The playing field is rarely level. Don’t get me wrong; I am not whining. I’m just stating a fact. The playing field at school is never level because every child has a unique home life. I didn’t grasp that as a child. I had a peaceful, supportive family and assumed all my classmates did, too. It was years later before I realized that based on statistics, many of them were probably abused. Many of them probably did not know what it was to live in a home with two loving parents who encouraged them to always do their best and always do the right thing.
Fast forward to January, 2015. I wanted to enter the TransitionsAbroad Narrative Travel Writing Contest. The “no entry fee” was a big enticement for me. So was the $500 first place prize. The idea behind the contest was for people to write about experiencing a different culture and appreciating it. I had an idea and I put several hundred words on paper. Something drew me back to the writers’ guidelines. The part I kept stumbling over was about how submitting digital photographs would enhance any entry. In other words, accompanying pictures were not mandated but it would be difficult for an essay without illustrations to compete. I mulled that over in my head for more than a few days and concluded that my story’s chances of winning were slim to none.
I had the privilege of visiting Scotland just years before the advent of digital cameras for the amateur photographer. It was a grand experience — one I never expected to have. Scotland is beautiful. I went through about a dozen rolls of film.
Scotland was a pleasant place and life in the countryside and in small villages moved at a slower pace than I was used to in the United States. Darting into a pub for a “quick lunch” was impossible. By the third day of leisurely two-hour lunches became so enjoyable that my sister and I wished we could bring the practice home with us. As cultures go, that of America and that of Scotland are not very far apart; however, the Scots still know how to take time to smell the roses.
Chances are, I would not have won the contest. Not having digital photographs to submit with the piece, though, put me at a disadvantage. Even so, I have advantages that most people in the world can only dream about. Without my travels in Scotland, I would not have been able to submit the nonfiction piece I entered in the Southern California Genealogical Society’s writing contest last month. That time, I had the advantage. All writers draw on their experiences, and I will always be grateful for having the opportunity to visit Scotland.