• A Saint Patrick's Day Lesson

    Today is the Feast of Saint Patrick, the day the Irish dedicate to their foremost patron saint, Patrick. Among other things, he was credited with driving snakes out of Ireland. While the country’s paucity of reptiles like snakes are probably related to climate, it is also said that Saint Patrick helped drive pagan religions out of Ireland: no mean feat in 5th century Britain. He was a missionary who worked hard to convert the Irish, Picts, and Anglo-Saxons to Christianity at a time and place where Christ was considered an enemy, not a savior.

  • Bangers, Bacon & Baps

    Recently an OUTsideIN blog fan was saddened to learn that the foods eaten to celebrate the Scottish New Year holiday, Hogmanay, do not include any part of a hog (see Hogmanay Kindness,)December 30, 2020. Like many people, this gentleman assumed that the presence of a food name in a word indicated food rather than something else, which is a linguistic quirk that fascinates the erudite squirrels in my brain.
  • Working Hands are Healing Hands

    OUTsideIN works for a variety of reasons, not all of which I can claim to understand. One of the ways it works came to clear to me recently when an artsy-craftsy friend told me that the craft group of older ladies she leads proves something she heard from Oprah Winfrey years ago: that that women who do crafts together, working with their hands, are emotionally healthier than those who don’t. In fact, this has been studied by a variety of experts, from neuroscientists to psychologists, who...
  • Hogmanay Kindness

    In Scotland, the New Year celebration is called Hogmanay – pronounced HOG-MUH-NAY. Ah, I can almost hear your giggles erupt. Hogmanay? HOGmanay? 
  • A Blithe Scottish Yule

    My first Christmas away from home was far from the difficult and suffering places I’ve seen in this world, spent in Scotland at the splendid 18th-century country mansion of Finlaystone Estate with the highly civilized MacMillan family (who are my clan mates but not direct kin). Finlaystone is the site of a 14th-century castle. John Knox performed the first Protestant Reformed communion service there in 1556, and legendary Scots poet Robert Burns dined there often in the late 18th century. It was rebuilt as a Georgian mansion in 1764 and has been carefully maintained and upgraded (including electricity and modern plumbing but no central heating) by the Kidston and MacMillan families since 1872. Finlaystone Estate
  • Breakfast at Finlaystone

    “We’re 14 for brekkers [breakfast] this morning,” Jenny explained as we set the massive dining room table with antique Blue Willow plates and ornate sterling silver flatware, “because we’ve six guests, plus the usual workers, slaves, Sir Gordon and Lady M.”

    Already distressed by the prospect of frying 14 eggs, I suddenly realized that my presence might be an inconvenience rather than a help to the MacMillans. “So this wasn’t a good time for me to arrive here, was it?”

    “No, no. Don’t worry. It’s just family. The MacMillans’ son John, his wife Belinda [pronounced “Bline-dah”] and their smalls [children], and Belinda’s parents. Lord Lumley-Webb was in the Army with Sir Gordon, and Belinda was once a slave. They’re all here for the Hunt.”

    “The Hunt?”

    “Yes, it’s shooting season, you see, so if it goes well, we’ll soon be dining on pheasant. Do you like pheasant? I’m not very keen on it, but the MacMillans adore it.”


  • Stop, Look & Listen

    I’ve lived in a lot of different places, some that invited tourists and others that tourists overlooked or even avoided, so I think I’m qualified to state that tourism can be a mixed blessing. Visitors can bring money, create jobs in hospitality businesses like hotels and restaurants, and foster a sense of pride of place in an area’s natives. They may also bring less desirable things, from littering to disrespect and COVID-19. A friend in Spain was dismayed this spring to learn that 800 German tourists were about to land on the island of Menorca – a boon for local businesses but a terrifying prospect in a pandemic climate. The tourists were eventually rerouted to the bigger neighboring island of Majorca, but it was a close call.
  • Cultivate Connections

    At times my travel memories make me sad. There are places I want to re-visit, new places I’d like to explore, and so many foreign friends who I miss and want to see again. More travel isn’t impossible, but at this point it’s unlikely given the constraints of health and finances. That’s why my correspondence with pen pals and faraway friends is so precious to me. It helps keep me connected with other people. One of my favorite connections is Xiao Song, a young medical student in China.

  • An Athens Afternoon

    On an afternoon in Athens years ago, I explored some of the city’s “must see” sights but saw more than just the Parthenon, Acropolis, and Roman Stadium. As I’ve often found in my travels, there are unexpected lessons lurking around the corner in every city in the world. In Athens I met a man my mom had warned me about many times: the starving artist.
  • Happy & Full

    I have a young Chinese friend, a pen pal who comes from a difficult, impoverished background but is determined to become a doctor. The next step in his career is a postgraduate entrance examination that will determine what medical school he attends, and at times that exam looms over him like a dark cloud. Recently he told me “my dream is very big and it is difficult to realize it” and “I can hardly breathe under such great pressure every day.” He asked me, “Have you ever encountered this problem in your life?”

    Have you ever felt that your ambitions were impossibly difficult to achieve? I certainly have, and this is what I wrote to him.

  • A Winter Day in Istanbul

    It wasn’t until I visited Turkey on a business trip in my early 40’s that I learned the truth of the legendary term une dame d’un certain âge. It's a French phrase for a woman over 40 who leads a chic and adventurous life, and whose youthful verve is balanced by the wisdom and experience of a mature person. This worldly woman is also likely to have a handsome young male escort on her arm as she attends parties, shops, travels, and otherwise enjoys life to the fullest. When I first heard the term in a college French class when I was 19, it was hard to believe such a thing could be true, but an encounter in Istanbul set me straight.


  • The First Step

    I am a veteran traveler. In the past 66 years, I have explored the world, at first as a child with my parents in the USA, Canada, and UK, and late...