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Earlier this month, my husband and I drove to Michigan and back on old highways, backroads, and even a few gravel roads for all but a few miles when we skirted Chicago on I-90. We even took a ferry across Lake Michigan in our quest for the roads less traveled. (Don’t even mention our GPS – she’s very frustrated with us for disregarding her advice.) The many unique images that were our reward included seeing an Amish farmer steering a homemade digger behind a team of 6 horses while his bonnet clad wife and little girls and suspendered little boys watched from behind the barn… the sun setting behind the cemetery of a little country church in Wisconsin… and marshy stretches of Lakes Michigan, Erie and Huron, and more – all things we never would have glimpsed on the Interstate.

Likewise, there are certain things a tourist expects to see while traveling in Scotland – bagpipers, Loch Ness,

Scotland - Bagpipes  Scotland Urquart Castle on Loch Ness

old castles and older abbeys,

Scotland Castle  Scotland Sweetehart Abbey

and if you’re lucky, heather blooming in the highlands and men in kilts.

Scotland flowers by the sea  Scotland Bagpipers

But  if you’re brave-hearted enough to rent an auto and drive down Scotland’s narrow little byways (we call them golf cart paths or bicycle trails) on the left side of the road (assuming they’re wide enough to accommodate two cars), you’re going to discover all kinds of hidden gems that the average visitor won’t see.

Last week, I posted a blog at Blue Belle Books – http://www.SherrieHansen.wordpress.com – about Things I Learned While Traveling in Scotland. It was very well-received. Here are a few more glimpses of why I love Scotland and why I started my Wildflowers of Scotland novels.

1. If you’re not sure where you’re supposed to go next, walk to the top of the nearest hill and have a good look around. Most likely, you’ll see something that will point you in the right direction.

Scotland - sheep

2. If the top of the hill is in a cloud, walk down to the valley and follow the river. You’ll know what to do.

Scotland - Hill with it's head in the clouds

3. If you’re feeling downtrodden, bow your head and let the sun shine down on you for awhile. Things will get better.

Scotland Bashful Rose

4. Don’t be afraid to get a little creative when painting your house.  A little color can really brighten your day.

Scotland - Tobermory 5

5. You never know what you’re going to find in your path. That’s life. Deal with it. It’s probably nothing to worry about.

Scottish Hedgehog

6. Learn what you can from those who have gone before us and try not to make the same mistakes.

Scotland Standing Stones

7. Take a close look and make sure you’re not missing something that could be key.

Scotland Castle Top

8.  If you’re in unfamiliar waters, look for a bright light to guide you.

Scotland Lighthouse

9. Grow a thick hide and you’ll be able to withstand the strongest storms.

Scotland Coo

10.  Never be too proud to call a friend and ask for help.

Scotland Phone Booth

11.  If you’re lost, look for clues. They’re everywhere.

Scotland - Beach at Ayr

12. If you have a problem, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Creative solutions are the best!

Scotland Fishing Shack

Reading one of my books may be a little like traveling along the road less traveled, too. Your expectations might not be met exactly, but there are going to all kinds of little surprises and insights that you’ll likely discover along the way that you never would have stumbled upon if you hadn’t dared to venture from the mainstream to give one a try.

In the meantime, keep looking up!

Scotland - Castle Cross

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My books aren’t written about the most earth-shattering events. When you read one of my books, you can be fairly certain that the world isn’t going to end in 24 hours. Life as we know it isn’t going to cease to exist. Murders – at least of anyone you dearly love – aren’t likely and extreme violence is rare. But my characters do learn and grow from the world around them, be it a sleepy little town in the heartland where everybody knows way too much about everybody else, the coldest place in the USA, or a quaint village in Scotland or Denmark. My characters are smart, savvy, and intuitive, They know how to figure things out and make the best of a bad situation. Sometimes it takes them awhile, but in the end, there’s always an ah-ha moment, a reawakening, an eyes-open-wide experience when they finally get it.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]  Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]

