I left home at 17, and went to Saint Andrews University. 64 miles door to door, but a different planet. The first holiday I went on as an adult was to Prague in 2010 with a student from my year. She was the archetype of a Saint Andrews student: wealthy, cultured, experienced, travelled, entitled, selfish, shallow. I had £53 to my name, off my student loan that I’ve never paid back. It had to last 5 days. At the end of the holiday I said to her that when I graduated I would move to Prague. She’s scoffed: don’t be a fool, you’re going to settle in the first place you land? No, I said, this is the second.
Saint Andrews was the first.
She said despite our differences I know how you feel - nowhere feels quite right. Whether it’s a hard bed or a boiling porridge, if you’re going to be Goldilocks don’t settle for the first comfort you find, go and see all 200 countries in the world. Your home will be one of them, you just have to find it. I said okay, challenge accepted. I was flattered she called me Goldilocks. I didn’t manage that many: she and I were in different tax brackets. I first moved to Copenhagen to study, where I loved the lifestyle and the art and the architecture and the freedom, but came home to Scotland one day after a fit of rage where I told the bus driver a range of expletives because he insisted on speaking to me in English even though I was fluent in Danish. I moved to Romania as a volunteer to teach English one summer and I could’ve lived there, but all I learned in Romanian was “beer” and “cherries” and “thank you” and my stomach needed me to go elsewhere. I went to Ghana to work, and I loved that too, but my eyes were sweating and I didn’t think that was possible. Then I got malaria and I thought “midges would never do that to me!”. My 50th country was Bulgaria and I thought this is it: this is the most beautiful place in the world, it’s friendly and cheap and full of wonderful nature. I decided to view a flat there. On my way over, I fell down in a knee deep hole in the pavement and took the skin off my shins. Bulgaria wasn’t for me either, I can’t be watching the pavements all the time.
I ended up in Pollokshields in a beautiful flat on the third floor, looking onto a park and then further away, the Campsie hills. I’m facing where I was born in Dennistoun.
A cruel joke to end up 3 miles away from where I started.
The slowest journey in history, it rivals the 90 bus service.