Wordworthy Folks: Da Yin, State-to-State Shuffler and Actuary Extraordinaire

“Have you seen the KPMG associate who makes dancing videos on YouTube?”, said a colleague of mine at my firm’s recent “Advisory University” training. I hadn’t, but soon enough I had—for a period of 20 minutes that zipped by like 2. It then occurred to me that the young man in the videos who glided on air—in the middle of a city, on a college campus, and even on a beach—was one of my colleagues. Until I had received my reply from the glider himself, my nerves were on alert in the anticipation that my random request for an interview would strike him as odd. I then opened my e-mail to find that Da Yin, an associate in KPMG advisory’s actuarial practice and the burgeoning YouTube icon himself, was happy to oblige to my request.

The premise of Yin’s YouTube videos is simple: he makes videos of himself performing a dance called “shuffling” in every state he visits and sets the video to heart-pumping electronic dance music. The dance form of shuffling (also known as the “Melbourne Shuffle”) originated in the 1980s with the rising popularity of electronic music, but soon become a popular dance at rock shows as well. Composed of intense heel and toe movements, the dance is at once effortless in appearance and incredibly difficult in practice. Says Yin, “There is so much friction on your feet because of the concrete, but your body needs to look like it’s gliding on ice.”

Yin’s project officially began in August 2013, in anticipation of the travel he knew he would undertake as a consultant. Equipped with neither a formal dance background nor a traditional teacher, he is 100% self-taught, with his primary form of inspiration and learning being from Russian YouTube shuffler T1M. “I remember that I just kept watching his videos because they were so cool. I thought, ‘I need to learn how to do this’”. And learn he did—he has since created videos in almost each state he has worked in, from the beaches of California to the middle of DisneyWorld in Florida. Yin is also self-taught in video editing, though he often employs friends and fellow KPMG colleagues to assist in shooting his videos. As for how he gets his game face on prior to recording, Yin has a simple rule: “Dance like no one’s watching”, he says adamantly.

Yin recalls the 972-mile drive he made from Madison, Wisconsin to New York City, including the Christmas Eve he spent trapped in a Pennsylvania snowstorm, and it’s clear that one of his outstanding qualities is his dedication to everything he does. The same dedication not only earned him a prestigious job in a dauntingly competitive position at KPMG, but kept his passion going in the face of seemingly impossible circumstances. “I was working on a project for 15 hours a day, 22 days straight, and I still shot a video when I was on an engagement in Charlotte, North Carolina. I just drank some coffee and did it. It was after midnight at that point, but I knew I had to just do it.” What also sets him apart is his unique insight to his project. “As I expose myself to different faces, friends, and people, I am changing. My shuffling skills are improving and my age is increasing. As I continue making my videos, people will see the changes that occur.” For Yin, it’s a story of his life, a YouTube Bildungsroman, and the audience has the chance to grow with him.

Born in China, raised in Hong Kong, educated in Wisconsin, and currently working in New York, Yin has been instilled with a spirit of wanderlust and not only plans to making shuffling videos in all 50 states, but eventually plans to shuffle through the rest of the world. To keep up with his goals, he practices frequently at home and engages in rigorous exercise. “Since my freshman year, I’ve done marathons because they help strengthen your body. Shuffling is actually very intense and you need a lot of strength to do it.” Yin plans to run the Madison Mini-Marathon this upcoming August 16th, happily making the 972-mile journey back to Madison, Wisconsin to do so.

By the end of our conversation, I had learned about a young man successfully living out a dream steeped in passion, dedication, and personal growth. Yet when I asked him if he had any advice for those wishing to follow in his footsteps, he initially responded: “How am I in any position to advise? There is still so much I have to learn”. While I admired the humility, I was eventually able to procure an adage that anyone working at KPMG should ascribe to: “Work as a champion, play as a champion”. I’ll add another to that for good measure: dance as a champion.

Da Yin’s YouTube Channel can be found here.

UK and Ireland 2014: Is álainn é an saol

No, we did not cross the Carrick-a-Rede, gaze upon the Cliffs of Moher, or frolic on the Dingle Peninsula. But rest assured, when we finally made it to Ireland, we did more in our 5 short gifts of days than I could have ever imagined, let alone added all of the aforementioned spectacles to our “Return to Ireland” wishlist.

