Yes Scotland is beautiful, but that’s only half the story

This article was created for The Travel Project by Cat Creature, an artist, video creator and Rhode Island School of Design Student, hailing from California.

A chance to visit Scotland appealed to me on so many levels. Famed for its sublime landscape, it provoked the painter in me. I was eager to place myself among the rolling clouds, be surrounded by vast, rugged highlands, and feel the summer breeze. More than ever I find myself valuing nature, for it centers me and reminds me of how simple pleasures can be so fulfilling.

I was also curious to learn more about Scottish culture, having heard some here and there while growing up with my Scottish-American stepfather. His stories made me feel connected me to the people and the culture of a land I’d never visited, so I was excited to discover the country for myself.

Having known what Scottish music was on a basic level – folk music of the roots – my mission with The Travel Project to explore traditional Scottish music and how fellow young artists are responsible for its revival, intrigued me.

Having never heard of this genre of music before, it was the celebration of young people embracing it that created a feeling of curiosity for me.

Over the course of my trip, I learned that traditional Scottish music is all the more moving because of the peoples’ pride and love for it. It’s something that evolves with its people, and I found myself fascinated with the many forms it has taken over the years – primarily in the hands of youth. Trad music can be adapted to fit any genre – rap, hip hop, reggae – and it’s this vision of possibility that keeps it so relevant.

The revival of traditional music exhibits a sense of creativity that speaks to me as an artist, and that’s what inspired me most. Creativity is linked to passion, and that’s powerful to see when you’re watching people playing live, completely lost in their music.

People of different generations and those who’ve never met can sit side by side, and easily play in unison.

Even without music sheets, that’s what said to me that the tunes so tightly knit to heritage; the music comes from the heart.

The young Scottish musicians I spent time with weren’t only talented, they were utterly enthralled in their love for trad music. It’s beautiful that their heritage and patriotism drives their craft, because it gives a deeper meaning to the art and the music.

Learning about trad music in Scotland, I felt was so necessary in order to understand their culture more fully. There’s a very tangible aspect to experiencing the music, as it’s often in a crowded pub. People of all backgrounds are brought together to enjoy something, and you sense how meaningful trad music is to the locals- and how it takes many forms when exposed to visitors with different perspectives. The space is filled with appreciation and excitement. An air of familiarity manifests. To me, that’s beyond scratching the surface of visiting Scotland. You become part of that audience, that moment, and it’s an utterly transformative experience shared between strangers.

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I felt immersed in the passions of the young people I met because they were so willing to share it. This passion for something transcends all cultures; it speaks to us as people who create, love, and enjoy. I’m so grateful for each person my path crossed with, even if it was for a little while. It changes how I appreciate a culture with the willingness to learn and explore it.

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Returning home from this experience impacted how I view myself as a tourist when visiting new countries and cultures I have little knowledge of. Many times, it’s our own fear and premonitions scaring us out of trying new things or meeting people. In this way, travel truly enriches my life, as it’s through meeting new people do I expand my perspective on the world and life itself.

I believe there’s something you can learn from everybody you meet, whether or not the encounter was positive.

It puts into perspective “life as I know it”, for I’ve become aware that the billions of people in this world and life as they know it can be so vastly different. What may be normal, important, or a standard to me shouldn’t be assumed to be the right or universal mindset of everyone else. Travel makes me a first hand witness to learn that each of us leads a unique path. There’s a beauty in our differences and our individuality.

I return home with a new sense of understanding for those I differ with- even those who may share my culture or background. It develops a sense of respect- even appreciation- which deepens my character and brings me to act with love and kindness in ways I was never capable of. The thought of the unknown and all that I have to learn excites me- and it doesn’t stop here.

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Cat Creature travelled to Scotland in partnership with The Travel Project, and Visit Scotland, to learn more about traditional music and the way in which it is interlinked to every element of Scottish culture.

In 2018, Scotland is puting its young people in the spotlight, celebrating their talents, contributions and creating new opportunities for them to shine. The Year of Young People 2018 is a year-long programme of events and activities that will give young people in Scotland the opportunity to show the world what they are made of.

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