Literary Pilgrimage: Outlander & the Highlands of Scotland

My mom and I have been watching the second season of Outlander lately and Scotland has been on my mind.  I am fortunate enough to have ventured to this beautiful country twice and fell more in love with every visit.

My first visit to Scotland was in November, 2013.  I spent a long weekend with my study abroad group in Edinburgh and we did a day trip to the Highlands.  My second visit was in April 2016.  This time, I was alone.  I did a three-day bus tour of the Highlands and Isle of Skye, followed by a few days revisiting Edinburgh.

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The Quiraing on the Isle of Skye.  It was a clear day, so you can see the mountains of mainland Scotland in the distance.

Now… Outlander.  Diana Gabaldon’s books aren’t exactly high-brow literature, but that doesn’t mean they’re not good.  I came to the series a few years ago–about a year after my first visit to Scotland.  The television show was just about to premiere and an extended relative recommended the books to my mom, who then passed the word to me.  Intrigued by the premise–a World War II combat nurse goes back in time 200 years–I ordered secondhand copies of the entire series from Amazon. Continue reading

Literary Pilgrimage: Jane Austen House, Chawton, UK

Jane Austen has a bit of a cult following.  While I may not be as rabid as popular culture depicts some of her fans (see 2013 film, Austenland, for an example), she’s one of my favorite writers.

My relationship with Austen’s work began when I was thirteen.  Having skipped after school basketball practice to go see the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice in theaters with my mom, I loved the story so much I went straight to the school library the next day to check out the book.  I loved the book so much that I read it three times in a row.

My fondness for Austen has only grown over the years.  I had read all six of her novels by the time I graduated high school and have revisited all of them since.  I had the pleasure of getting to study Sense and Sensibility in college.  As I’ve aged, I’ve come to understand her characters on a deeper level.  When I was younger, I identified with the playful and witty Elizabeth Bennett.  These days, I connect most with the sensible Elinor Dashwood and have developed a soft spot for Anne Elliot.

In 2016, I had the privilege of spending three months living in the English countryside.  When I arrived, I learned that my new residence was only a fifteen minute car ride from Chawton, the village where Austen lived from 1809-1817.  Naturally, I had to go.

My visit to the Jane Austen House Museum took place on a Sunday afternoon.  I went with a few friends, whose love of Austen ranged from casual movie-watcher to rabid book snob.  We were a diverse group, hailing from the United States, Canada, and South Africa.  Isn’t it wonderful that people from all over the world can come together through a love of literature? Continue reading

Literary Pilgrimages

I am a pilgrim, a wayfarer, an adventurer.  I am a sojourner, making my way through lands real and imagined.  I travel by multiple mediums.  My feet carry me across continents familiar and strange.  My imagination soars through the minds and hearts of people who have gone before, ferried by the pages of a book.

 

I am a reader.  I am an explorer.  Sometimes, the two combine and I become a pilgrim.

Merriam Webster dictionary defines a pilgrim as “one who journeys in foreign lands”.  Traditionally, pilgrims journey towards a sacred, often religious place.  One of the most famous pilgrimages in literature is Chaucer’s band of characters telling tales on the road to the cathedral in Canterbury.

I am a lover of pilgrimages.  My journeys, however, are literary in nature.  In them, I travel to a place that holds bookish significance–the house or grave of a writer, the location of a beloved text, the place that inspired a famous text. Continue reading