Now, if you read my previous entry, you’d understand fully our desire for the day on Monday to just be…over. Experiencing life can be tiresome, so we were happy to spend our first night quietly in Dublin in the comfort of the apartment of our host, Liam.

The next day brought us to Killarney, the land of fulsome greenery. To give a brief background on the area, Killarney is situated in the southwest of Ireland in Country Kerry about 3 hours from Dublin via train. It is actually a fairly lively tourist town, with plenty of Americans abound. Its close proximity to the Ring of Kerry is a large attraction, but the entire area is stunning and perfect for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.

Once again, though, we came with an agenda differentiated from the rest: to rent bikes and see the petting zoo at Muckross Farms. Behold, my vast display of “AAAAWWW!”-inducing morsels:

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ghlkglj hk; iyi j the puppies ty u wtw

We were hungry and stopped at Molly Darcy’s, which is attached to the Muckross Park Hotel and literally a quarter of a mile or so from our romp at the farm. While swarming with tourists, the food was great and the entertainment provided by Irish band Onóir made for quite the entertaining environment. Do I even need to mention that June and I served as catalysts for the dance party?

The rest of our time in Killarney was spent horseback riding with Killarney Riding Stables (to be updated with review) and visiting local landmarks Ross Castle and Torc Waterfall. The sore butts our four-legged gentlemen (named James and Paul) gave us were worth the stunning views of Killarney National park and Loch Leane, and we felt we had covered a generous portion of the area through our ride. It should be noted that we stuck to the nearby attractions as we regrettably did not book enough time in Killarney. Per unanimous inquiry, the region itself takes at least 4-5 days to experience properly. Did I mention we already have a return itinerary?

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Torc Waterfall and it’s token goddess.
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Ross Castle. The small but mighty.

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We were weary by the end of this short side-adventure in the South. By the time we returned to Dublin, we were ready to get a bit bougie at the Gresham Hotel. Which brings me to a helpful tangent for the reader.

If you’re trying to figure out whether to do AirBnB or hotels, consider the following a guide:

AirBnB is awesome for:

  • Saving money
  • Getting to know new people
  • Getting advice on where to go
  • Getting breakfast right when you wake up
  • Having a more “homey” environment

Hotels are awesome for:

  • Coming and going as you please (though, most AirBnB hosts are pretty flexible with this as well; it’s just checking in that might take some coordination).
  • Getting some privacy and/or spending quality time with your travel partner(s) alone (AirBnB’s hosts run the gamut from absent to becoming your new best friend/brother/sister/uncle/dad/mom/grandma, etc.; I’ve experienced all of these)
  • Having more “built-in” things generally, like restaurants, gym, pool, etc.

We upped the ante and made an impromptu visit to The Gate Theater to see Oscar Wilde’s comedy, An Ideal Husband. Forget any stereotypes you’re inundated with about British or Irish theater; the sharp wit and luscious Victorian drama of this piece was both perfectly audible and able to be enjoyed by anyone. Of particular splendor was the costume and set design. I respected the cast by not taking pictures during the show, but I instantly regretted it. The costumes were INCREDIBLE. I was, however, able to get a discreet snap of the stage right before we started.

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Those mirrors, those frames…why isn’t my house decorated like this?! Watching the set changes in between acts was a show in and of itself.

Our classiness was ephemeral, as we later went for our Last Dance at Copper Face Jack’s on Harcourt Street. Now, you probably have noticed that I’m not one to easily dole out negative reviews. That’s true, I’m not. I figure this is due to my general aptitude in picking solid places to go, thanks to my trusted friends Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Mama Google. I must, however, give the Reader a fair heads up about CFJ’s.

Ask a local about it, as I did, and you’ll probably make out the following words in relation to it: trashy, scuzzy, and, my personal favorite, “ratchet”. Indeed, our first impression upon walking in was no less than incredibly ratchet, as American dudes proceeded to sliver over and take, not ask, for our hand in a sloppy dance. Expertly we initiated our escape, an easy one given the inebriated state of our would-be captors. Throughout the night, it was definitely necessary to assert ourselves, as we had made the mistake of dancing conspicuously in a clearing near the ATM. I even had to put my hand in a guy’s face at one point, which should tell you how bad it was getting. No drinks or sweaty cadres of tourists for us, no. Those were luxuries to the stagnant people who hung by the bar like normal patrons. Us danceaholics got to deal with the creepy men who wouldn’t disappear. The music wasn’t initially terrible until they switched to American novelty dance songs like “Cotton Eyed Joe” and whatever that other chipmunk abomination is. Some of you probably know it and can help me out here, yeah?

