A New Direction – To Scotland

by Keith Savage · 66 comments

Scotland's Rampant Lion

An amber splash burns in the bottom of a Glencairn glass. Fiddles, pipes, and guitars send a reel swirling around the pub’s patrons. Shredded coastline and dramatic mountain ranges bedeck the highlands. Ancient battlefields echo with the struggles of ages past.

What do these images all have in common? They’re all things I love about my next destination: Scotland. I leave for Edinburgh on March 1 and return three weeks later. And after this trip I will be returning to Scotland for subsequent trips and focusing Traveling Savage on Scotland for the foreseeable future.

Whew! It feels great to share this news and I’m excited for the future like never before! This shift in the direction of Traveling Savage addresses many of the issues I’ve recently wrestled:

Mixed interests

After returning from Argentina I had plenty of time to look at Traveling Savage from a business point of view, strategic work I scrimped on prior to my trip. I saw Traveling Savage as the vehicle to get me to various parts of the world I would normally not have visited with my previous job’s three weeks of yearly vacation. I was excited by the opportunity for personal growth, to put myself in strange and uncomfortable positions and become stronger for it.

But Traveling Savage is my foray into entrepreneurship, and it needs to be guided by business sense. Successful travel writers are experts, and the reality is that the tentative plan I hacked together would not render me an expert in anything. Once I separated my personal interests from my business interests, the direction of Traveling Savage became much clearer. In fact, it’s been in front of my face the whole time, but I was hiding from it. It all starts with answering this question: What do I want to be an expert on?

A passionate niche

It was clear that Scotland was where I want to cast my lot and direct my energies toward becoming an expert. It’s a place I’m deeply passionate about, from the history to the landscape to the music to the whisky, and it’s a place I can see myself happily writing about for a very long time. I’ve been to Scotland four times in the last seven years and yet I daydream about it with freakish regularity. Why deny what seems so apparent?

I made some basic mistakes with my first trip, like not picking and researching topics and angles in advance, that could have been avoided had I read some of the travel writing books in my library. So I learned the hard way that there are many barriers that need to be overcome in the course of travel writing, things like language and loneliness, and passion provides a huge boost in this effort. I’m eager to dive into Scotland with a fresh mindset and produce some excellent travel writing!

Hard decisions

There is a certain cachΓ© with being an around-the-world traveler – it’s cool and exciting to jet around the world and wake up in exotic locations – and it’s tough to give that up, but it’s clearly the right decision for me. I still plan to travel for roughly a month at a time, but the trips might not happen exactly once every quarter; my trips will be scheduled to take advantage of events that coincide with the themes I aim to investigate.

Next stop: Edinburgh

I will spend the first three weeks of March exploring Edinburgh and its surrounding areas. Edinburgh’s ancient pubs, its spooky underground city, its literary greats, and local music are just some of the ideas I plan to track down. Later this year, there’s the Islay Malt Whisky Festival, Shetland’s Folk Festival, and Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival all calling my name. Finally, here are some words from Sir Walter Scott that resonated with me as I made this decision:

O Caledonia! stern and, wild,
Meet nurse for a poetic child!
Land of brown heath and shaggy wood
Land of the mountain and the flood,
Land of my sires! what mortal hand
Can e’er untie the filial band,
That knits me to thy rugged strand!

excerpt from Lay of the Last Minstrel by Sir Walter Scott

I’d love to hear your thoughts on my plans!

Listening to: Jonny Hardie & Gavin Marwick – Indo Para Isorga/Gur Mis Tha Gu Craiteadh O’n Uiridh

Original photo by jk_scotland via Flickr under Creative Commons

LauraNo Gravatar January 25, 2011 at 6:47 PM

I think focusing on a single region, country or destination and trying to become an expert is a great strategy. It’s something I’ve been working toward accomplishing with my own site as well. πŸ˜‰ You’ve chosen a great destination. I traveled to Edinburgh recently to visit a friend and we did a bit of driving through the highlands and traveled out to Orkney. It’s such a beautiful country!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 25, 2011 at 11:00 PM

And it’s really the beauty of the countryside that captivated me from the start. Orkney has a special place in my heart – it’s where my wife and I spent part of our honeymoon.