Last night, I spoke about my latest books, Thistle Down and Wild Rose, at the library in Hudson, Iowa, where my husband is a pastor. We had only a small crowd, but my photo journey of Scotland on the big screen was well received, the caramel shortbread disappeared very quickly, and I sold 7 books. More importantly, it was good for me to get my slides and my impressions of Scotland organized in to a nice presentation, since my next two books will be set in Tobermory (Blue Belle) and on the Isle of Skye (Shy Violet). If anyone wants a speaker for their library or group, let me know! I’m all set now, as well as being inspired to start working on my Wildflowers of Scotland novels again.

Here’s part of what I spoke about – lessons learned while traveling in Scotland:

1. Don’t stay inside and miss out just because it’s raining a little.

Image

I’m not recommending that you venture out in a hurricane to see what’s up or become a storm chaser in tornado alley, or go looking for your cows in the middle of a raging blizzard, but so many people miss out on so many opportunities because it’s a little windy or overcast or too hot outside. The day we had designated for golfing St. Andrews, visiting the beautiful gardens on nearby Cambo Estates, and hiking down to the sea on the garden path, was alternately drizzly, and downright sopping wet. Between the 7th and 8th holes of the famous golf course, my husband was so wet that he ducked into the men’s room at the clubhouse, took off his shirt, and crouched under the hand dryer to take the chill off. Would he have missed the probably once in a lifetime chance to golf St. Andrews so he could stay warm and cozy? No way.

Image

Mark’s sister, Becky and I donned floppy hats and vinyl rain gear, shielded our cameras with a sheet of plastic and slipped at slid over the muddy paths that wound through the walled garden and down to the sea at Cambo Estates.

191 Scotland - Cambo gardensSea2

Were we sorry? No. In fact, here’s another lesson learned.

Image

2. Colors are brighter on cloudy days and raindrops on roses are one of my favorite things.

Image

3. When your life appears to be crumbling around you and everything’s in ruins, there’s still beauty to be found. (On the beach at St. Andrews.)

203 Scotland St. Andrews

4. When everything around you feels sad and gray, add a splash of color to the mix and everything will look brighter.

173 Scotland House Blue Door

5. Keep looking up! There’s always a rainbow after the storm.

135 Scotland - Rainbow 5

6. Even the most nondescript things in life look better if you plant a few flowers.

166 Scotland Window boxes

7. Find balance wherever you can. It helps.

205 Scotland - House1

8.  Be thankful for what you have.

209 Scotland - Street in Luss

While I was oohing and aahing over their little stone cottages and thinking they were like something straight out of the pages of a story book, the Scots were loving the photos of my Victorian B&B and saying it looked straight from the pages of a fairy tale.

169 Scotland -- B&B

9. Never judge a book by it’s cover, or a house by it’s formidable exterior. There’s probably something nice and cozy waiting for you inside.

171 Scotland - KirktonBarns.Parlor

10. No matter how impossible the path ahead looks, there is always a way through the mountains – or over whatever’s blocking your way .

199 Scotland - Mountains  195 Scotland Moat  91 Fence - ladder

11. Bloom where you’re planted.

201 Scotland -- Fence

12. Sometimes you have to dig your heels in and be tenacious. If you think you can do it, you probably can.

197 Scotland - Flowers in Stone

13. The road may seem narrow, but there’s always enough room to get where you need to go – somehow.

207 Scotland - Street in Tarbet

14. Pay attention to the little details. All information is useful, and bound to come in handy one day.

13 Scotland - Band in Kilts

15. Keep looking up. (This one bears repeating.) Often, what you see will point you in the direction you need to go.

217 Scotland - Celtic Cross1

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Daybreak – New Release! (Sequel to Night & Day)

Night and Day

Golden Rod

Sweet William

Shy Violet

Blue Belle

Wild Rose

Thistle Down

Love Notes

Stormy Weather

Water Lily

Merry Go Round

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