Dinner with Monica and Audrey

(Photo: Monica, Me, and Audrey)
About thirteen years ago, I worked for a company in Kokomo, Indiana in a department with only two other employees. These aren't those people in this photo, but I'll get to that. One of those co-workers was Randy, one of my best friends since seventh grade and like a brother to me, so we always stayed in contact. The third was a woman named Tracy who I haven't talked to in those thirteen years.

I can't say we were the most motivated go-getters the corporate world had ever seen, but the three of us had a lot of fun while sort of doing our jobs. When I was in Dublin a couple of months ago, something made me wonder whatever happened to Tracy. I made a mental note to find her on Facebook later, but it wouldn't be necessary. While taking photos of Saint Patrick's Cathedral later that day, I received a message from Tracy. She apparently had the same thought.

I know the world is full of coincidences, but this was a surprise. We got caught up on what had happened in our lives in the thirteen years. After the company in Kokomo went out of business, which I can't stress enough had nothing to do with us, Tracy worked for another company with a woman named Monica, who would later move to Scotland. 

Tracy told Monica to follow my progress across the country, and if I got close enough, find me and give me a big hug. It turned out that my planned route actually went right through Monica's hometown. She contacted me and invited me to dinner.

"Whatever you fancy," she said. She mentioned a few restaurants in the area, including a Mexican restaurant. I said I was craving real Mexican food, so picked that. Although, I hadn't seen any real Mexican food in the UK so far, I figured, surely there have been Mexican restaurateurs who decided to come here and open restaurants.

(Photo: Mexican Appetizer Fail.)
"Real Mexican food in Scotland? When I read that I laughed," she said. "It's not like what you are used too, but it's good."

I arrived first and got us a table. Starving, I hoped the waitress would bring out some tortillas and salsa, because doesn't every Mexican Restaurant do that? Instead she brought over a tiny dish that contained a handful of popcorn. The food disappointments in Ireland and the UK keep piling up. It would have been less disappointing if she brought nothing at all.

When Monica and her partner Audrey arrived, Monica fulfilled her promise and gave me a big hug despite me being a homeless stranger. When the waitress came by our table for the third time we had to promise that we'd stop talking long enough to actually look at our menus and be ready to order the fourth time she came by.

Being from America, Monica sympathized with those unsatisfied food cravings, however, the food was great, so I'll stop complaining about it (in this post anyway). Even if it hadn't been great, it wouldn't have matter because I loved getting to sit down with Monica and Audrey for the conversation. While walking over the Scottish Highlands, I've had few long conversations.

We talked in that restaurant for over three hours. Much of that conversation was about living simpler lives. Monica said when she met Audrey and moved to Scotland she told her that her dream was to quit her job, sell all her stuff, buy an RV, travel the world, stop in every little hick town, then work in a diner for a couple weeks to make enough money to hit the next dive. She wondered if she could really give up her possessions to live such a life.

"People always say things to me like, I wish I could do what you do but I couldn't live without blank... " I said. "Like sleeping in a comfortable bed every night, getting a hot shower every morning, or a having roof over their head when it's raining. I love those things too, but you also gain a lot by living a simpler life. And when I do have those things after depriving myself of them for a while, I appreciate them so much more."

"Oh yeah, speaking of that," Monica said and pulled a piece of paper out of her purse. "We booked you a room at a hotel tonight."

(Photo: Back on the road toward the Scottish border)
I was not expecting that at all. Nor was I expecting the card she gave me telling me how great it was to meet me, which also contained enough money for a couple more meals.

The room came with a free drink at the bar. I had a glass of red wine, which I had been craving, then took a shower and crawled into a bed with thick warm blankets and fluffy pillows.

I got a late start the next morning, because in the rare moments when I get a hotel, I don't leave until I'm absolutely required to. At noon, I got an email from Monica asking about my plans for the day. Soon after, she picked me up from the hotel to go have coffee and continue our conversation, which probably lasted another three hours. By then, Monica said I must be getting hungry, so asked if I wanted to go to their house for dinner.

After eating and after the sun went down, I said, "So what is the plan tonight? I never asked. Am I allowed to sleep here on your couch or floor?"

"Oh I already booked you another room in a hotel," she said.

She told me she booked it that morning when realizing we were going to get coffee and would probably be talking a while and have dinner that night, so she knew I'd never get around to walking. I don't even know how to properly thank someone for doing so much for me.

I admit that the frequent rain and lack of people around have made my walk across Scotland more difficult than I imagined, but Monica and Audrey helped me remember one of the things I gained by making those sacrifices in order to live a simpler life, to expect your days to go one way and routinely have them go somewhere completely unexpected.

Thank you Monica and Audrey for making this happen!