LauraNo Gravatar January 25, 2011 at 6:09 PM

I’m so excited for you Keith! Not only have I never been to Scotland (so I’m looking forward to reading about it) but it sounds like you’re figuring things out πŸ™‚ Can’t wait to hear about it!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 25, 2011 at 10:46 PM

Thanks Laura, I’m really excited to get back there! Hope you find some inspiration to head to Scotland here.

JoolzNo Gravatar January 13, 2011 at 2:33 PM

I commend you on following your heart and look forward to reading about your adventures -! I’m totally in love with Scotland too, but then again I AM Scottish πŸ˜‰ I’m a landscape artist and Scotland’s light/weather/mountains are the reason I paint.

If you need a native’s take on anything, drop me a line – I’d be glad to support you in your endeavours.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 13, 2011 at 2:53 PM

Hi Joolz, I clicked over to your site and I love your paintings! Gorgeous. Thank you for the kind offer – I might just take you up on that offer πŸ™‚

AliNo Gravatar January 7, 2011 at 7:33 PM

Congrats on the new direction! I can understand wanting to travel to a different destination each time, get to see more of the world and all the excitement that comes with that, but developing expertise in one area sounds a lot more practical. I’ve never been to Scotland but it’s definitely on my list, so I’m looking forward to reading about your time there.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 8, 2011 at 12:06 AM

This was a bit of a wide-eyed wanderer vs. practical traveler struggle. I’ll be happy to inform you about Scotland, Ali. πŸ™‚

ClaireNo Gravatar January 6, 2011 at 8:05 AM

I have never really consider Scotland before…….but Sir Walter Scott just kinda gave me goosebumps.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 6, 2011 at 10:25 AM

I love that quote. Hopefully you won’t be able to STOP thinking about Scotland once I begin writing about it in earnest.

AndrewNo Gravatar January 6, 2011 at 1:58 AM

Wow big news. Excellent though. Being an expert sounds like a good choice and Scotland certainly doesn’t seem to get the same kind of press as more warmer destinations. Hopefully you can help change that. I feel the same way about Germany, but haven’t yet gotten to be able to travel enough to get that kind of expert time. Though I imagine by living here full time, I must be absorbing some.
I was in Edinburgh last December. It was really fantastic and freaking cold. We missed Hogmannay by a day. I wish I had stayed and skipped off the tour for a day. It definitely is a place I would go back to in slightly warmer weather.
As for tips I would recommend Mary King’s Close. Although I liked all of Edinburgh, this was the single event that I remember the most. Walking around under the buildings and hearing history stories.

All the best to you on your decision, looking forward to see how to be a single-country expert. I could use some pointers for Germany.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 6, 2011 at 12:49 PM

I thought about you in Germany, Suzy in Italy, and Christine in France a bit as I was making this decision. You are in a prime position to write about Germany as someone living there.

I was on the Mary King’s Close tour in the summer of 2009 and found it very interesting. I’d really like to dig into the subject of the city beneath the city in more detail, beyond the tours.

JessalynNo Gravatar January 5, 2011 at 11:13 PM

Congratulations on your decision, Keith, and good luck! Scotland is a family heritage visit I want to make at some point, so I’ll very much look forward to learning from your expertise!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 6, 2011 at 10:54 AM

Digging into Scottish ancestry is a huge past-time of Americans, probably because so many Scottish immigrants assimilated so thoroughly into American culture. I’m half-Scottish, and I’m very curious to know more about my ancestors but the information we have is paltry. I plan to write about this topic in some depth during my travels.

PNR EnquiryNo Gravatar January 5, 2011 at 2:57 AM

Great destination! We both are huge Scotland fans and can’t wait to go there again – looking forward to your articles already. Scotland is such a beautiful country .

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 6, 2011 at 11:32 AM

The natural beauty of Scotland is definitely a strong pull for me. It really has what I consider to be perfect (and varied) landscapes.

Chuck ClaytonNo Gravatar January 4, 2011 at 10:51 PM

Scotland sounds like an incredible place to visit. I look forward to reading about your adventures.



Garreth LodgethNo Gravatar January 4, 2011 at 5:06 PM

Hey Keith

That’s awesome. I’m from Edinburgh but depart on my RTW trip later this year but if you have any questions or fancy a backpackers beer when you’re here give me a shout!



Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 4, 2011 at 10:20 PM

Hey Garreth, I just checked out your site and you work at the Sheep Heid Inn? That’s one of the top pubs on my list to visit. I’m very interested in learning some of the Edinburgh pub lore and I’d love to meet up with you once I get in. How does that sound?

