be careful of your camera”
I couldn’t help but respond “why?” (as politely as I could) thinking “have some strange privacy laws been implemented in this country since last time I was here?”
“Because ye dinna wanna geet it stolllen,” she replied (sorry, I am currently reading Outlander and as a result I am now perfectly fluent in spelling out Scottish accents). What made this comment worse was that the camera was actually strapped around my neck, so someone would practically have had to punch me in the face to steal it from me.
But as you can imagine, I clung tightly to my camera after that moment.
Seeing a city in less than an hour
So, the first paragraph of this post is largely tongue-in-cheek. You can’t skim the surface of a city in a week, let alone in one hour. However, to me travel is all about two things: 1. Being open to things that are different from what you are used to, and 2. Making the most of the opportunities that are presented to you.
Sure, I would have preferred to stay in Glasgow for a day rather than an hour (actually, maybe that’s a bad example, but you get my point). In fact, this applies to most of the places I visit nowadays. I could have stayed in Istanbul for a month, but instead I got a long weekend. Still – I would rather a long weekend than nothing. I would even rather an hour than nothing. It is still an opportunity to witness something I have never seen before.
Often I hear people say “You’ve seen more of Europe than I have and I live here”, or “one day I would like to go there, but I would like to do it when I have more time”.
The thing is, I would rather see a place when I have the opportunity, rather than take my chances on the uncertain future.
This isn’t an attitude I have always had – it is a travel attitude that has developed over my past 14 months living in Europe. To me, every day of annual leave is a chance to explore a new country; every weekend is the chance to explore a new city; and – hell – every spare hour of a layover is the chance to get out and see a new place!
Sure, Glasgow was certainly not my favourite place in the world, but I had the chance to go there and I took it. And I wouldn’t change a thing.