This didn’t stop the 4 am pedi-cab journey back to the hotel from being splendid. I’m trying to remember how many drunk people we high-fived; so brilliant.

Friday was our last day. As I write this on a protracted Wednesday afternoon, it’s hard to believe that this was only five days ago. The main events on Friday were undoubtedly Kilmainham Gaol (pronounced “jail”; don’t be like me and tell the taxi driver you’re headed to Kilmainham GOWL) and our Gaelic Games experience, which I cannot say enough good things about. As we learned about and played handball, Gaelic football, and hurling, we were burning calories and bonding not just with our fellow teammates, but with the country of Ireland in its national sports. Our instructors were unbelievably helpful and patient. And I do mean patient, because they needed to be with me. The gaol also provided an incredibly interesting tidbit of Irish history, specifically regarding the Rebellion of 1918.

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Fortunately, June was not imprisoned in the gaol for long.
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Clear champions, here.

Dinner at The Lebanese Chef near Dublin’s food-mecca of South Great George’s Street was spectacular. I think my Yelp review does it some justice, so check it out when you’re there. However, per the advice of a local, it’s quite difficult to get bad food on South Great George’s Street, so you’ll probably good picking anywhere. Other recommendations we had were Yamamori Noodles, Rustic Stone, 777, and Whitefriar Grill. Are you taking notes?

Heavily debating on whether or not to go out, we ended our final evening in Dublin with a stroll through the (in)famous Temple Bar. Ahhhh, Temple Bar. So interesting a place it is. It’s like an Irish Cabo. I don’t even think any real Irish people hang out there. But if you’re looking for a party, it’s the place to be.

As much as we wanted to indulge in the unique culture of the ‘Bar, we were okay with getting some much needed rest before we set a course for return to LAX.

Having been through a few days of the “post-return stress syndrome” that accompanies any vacation, I can say that looking back on the adventures had in this corner of the world has been difficult at times. I remember the littlest things so vividly: The smile of the adorable stingrays at the aquarium. Taking a picture of the Scotsman Hotel for June’s father-in-law during our 2:00 am tour of Edinburgh. How cinnamony black pudding tasted for the first time. The look of the suggestive mountain beyond the fairy pools. The taste of the cheesecake at the Plockton Hotel. The rain in my hair during our horseback ride.

It takes a little while until I realize that adventuring and new experiences are never limited to vacations. Every day is an adventure lying dormant under our obligations or fears; it’s up to us to unearth them.

Until the next adventure.

– H

Thought of the day: Woops, I may have already written it just now.

UK and Ireland 2014: Glasgow wrapped up – An education in food and culture

I have a random thought and through reading this entry, you’re obligated to bear with me here. Verbosity, I’ve learned, is a bitter ex. It does not leave without resistance, and somehow it manages to reel you back in without you even noticing. While I’m sure my close family and friends enjoy my vivid play-by-plays of my travels, I recognize that it might not be as meaningful to the readership at large. So, I told myself that I would try to reform my travel writing to emphasize more about the places we go rather our individualized experiences. And generally speaking, that’s the practical way to go, especially when one considers my aspirations for the future of my writing.

Some stories, however, are just too good to pass up. Here, I use that word, “good”, in both the heartwarming, nostalgic, warm sense as well as the harrowing, Taken-finally-seems-like-a-legit-scenario sense. Let’s start light.

On Buying a Charger

The Apple Store on Buchanan Street in Glasgow sits discreetly in a regal display of Victorian brick and stone, with only the silent logo indicating its true identity. Buchanan Street in general happens to be the nerve center of the UK’s finest shopping next to London. Now, what’s inside the Apple Store induces no more splendor than any other store – until you meet the cheerful, glowing Amer and Calum. Indeed, these strapping gentlemen were a pleasant surprise in an environment normally designed to inundate us with sales banter; they did nothing of the sort. We left not only with our required computer charger, but also with excellent restaurant recommendations and new friendships. Should you find yourself in this establishment, I assure the same will happen to you.