Garreth LodgethNo Gravatar January 5, 2011 at 5:28 AM

No problem buddy. Just drop me a message on twitter or my site nearer the time! Remember don’t mention the travelling thing to my boss at the Sheepy as they don’t know I’m leaving yet!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 6, 2011 at 11:32 AM

No worries – I won’t mention it. I remember all too well the position you’re in. I’ll contact you as I get nearer to my trip!

AndiNo Gravatar January 4, 2011 at 4:40 PM

Congrats on the next stop, can’t wait to hear about it! I have not been to Scotland or Ireland and want to get there someday!

GlobetrottergirlsNo Gravatar January 4, 2011 at 3:46 PM

Scotland, wow, great destination! We both are huge Scotland fans and can’t wait to go there again – looking forward to your articles already. Scotland is such a beautiful country – the coastline, the beaches (yes, there are some amazing white sand beaches!), the highlands, the castles (Jess wrote an entire website on all Scottish castles, if you need some info πŸ˜‰ …), the food… Hope you’ll have sunny spring weather in March! Go on a ghost tour when you’re in Edinburgh, they are fun πŸ™‚

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 4, 2011 at 10:16 PM

Very cool – what’s the address for that castles site? I did some ghost tours in Edinburgh last time I was there and had a lot of fun. The one that took us to the Covenanters prison in Greyfriars Kirkyard was terrifying.

ChristineNo Gravatar January 4, 2011 at 2:11 PM

Totally agree with the business POV–being an expert in a field is key! While I’ve never been to Scotland, it looks absolutely beautiful. I’m looking forward to sharing your experiences with my dad, who’s heading there in May for a golfing trip!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 4, 2011 at 2:47 PM

Christine – it IS absolutely beautiful. Next time you’re in Europe, consider make a side trip up there. I know it’s out of the way, but I doubt you’d regret such a decision.

AnnieNo Gravatar January 4, 2011 at 12:52 PM

Although I haven’t had the chance to get to Scotland yet (just missed Hogmanay!) I love the idea of Scotland as some of my best friends are from there.

I can’t wait to read what you find and am very glad that you have chosen to explore a country that means so much to you!!

SuzyNo Gravatar January 4, 2011 at 9:53 AM

I love this! I have been going through the same sort of struggle. Do you write about everywhere or write about what you love? I made a similar decision in regards to Italy. Can’t wait to read all about Scotland.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 4, 2011 at 2:39 PM

I often thought about your choices as a travel writer as I was making this decision, Suzy.

Ted NelsonNo Gravatar January 4, 2011 at 9:46 AM

I was just thinking about the movie Local Hero on the way to work today. Hope you find some places with equal character. I am sure you will.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 4, 2011 at 2:41 PM

I haven’t seen Local Hero but I know it takes place in Scotland. Almost every town I’ve been through in Scotland has at least some little thing that makes it unique and interesting. This is true of most places, but I remember actually identifying these things while I was there, which was a cool insight.

Ted NelsonNo Gravatar January 4, 2011 at 3:25 PM

I highly recommend the movie. One of my favorites of all time.

Jeff TiteliusNo Gravatar January 4, 2011 at 9:28 AM

Ah…you left out the land of Harry Potter and JK Rowling in your poetic and provocative description of Scotland my friend. What a fascinating journey you’re about to embark on and I wish you all the success in your new direction – a wise choice to narrow down to one destination and get to know it intimately. From now on, you are the Scotland expert and all inquiries I receive are coming your way. Enjoy my friend and looking forward to reading the stories about your journeys and discoveries!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 4, 2011 at 2:46 PM

Thanks Jeff, appreciate the kind words and any future redirects my way.

AndiNo Gravatar January 4, 2011 at 8:44 AM

Oh wow, that was a big change in plans, but well I love change, so bring it on I say! I was in Scotland many years ago and had a lovely time there. Can’t wait to see the evolution of your blog in 2011. πŸ™‚

AnthonyNo Gravatar January 4, 2011 at 12:38 AM

Hey Keith! I’ve just returned from Edinburgh and the Hogmany New Years celebrations, I’m about to write a 2-part post on it as soon as I have sifted through the numerous photos. It’s truly gorgeous!

