My fortnight in Scotland ended up being one of the most inspirational weeks I’ve had whilst travelling. I was given the opportunity to be around people who were all driven and motivated to make a positive difference to other people’s lives and who feel passionate about social issues.
I was there with three incredible girls (Ellen, Pippa and Yaz) promoting the show ‘You, Me and the Distance Between Us’, which Ellen had written about the realities of Europe’s refugee camps. I had originally met Ellen for a few days when our time volunteering in Greece overlapped. Ellen is one of those people who is inspirational, courageous, driven and continuously overflowing with energy. To say I jumped at the chance to help her out with the show is an understatement and that’s all credit to Ellen for being so bloody amazing!
The week mainly consisted of promoting the show, in true Edinburgh Fringe style, pounding the pavements and pitching to people who have already been flyered to about 150 times that day! The show went extremely well and the feedback was fantastic. I felt so honoured to have been part of the team and to spend time with such amazing people. It really gave me a boost I didn’t really know I had been looking for.
Other activities included hijacking an empty fringe stage and putting on an impromptu show to an empty room after a few drinks, throwing some shapes for a few hours on the dance floor, comedy, shows, cooking, and heaps of other happy times.
Meeting new and old friends…sometimes unexpectedly!
I bumped into so many people whilst I was in Scotland, who I had no idea were going to be there. The ultimate ‘reunion’ was as I was flyering in a very busy place and I just heard ‘Poppy?’, I looked up and it took a few seconds to realise that the two girls stood in front of me were two American girls who I’d met in Lisbon on a night out, only 10 days earlier! The world is such a small place!
In addition to that, I also bumped into a number of uni friends randomly, was able to meet up with a fellow traveller I met in China, and spend time with some old school friends, Sj and Victoria. Seeing so many people from different parts of my life in a short time was pretty amazing, especially given that whilst travelling I’ve only been meeting new people.
The Butterfly Effect
One particular conversation was the catalyst for a chain reaction of positive events. I tell this story not to draw attention to what happened, but to show how one person can inspire another, who inspires another and the chain of positive effect continues.
One afternoon, I was having cup of tea in a cafe and two guys next to me started to chat to me and it transpired that they were also involved in a show at Edinburgh Fringe. The two of them had started a company and had written a show they were performing at the Fringe, tackling issues about homelessness. In order to raise further awareness they both walked from London to Edinburgh and camped along the way, as well as camping during the Fringe and volunteering at various shelters and soup kitchens. We had a long chat about the issues surrounding homelessness; the stereotypes, some specific situations and how many people are very lonely and feel isolated.
Later that evening I was waiting to meet a friend and a homeless woman came and sat next to me. I recognised her from earlier when I had been out flyering for the show. I asked her if she wanted anything to eat. She said that she was really hungry and I went and bought her some food. We introduced ourselves and had a brief chat before I left to meet my friend. The next day I saw her again and we sat together and chatted for a bit and she told me about her story and the difficulties she faces. In order to not identify her I won’t go over her story, but it isn’t your stereotypical drugs or alcohol story that you might be expecting (not that this should make it any more or less important). I found her very inspiring as she still remains positive, actively does things to try and help herself and others around her in the same situation.
I happened to be speaking to a friend later about the whole thing and he offered to book a hotel room for her (part paid in points on a loyalty scheme with a hotel chain). Isn’t that amazing? Someone who has never met the person we are talking about has offered to go out of their way to help them out. So I go and speak to her and first ask her if she wants to stay in a hotel if I can book somewhere. She says yes, that would be great. She immediately asks if I will join her for the evening in the hotel so we can stay there together. Of course I say yes, we plan the evening, she takes my mobile number and we agree a time to meet outside the hotel.
I check us in and then go and wait for her in the agreed place. Over 45 minutes later she still hasn’t arrived and I don’t have a call or any messages. I see if she is sat where she normally is, but she isn’t. And the reality dawns on me that she doesn’t want to be found and that she isn’t going to show up. I spent the evening in the hotel room doing a little soul searching, trying to work out what had gone wrong. Had she decided that she just didn’t want to share a room anymore? Or that the idea of going into a nice hotel was intimidating? Or that maybe the whole thing had been some kind of joke? Or had something happened? Finally I stopped thinking of all the ‘what-if’ scenarios. I realised how complex people’s situations can be and that we have to understand that things that seem straight forward to us (in our privileged lives), aren’t necessarily simple to others. I have wondered since exactly what I could have done to help her instead, as I always asked her what it was I could get her, rather than assume. Whatever it was, she obviously had good reason and I really hope things work out for her.
I nearly didn’t put this in my blog for fear that the outcome of this story might dissuade others from helping people a similar position. But I ultimately decided that there were so many things I learnt from this that I really wanted to share it.
1. We can inspire others, who then take action as a result (as these two guys inspired me, who then inspired a friend to book a hotel room for someone in need).
2. It reinforced the fact that these things are not about us. We can try and help where we can, but we have to accept that it is never about us or how we may feel about an outcome.
3. We lead privileged lives where we can’t even see many complexitiies that other people face.
I took a lot from this whole experience and it really helped me understand another layer of a very complex issue. I’m really thankful to the guys I met in the cafe and to the woman who shared her story with me and allowed me to learn the lessons above. I also hope that by sharing it further it goes on to have even more of a positive impact, than if it wasn’t shared at all.
I got totally swept up in the two weeks I was there, which resulted in very little video footage. I also had been wanting to play around with the trailer mode on iMovie, so I have just done a tongue in cheek trailer about the show. More for my benefit, but for consistency I will add it to the blog too!