Thus, lunch at the trendy and underground-vibing Stereo and coffee/sweet scrumptiousness at Riverhill Coffee Bar rounded out our last day in Glasgow with some of the most splendid consumptions the UK has to offer. We briefly stepped into the Lighthouse, the museum of design that happens to be but a skip away from both of the above places, but only managed to get to the 6th floor – which, admittedly, is the primary selling point of the place. Scratch that, it’s not really a selling point if the museum is free, right? The bummer of the day was not seeing the rest, as it looked to be a fantastic paradise for the design-nerdy. And since it is free, I will implore the reader to check it out on my behalf.

Another attraction I dearly wish we could have experienced is the (also free) Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Since we arrived at 5:05, we were 5 minutes too late for the action. Ouch. But hey, at least we got a picture of the exterior, which counts for something in my eyes.

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Pixelface and I goofing off near Stereo. Artwork by Peter Drew Arts (http://www.peterdrewarts.com)
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The world of Glaswegian architecture at our fingertips – Lighthouse, 6th floor.
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The Delicacies of Riverhill.
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View of the University of Glasgow over the River Clyde.
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The lovely Kelvingrove. Judging a book by its cover, it sure looks nice!

The Bitter End

We were more than happy to have gotten an extra day in Glasgow. But the taxi driver who came to pick us up later didn’t know that, nor did he care. He just seemed grumpy. That’s okay, grumpy people are as prevalent as pockets of clouds in the sky. Fine…right?

We arrived at Glasgow (yes, the RIGHT airport this time) only to discover we didn’t have enough cash between us. I stayed in the car while June got out, offering to go inside and get more money to cover the fare. This did not fly, it seemed. Before I knew it, I was being swerved away nearly watching my friend get hit. I was alone in the car with a man who was very, very angry and bent on believing that we were ripping him off. I was told I would be dropped in the middle of Glasgow with my bags. Safe? Hurt? Alive? I had no idea.

June did what any person would do and attempted to call me and reason with the driver. He did not reason, but continued to drive away and curse with even more fervor. Having never been in this type of situation, my blood burned me and my heart palpitations made it difficult for me to hear, nay, think. I was crying, screaming, begging him to stop, wailing about how much money we made to assure him that we were not broke tourists in for a swindle. We were gonna pay, he kept saying. Pay? Where am I going? What is he doing? Eventually, I couldn’t hear a thing.

In a brief eye of the storm, I posited:

“What happened to you in your life to make you want to do this?”

He eventually stopped, took what he was owed from June, who found us, and threw the extra pounds we had offered him on the ground in a violent display of pride. We walked away and the credits of the horror-suspence rolled.

I may not have gotten a response, but I’m guessing I got him to think.

(Lesson learned: Bolded and underlined for the readership to note, is never, ever, ever get into a cab without adequate cash in Scotland, because your driver could be that guy.)

– H

Thought of the day: Don’t take safety lightly, even in places that seem or are categorically “safe”. 

UK and Ireland 2014: Let’s go, Glasgow!

Days 7 and 8, I think.

Saturday morning, we set course for Fort William bent on seeing some good scenery and found such in Glen Nevis. True to form, we did stop by the  off the A887 prior to this, where we had an unexpected but adorable interaction with highland cows. They sold cow food there, which we got to feed to them, so naturally we savored that little piece of heaven for a bit. I mean, it’s us. Did you honestly expect us to not make animals a part of this journey?

You can check out some of our shots of GN below. Huge surprise #3 is that we made it into a bit of a photoshoot.

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The sheep didn’t think I was that cool, but interacting with them helped me learn how to cope with rejection.

Now, I’ll take another moment to commend June for her epic driving of Salvador (the Ford KA that got us from A to B for two days), which finally came to an end at the Fort William train station at 5:00 pm. After a quick bar meal surrounded by swarthy Welshman and an older Scottish guy who wanted to give us magical powers, we took the evening train out to Glasgow. If I didn’t have such a pet peeve for visible windows in pictures, I would post a plethora of pictures of the train ride over. The trip is gorgeous and varies from the classic highlands (hills, grasses, and some rock formations) to more forestry to a true city-scape. It’s beautiful.

