How to navigate a complicated world, one near-miss at a time.
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Q: My partner and I made tentative plans with two other couples months ago to go on a group trip this summer. Since then, one couple has decided to divorce. I assumed that they would not be joining us, but one member of the couple says she would still like to attend. I don’t want to tell her she can’t come, but I’m also worried that she will feel uncomfortable being around couples as she goes through her separation. Also, I’m worried that the group will become awkward as we figure out cost-sharing and accommodations. Is there an inoffensive way to say I don’t think she should join?
A: In travel, there are a dizzying number of problems that can arise, and an equal number of ways to sort them: budgetary, dietary, severity of skin rash. One handy distinction to draw is between “logistical problems” and “life problems.” Logistical problems are, if nothing else, comprehensible. You may not be able to change the fact that you missed the last bus from Budapest to Cluj-Napoca (which is a logistical NIGHTMARE, I assure you) but you can wrap your head around what went wrong (traffic) and what needs to happen next (sobbing, followed by emergency hotel arrangements).
“Life problems” are a little less cut-and-dry, and revolve around people rather than logistics. It might make logistical sense not to travel on a holiday weekend, but if your aunt never speaks to you again after you miss Thanksgiving, have you really saved yourself any trouble? Life problems trump logistical problems pretty much every time. Think of life problems as all the shit that won’t go away when your travels end; Airbnb shares are for a weekend, but grudges are forever.
You’re mixing the two together here: splitting a bill five ways instead of three is a logistical problem; telling your friend who is going through a painful personal episode that you don’t want her around because it complicates the taxi situation is something else. You can figure out the latter, so do so. And while I appreciate your concern that she may be uncomfortable, that’s her call. She may equally feel comforted by knowing she can rely on the same support network she enjoyed while married.
In short, be generous with your friend during her time of need, whether traveling or not. The ties that bind can just as easily be broken abroad as at home, and there is no escaping that.
Q: I’m visiting Inverness with a friend, but we don’t know much about spirits. Any tips on visiting the area?
A: For that, I turn to whisky expert and frequent R&K contributor Jake Emen, who I trust with all things Scotch. Jake, take it away:
“So you’re heading to the Highlands, huh? Wise decision. Any Scotch tour must begin by plotting out your mandatory distillery visits, and it’s absolutely a matter of personal preference.
These days, essentially every big-name distillery will have a resplendent visitor’s center with all types of tours, tastings, and experiences available. It’s recommended to book ahead and reserve your tickets online rather than leave anything to chance day-of. Notable distilleries abound and you’ll find scenic, short drives between most of them. Limit yourself to no more than two per day, particularly if you’re the one doing the driving, but also so you’re not rushed as you move around.
Inverness itself is a three-hour drive from either Glasgow or Edinburgh, or you can fly in as well. If you feel like driving and want to arrive in style, consider a service such as Caledonian Classic Car Hire, where you can rent a gorgeous, classic British car to cruise around in. They can also help you plot your journey as well.
With the Highlands as your destination, I’d say it’s a good bet that Glenmorangie tops your list. The legendary distillery offers jaw-dropping views, both in the stillhouse with its dual rows of massive copper pot stills, and beyond, with its pristine location on the Dornoch Firth. Consider a stay at the lovely Glenmorangie House, where packages can be arranged including various tours and tasting experiences.
Across the Highlands, other distilleries to add to your list include Glendronach, Aberfeldy, Balblair, Old Pulteney, Oban, Dalmore, and Tomatin. The list goes on, of course.
Speyside, the true heart of the Scotch industry, isn’t far off, either: it’s actually a small area within the Highlands. This whisky wonderland offers dozens of distilleries within shouting distance of one another, from Glenfiddich and Balvenie to Macallan and Glenlivet. You could easily spend a week here on distillery tours alone, so plan accordingly and once again prioritize your must-visit distilleries.
If you’re up for an extra adventure, head to the Inverness Airport where you can hop over to the Orkney Islands, landing in Kirkwall, a quick 45-minute jaunt away. Orkney is home to two distilleries, Highland Park and Scapa, with the former being the more well known and also having status as Scotland’s northernmost distillery. Culture on Orkney is distinctly Norse-influenced, and it’s easy to fall in love with the island’s unmatched windswept charm. It’s doable as a day trip, or you can plan to spend the night and have more time for sightseeing, including the incredible Ring of Brodgar and other ancient ruins. Highland Park also offers inclusive packages with tours of the island as well. Slainte!”