You’re going to love it man, I’m from the North-East of England so it’s only a few wee hours over the border for me so I go often. If there’s anything you need help with feel free to give me a shout πŸ™‚

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 4, 2011 at 2:44 PM

I’ll be looking for your posts. I really love the city: the way it’s situated, the divide between old and new towns, the history hidden in every crevice of the old town. What part of NE England are you from?

AnthonyNo Gravatar January 4, 2011 at 4:23 PM

Cheers πŸ™‚ It’ll be about a week mate as I’ve mislaid my camera (let’s say mislaid and not “lost” for now so I don’t panic).

I’m from Newcastle Keith, so it’s only a few hours by car or 90 minutes by train. Lucky me! Are you hostelling or couchsurfing etc? The reason I ask is because I stayed in an appartment for a few days perfectly situated to Princes Street for good value-then again there’s plenty of awesome hostels in Edinburgh.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 4, 2011 at 10:19 PM

I haven’t decided on what type of accommodations I’ll pursue, but I’m looking at B&Bs, CouchSurfing, and short-term rentals. I would love to hear any tips you might have. Feel free to email me at travelingsavage[at]gmail[dot]com.

CandiceNo Gravatar January 3, 2011 at 7:24 PM

Oh Edinburgh, my favourite city ever! Jealous!

BeckyNo Gravatar January 3, 2011 at 7:16 PM

What I think is cool about your new focus is that you can do more in depth pieces. At least, I think that’s cool for me as a reader, because that’s the kind of travel writing I enjoy. I have no idea about the business side of things. πŸ™‚ But as a traveler, I like the deeper stories, and from the comments here, it seems like experienced travelers are more your audience. So sounds like a good plan.

And if you’re going to venture out into world to do what you love, might as well do what you really, really love!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 3, 2011 at 10:30 PM

I like the idea of writing in-depth pieces as well, but I’m aware that I’ll need to be careful with that type of writing on a blog. Blog readers have expectations that content is scannable, shorter, and delivers the goods quickly. Who knows though, maybe I’ll just shirk all known conventions πŸ™‚

I’m hoping that one side effect of this shift in focus here will be that I will see more non-experienced travelers coming for information on Scotland. Searching for bloggers’ point of views of a place became a part of my travel planning regimen long before I started Traveling Savage and I think it’s only gaining in frequency.

MattNo Gravatar January 3, 2011 at 5:24 PM

Exciting news mate – I absolutely love Scotland, despite its
consistent rain and clouds! Edinburgh takes the spot as my favorite city in Europe. Good luck!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 3, 2011 at 10:14 PM

Edinburgh’s my favorite as well. I love its compactness and the wynds hiding new and interesting places.

GrayNo Gravatar January 3, 2011 at 4:49 PM

I think this is a terrific plan. It makes so much sense for you. I’ve seen your passion for Scotland in your writing here at your blog many times. It’s never a bad idea to focus on something you feel passionately about. Congrats on finding your way!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 3, 2011 at 10:12 PM

I agree, it just took me some time to see that I had various interests all tangled up in this. Now I have the vision to separate them and proceed.

Brenna [fabuleuxdestin]No Gravatar January 3, 2011 at 4:23 PM

That’s awesome! It’s places you are really passionate for that make the best writing – emotions shine through! My roomate is Scottish and I am hoping to visit him when he is back home. I will be looking forward to reading about your travels!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 3, 2011 at 10:07 PM

Passion does shine through in writing, and this was one of the key lessons I learned while away on my first trip.

CharuNo Gravatar January 3, 2011 at 3:29 PM

It seems that you have found liquid courage. I visited Scotland with regularity when I lived in London, and even studied with Seamus Heaney’s professor (Heaney is my all-time favorite poet) in Glasgow. It seems that Scotland, with all its craggy rawness and generous supply of Glenlivet, is the perfect place to hone your niche. I wish you much success!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 3, 2011 at 5:42 PM

Wow, that’s very cool that you studied with Heaney’s prof! Yes, Scotland is indeed a perfect match for me.

EricaNo Gravatar January 3, 2011 at 3:20 PM

Congrats on focusing on a fascinating niche! looking forward to seeing what details you can give us on a culture I have yet to experience. I have a Scottish friend who talks incessantly about Edinburgh.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 3, 2011 at 5:38 PM

Yeah? what does s/he say about Edinburgh? I’ll be happy to serve you up some tasty Scottish stories πŸ™‚

Michael HodsonNo Gravatar January 3, 2011 at 3:13 PM

exciting news – and you picked a great country. Some of the best people in the world. Are you a golfer also?

