When Annie Bennett and her husband, Tyler, packed their suitcases to move to Glasgow, Scotland in September 2006, the newlyweds were nervous, excited and sad to leave their home state of North Dakota.
Tyler had been accepted to Glasgow University’s Veterinarian Medicine Program and the couple was gearing up to live in Scotland for five years while he attended school. “We both lived our whole lives in North Dakota, so the first year was really hard being away,” says Bennett. “Thank goodness for emails and web cams.”
After getting settled, however, the pair soon discovered similarities to home. “The people are so friendly and, when we first moved here, so many people asked if we needed help,” says Bennett. “And everyone complains about the weather here, too!”
The couple also quickly realized the amazing opportunities to travel throughout Scotland, Europe and beyond. They decided to spend their first Christmas in Paris, France and began making plans for weekend adventures and holiday vacations.
“We have traveled all over Scotland and the islands,” says Bennett. “We try to get out of Glasgow and visit other places in Scotland at least a few times a year.” Between their trip to Paris in 2006 and January 2010, the Bennetts also traveled to Ireland, England, Spain, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Italy and Norway.
Following their fourth annual trip back to Bismarck in July 2010, they decided to commit to additional travel during their last year in Scotland. “When we were home, everyone kept asking us where we still wanted to go,” says Bennett. “After listing all the places, we realized we didn’t have much time left and had a lot of places to go.”
They decided to travel once-a-month during Tyler’s last school year, beginning with a trip to the Spanish island of Mallorca in August 2010. “We know once we leave Europe, we won’t be able to go to Paris or London for the weekend. We need to take advantage of this while it is so convenient and affordable.”
The Bennetts then traveled to England’s Lake District in August, Egypt in September, Sweden and Ireland in October, and the Netherlands and Czech Republic in December 2010. “We didn’t travel in November because Tyler took his North American Veterinary Licensing Exam,” explains Bennett.
She says working around Tyler’s school schedule and her work schedule, as a marketing and events manager, has been one of the largest obstacles in their planning. “It’s hard to schedule a trip, but is worth it,” says Bennett. “We are able to experience all of this before we are really tied down with careers and a family.”
Tyler graduates in June and still on their list of destinations are Northern Ireland, Wales, Belgium, and Portugal. “We would love to get back to Paris and Italy one more time, too,” notes Bennett.
The couple’s favorite trips include Germany, Italy and France. “Each of these trips was at least a week and we were able to see so much and take in the culture,” says Bennett. “Our favorite trip experience was Egypt. It was such a different culture, and seeing the pyramids and the Sphinx was incredible. But it was also difficult to see such poverty. It really made us appreciate what we have.”
There have been difficult experiences as the couple learned the ins and outs of traveling. “Paris was our first trip and we just didn’t know what to expect. We hadn’t traveled much at that point, so we were very inexperienced,” says Bennett. “Even getting around the city was difficult and stressful. We really learned a lot from that experience and we ended up having a fantastic time.”
The couple now has a set of guidelines they use during their travels: plan each trip by doing research in travel books and online; learn some of the local language; embrace the local culture; stay alert of your surroundings; try not to look like a tourist; get off the beaten path; and, if you are lost, try not to look lost.
Bennett says travel companions also play a key role in the success of a trip. “Travel with someone you really enjoy spending time with,” she says. “These beautiful places are much more enjoyable with great company.”
The couple plans to move back to North Dakota this summer. “It is one of the nicest places we have been and we are so proud to call the state our home,” says Bennett. But they already have plans to return to Scotland. “We have a lot to see in the United States, too, but we agreed to return to Scotland for our 25th anniversary at the very latest.”
The Bennetts have no regrets about moving to Scotland and making time to travel. “We can’t imagine life without this experience, and we are so glad we were able to do this. The last five years have truly been a life changing experience.”
And the couple will happily welcome an extra traveler on their final trip home. “We are expecting a baby in July,” says Bennett. “We are so pleased to bring home the best souvenir.”
The Bennett’s Top Travel Recommendations in Scotland and Beyond
• Driving to Loch Ness and the Scottish Highlands
• Touring Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, and the Edinburgh Castle
• Experiencing the Isle of Arran, called “Miniature Scotland.”
• Sampling Scotland’s whisky at a distillery
• Viewing Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower
• Riding a gondola in Venice
• Visiting the Coliseum in Rome
• Skiing in the Austrian Alps
• Enjoying a beer in a German Brauhaus (beer house)
• Riding camel through Egypt’s Sinai Desert
• Snorkeling in the Red Sea
• Drinking a fresh pint of Guinness at the Dublin brewery