The city of Glasgow, as versed by June, is slightly reminiscent of Brooklyn. I’ve never been to Brooklyn and I can’t adequately compare it to anything else, so I’ll go ahead and say that Glasgow is really a city with its own flavor. While the east end is a bit grittier than the design-focused city centre lined with Victorian buildings and pockets of art nouveau, it seems to be a happening place nonetheless, with many-a good hidden shopping places and some nice little parks. Glasgow is full of parks.

 Our host for the evening, Vassilis, met us at his flat in Dennistoun on Saturday night and could not have been more accommodating, both with freshly brewed rooibos tea and some comfortable conversation. HIs flat’s tall windows looked out at the (finally) dark sky we thought we’d spend only a night under, so we enlisted him for advice on where to head out for the evening at a cool 1:00 am in the morning. Did I mention we were walking this whole time?

 We landed at One Up, a club in Royal Exchange Square, City Centre, that was so reminiscent of Hollywood it nearly transported me there. Everyone in the place was too cool for anything, so we took that and ran with it, or shall we say, danced with it. Set against the embossed white walls highlighted by faint neon lights, the music became ours and in true form, we owned the night with our moves.

 I’ll only briefly recount the next morning as waking up with heavy eyelids and dehydrated integumentary systems was the least of our worries. We hastily consumed a decadent breakfast of homemade marmalades and perfectly cooked eggs (thanks again, V-dawg – you da bomb!) to catch our private hire car (note: these are generally cheaper than taxis in Scotland) to Glasgow Airport.

We get to Glasgow Airport, only to find out that it’s different from Glasgow Prestwick airport, where our flight to Dublin was heading out. With barely more than an hour left until our flight, we still had hopes – until we found out that Prestwick is actually an hour away from Glasgow airport itself. So, what did we learn?:

1) Glasgow Prestwick and Glasgow Airport are not the same thing. Noted.

2) Neither airport is actually located in Glasgow, as Glasgow is actually in Paisley and Prestwick is in Prestwick, about 45 minutes away from Glasgow’s city centre. Great naming conventions, guys. Who could possibly be confused by that?

3) I’m daft some times, which I already sort of knew.

This didn’t stop June and I from finding an amazing flat to crash at in the west end, hitting up the Gibson Street Gala for some incredible street burgers from The Left Bank and mouth-melter sweets from Queen of Hearts Cakes and Tarts, and, of course, dancing to the Glasgow Music Theatre’s inventive renditions of songs like 2Pac’s “California Love”. I guess you could call our extra day-and-a-half in Glasgow the greatest mistake we ever made.

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Anyone recognise this?

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I think our first activity for the evening warrants its own paragraph, so I’ll give it that. The Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre in the city centre is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. It’s not designed to just be looked at, nor is it designed to engage you in a remotely conventional way. You enter a dimly-lit room and see a series of intricate sculptures that look like they are made of old wood, scrap metal, and other partially-intact remnants of the Industrial Revolution. There are skulls, rats, and clowns as characters in the sculptures, all of whom seem to be working on something or heading somewhere. Gears and pulleys and levers begin the move, rise, fall, clang, tick. Suddenly, lights will turn on and another wheel starts turning. It shuts off, you hear another noise in the distance and your eyes are drawn to another story, another song. Strange, jarring, and an utterly fantastic display of moving junk, you begin to realize that this is all about the human experience. Fancy that.

I won’t spoil it further, so the remainder of what I can say about Sharmanka is as follows: be open-minded, and see it for yourself.

“Let’s be good,” we both said after the show. “We should go get some sleep,” we both said.

Fifteen minutes later, we found ourselves enjoying a veritable feast at Sapporo Teppanyaki and later, danced at Bamboo. We walked out of there looking like we ended our evening with a swimming pool, so given that level of cardio performed I feel slightly better about stuffing myself with egg fried rice, tofu rolls, and key lime cheesecake after a long tenure of primal fare.

As much as I’d love to regale the next day here, I’ll break it up evenly so as the force you to return to my writing again. I’m just so good like that. Stay tuned!

