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At the end of August I made my first international trip by heading off to a writing retreat in Scotland and then taking a couple extra days to travel down to London. It was amazing, but could have felt more like a disaster.

I had planned on being a guest at this writing retreat, and help out my writing coach who was running it a little here and there. Well, Scotland had other plans for us. Angie and MIchael run the conferences and retreats together but Michael wasn’t able to come at the last minute. Angie came, fully prepared to run everything solo until she got horribly sick for five days of the week long retreat. And that was just the beginning. The castle toilets had problems, rental cars had fender benders, and the internet was only slightly better than dial up.

As part of Angie’s team, I stepped in and helped out. Chad and I shopped for groceries, picked up guests from the airport an hour and a half away, and one day I spent the entire day cleaning the castle in my own fairy tale Cinderella story. While I didn’t get the writing done I would have liked, I was still able to see the things I wanted to see in Scotland, and drove all over the Scottish Highlands.

In the past I would have considered this a tragedy. Proof that bad things seem to happen around me an felt guilty at the money I had spent. But that is no longer me. I loved every bit of my trip. I got to see amazing things, interact with regular Scottish folks, and discover their openness and kindness. One guy pulled my husband and I out of a ditch (the roads are very narrow and a huge truck was coming. We couldn’t find a pull off- so Chad pulled to the side without seeing that within the thick greenery there was a small ditch hidden by the grass). We got to try Scottish dishes like Bangers & Mash, Haggis, Bridies, Scotch Eggs, Sausage Rolls, and many more.

Things went wrong, but that didn’t destroy my vacation despite the amount of work I put in. I found the joy and humor in the things that were happening. I was disappointed not to get the writing time I needed, but I got an even bigger gift. I got experiences that will make my books richer. I got to trace my husband’s ancestors through their hometowns. I got to read a journal written by the man who left Scotland and immigrated to the United States and visit the places he talked about. As I stood in the Blairgowrie Cemetery taking pictures of gravestones, distant bagpipe music floated with the cool breeze. While I scrubbed the castle and delivered food down the hallway and up a flight of stairs I got a glimpse of what it would have been like to live hundreds of years ago, while being grateful for modern conveniences. I still got my international speaking credentials and was able to hammer out story boards for two books.

In London I saw amazing things and felt the pulse of a huge city. I also experienced the hush of Westminster Abbey, the bird’s eye view from the Shard, and the calm of floating down the Thames. I loved the rich architecture I viewed from a double decker open topped bus, hundreds of years of history within the Tower of London, and the beauty of Tower Bridge.

By overcoming the issues that prevented me from enjoying my every day life, I have also learned how to enjoy the extraordinary. Just like life, trips have problems. It rains the whole time, or everyone gets sick. Don’t allow those things to prevent you from enjoying the experiences that are there for you. There is always joy to be found, if we are willing to receive it.