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 3, 2011 at 5:04 PM

Hey Michael, I’m not a golfer, but I’m interested in giving it another shot on some of the links courses.

Geeky TravelerNo Gravatar January 3, 2011 at 3:07 PM

I’ll be following your notes closely. I hope to get out there sometime in the next couple of years specifically to do a whisky tour (so if you come across a tour company/person that you love I would really be interested in that.)

I am also really interested in how the cuisine scene is in the major cities like Edinbergh. If it’s like Ireland, the access to fresh ingredients and mix of culture create hidden gems that are worth seeking out.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 3, 2011 at 5:35 PM

I’ve already been on whisky tours at Aberlour, Edradour, Talisker, Highland Park, Oban, Macallan, Glenfiddich, and Glenlivet, so I can help you with questions you might have there. Are you referring to third-party tours that take you to multiple distilleries?

I’m also interested in looking to Edinburgh’s – and Scotland’s – cuisine and how it’s developing.

Geeky TravelerNo Gravatar January 3, 2011 at 8:27 PM

Spending a day with a third party tour hitting multiple distilleries is exactly what I was thinking.

More than 1 day on whisky and I’ll feel like I was ripping off time from the exploring of history and architecture I want to do also. However, picking a few myself and having a designated driver in our group to get around seems a bit on the other end of the spectrum.

KrisNo Gravatar January 3, 2011 at 2:57 PM

Awesome choice Keith, although I don’t know if you still won’t have a language challenge there! πŸ˜‰ Good for you.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 3, 2011 at 5:01 PM

Haha, good point. I have been baffled by some guys jokingly speaking Scots to me, but even the English can be difficult to understand if you aren’t accustomed to it.

lara dunstonNo Gravatar January 3, 2011 at 2:41 PM

Specializing is a great idea. Some writers make a conscious effort to do it, and enroll in degrees in Asian Studies or a particular area of history or whatever, while for others it’s just something that naturally happens. I did a masters in International Studies majoring in Latin America way back, (although I was a filmmaker then not a writer) and yet my hubbie and I gradually became the go-to people for the Middle East, and specifically a handful of cities and countries there. We’ve written on Buenos Aires a lot, but we tend to pitch for that work and work on other destinations, whereas people come to us for MidEast content.

It takes time to become a specialist, but I think it’s worth it as it’s something you can always fall back on even when your passions and interests take you to other parts of the world from time to time. The first step is being mad-crazy about the destination you want to develop expertise in and then immerse yourself in every aspect of its culture, history, geography, food, art, people, etc etc. Sounds like you’re part way there! Good luck with it!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 3, 2011 at 5:32 PM

Your story has really inspired me, Lara. You and Terrance provide excellent models for aspiring travel writers. Thank you for the instructive comment.

I’ve got at least the next two years to cement my expertise, and I’ve already got the “mad-crazy” passion for Scotland you mention. Thanks for the well wishes!

By the way, I’ve got drawing up a list of questions for you on my to-do list yet.

LindseyNo Gravatar January 3, 2011 at 2:41 PM

I love, love, love this decision! So much seduction in travel has been found in “exotic” destinations identified, for many, as those far reaches of the world clogged with palm trees, pristine shores, foreign tongues, and unfamiliar food groups. I haven’t traveled very far in the world (I’m only 22, after all, and am still a post-grad of limited monetary means), but I’ve been to Scotland twice. Once to Edinburgh, and once to the Highlands and Skye. I fell in love with its music, its history, its folklore, and, perhaps most of all, the ethereal landscape of its northern reaches. For me, Scotland remains once of the most underrated exotic destinations in the world. I can’t wait to read about your adventures!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 3, 2011 at 4:59 PM

Everybody’s got their own definition of “exotic” and their own dream destination. I’ve just finally come to grips with my situation, with focusing my career on a place I love. I, too, have fallen in love with the same things you have – the north is incredible and for me there’s some magic in the air. What parts of the north have you been to, Lindsey?

Ryan - PauseTheMoment.comNo Gravatar January 3, 2011 at 2:31 PM

Good luck Keith! I wish you the best on the new chapter of your life and future. Looking forward to hearing more from you.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 3, 2011 at 4:41 PM

Thanks Ryan. I have a feeling this decision is going to make Traveling Savage better than ever.

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