– H

Thought of the day: If it makes you think, it’s art.

Special note: My entries have been and will be fairly delayed due to heavy adventuring and occasionally sparse Wi-fi. However, I promise to continue delivering entries, photos, and reviews as best I can, so likely there will be more to each entry if you check back in a few days.

UK and Ireland 2014: Highland Holiday

Day 6

The day began with black pudding. I understand this may sound like an odd, if not off-putting, opening, but hear me out. You may have deduced based upon my previous postings that I kind of like food. Perhaps you additionally gleaned the fact that I like some, er…different dishes. Black pudding was one such different dish that I hadn’t tried but knew I needed to. I had no expectations but was surprised ever-so-pleasantly by the slightly chewy, faintly meaty, and cinnamon-laced aftertaste of it. “Pudding” is an apt moniker, for sure. Most of the time people try “gross” foods, they’re either unphased or put off; not here. Black pudding, Readers, is DELICIOUS! For those unfamiliar, I won’t spoil you by telling you what’s in it, so here’s a picture for you to play the guessing game with:

scottish breakfast

Now, in spite of the numerous offerings of the Isle of Skye, we had had the Fairy Pools of Glenbrittle on our agenda since the day we started talking about this trip. A long and winding Highland road led us to the beginning of the hike, where we frolicked, climbed, skipped, rock-hopped, and yes, posed for a few hours. The pools themselves are more like sub-sections of a huge crevice in the middle of a valley, surrounded by a vast landscape of green hills. The water is crystal clear, still, and quite frigid, which almost highlights their beauty as a pristine place. That said, don’t pack your swimsuit to come chill with the Fairies, unless you literally want to chill.

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For those interested in visiting, these are fortunately not as difficult to find as certain other remote Scottish landmarks, but the flip-side of that is that they are a bit crowded for a remote Scottish landmark. We didn’t get terribly far on the hike through Croire na Creiche other side, but that’s a good day trip that we, sadly, didn’t prepare for. One more thing to add to the return trip!

Our day next brought us to Armadale Castle, which was more of a slice of history than anything. As the center for the Scottish clan Donald, which happens to be June’s mother-in-law’s ancestry, we had it down as our second must-do. There’s a museum, extensive garden grounds, and the ruins of a reconstructed castle (from the 19th century) here. And man, talk about a photo op:

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In the gift shop, I picked up a book. I opened it up and landed on a page with an otherworldly picture of the ocean.

“Where…is….this?”, I asked the clerk at the gift shop without realizing it. Before I knew it, off we were to hike to the Point of Sleat (say “Slate”).

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Beautiful as these pictures may be, there are some caveats to coming here. First, after you park, you have about a 2.5 mile hike to the beach. We made it 2 miles before we got a little too confused by signs to continue. As you can see, will still achieved fitting photography moments, but it would have been nice to actually experience the ocean breeze in our hair and sand in our toes (I almost typed “toes in our sand”…exhaustion or secret desire for a murder mystery?)

Lesson learned: research first, hike to random places in Scotland later.

Second, I gravely urge you to be careful around the wild animals that lurk on the path to Sleat. They do not mess around. I created a PSA for hikers on how to determine whether you are in imminent danger, but I’ll spare you it. Just remember: only YOU can prevent wild sheep attacks on unplanned hikes to beaches in Scotland.

After escaping near-death-by-livestock at the Point of Sleat, we were hungry. We were stop-roadside-and-eat—dirt-if-we-had-to hungry. The first establishment we found serving edible things at 8:00 pm at night was, lucky for us, Duisdale House Hotel.

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Michelin Guide-accoladed to the nines as it was, the dinner wasn’t quite robust enough to satisfy our adventuring appetites. It was nonetheless delectable food in quite a nice environment – a little too nice for our decoration. Looking a snow bunny and Kim Possible, we may have been a bit out of place, but boy, did we have fun watching videos from the day and trying not to burst out in hysterics as we recounted events from Edinburgh to each other. As we left the restaurant, our server thanked us graciously for coming, and called out for us to “stay out of trouble”.

Like clockwork, we responded in the negative to such a rhetorical question.

– H

Thought of the day: Take 15 seconds to look around at your surroundings once in a while. I guarantee you’ll feel more blessed just by doing it.