While traveling, I decided to ask a bunch of people the same three questions. This ended up being an amazing way to get to know people from all over the place. Hope you enjoy!
Good free WiFi is hard to find. A Scottish woman joked with me that only 3% of Scotland has real high-speed internet. Regardless, Starbucks will always get you free WiFi and outlets to plug your devices into. There are a bazillion Starbucks in Edinburgh. The most spacious one I’ve encountered so far in on Princes St. Waverly Station Starbucks is quite cozy and generally a bit warmer, which may be important in the winter. The central Starbucks in Old Town (off High Street) is nice as well, but generally more crowded.
McDonald’s has free WiFi as well, but you need to go through a verification process that involves them sending you a verification code via SMS, which you may or may not be able to receive depending on your phone’s messaging plan. Waterstones Cafe on Princes is also quite roomy and offers free WiFi (faster than Starbucks) without requiring a password. The Central Library in Edinburgh has free WiFi as well, but you have to enter a library membership number in order to reach it. The Cafe inside the Main Library has 4-5 computers with fast internet. Hostels generally have free WiFi, but they are as slow as winters in Boston. Some hostels have multiple WiFi hotspots. Find the one closest to you; don’t assume the one you used in the main lounge (e.g. “Hostel Free”) is the best one.
Get up early, especially if you want to travel to neighboring cities. Edinburgh to Glasgow: £9.50 / Edinburgh to Stirling: £12.50 / Bus in Edinburgh: £1.50 / Bus in Glasgow: £1.20 or £1.90 depending on distance / Bus prices vary in St. Andrews, Stirling.
Umbrellas are definitely necessary in a downpour, but not particularly useful during the short bursts of drizzle and light rain Edinburgh daily. Get a good hat instead that will keep your head dry and warm.
For Americans: “Hiya” = “Hey there, how’s it going.” and “Sitting in or taking away?” = “For here or to go?”
Talk to people you don’t know, whether its shopkeepers or other hostel residents. They won’t all be from the city you’re in. You’ll find travelers from everywhere. If you don’t know how to start a conversation, I recommend starting with a question.
Use “Globish” (Global English) with non-native English speakers. They’ll thank you for it.
Call/chat/email your loved ones often. They miss you. Skype/Hangout/FaceTime will suck without good WiFi.
Haggis is actually good. But eat some green stuff too.
For hostelers: get ready to spend at least the same amount of money on food as you would on shelter. Food for a day (if you eat out) will usually be more expensive than a night’s stay in a 12-person room.
Facebook. We can check it in the morning, on the bus, in the kitchen or at the sports game. We can laugh over stupid photos of us tagged by our “friends,” stalk our friend’s sister’s ex-boyfriend’s roommate and share BuzzFeed articles all day. Half of our mobile apps are connected to it, and it tells us when our friend’s birthdays are so that we don’t forget.
It’s great, but I don’t trust it at all. Facebook defaults many privacy settings to public and changes its privacy settings often enough that it makes me worry what’s being shared and what isn’t. I have also connected a number of web accounts to Facebook and am starting to lose track of which companies now have all of my information.
I’ll probably miss Facebook’s messaging, photo sharing and event notifications, but there are so many alternatives to those features now that it’s no longer an issue. I’ve starting using Twitter and Instagram more throughout the past year and really enjoy using them as social networking tools. There’s still plenty of ego-boosting self-aggrandizement on these platforms, but you can manage the content you want to view much more easily.
Facebook has turned into a living museum that each person carefully constructs and maintains to represent the best of him or herself. Twitter is more instantaneous, less profile-oriented and allows us to reach out to people we don’t know. Statuses on Facebook are meant to be liked or commented on. Statuses on Twitter are meant to be read and shared. It’s a subtle but important difference.
Facebook also makes us hold on to our past. We’re forever connected to our middle school classmates, ex-girl/boyfriends and random people we somehow “friended” along the way. While it’s cool to stay in touch, it’s also weird. Your relationship ends up being a couple of wall posts asking how it’s going once every couple of years. You’re not actually interacting in a meaningful way anymore.
People need to move on, and I need to move on from this “social network.”