Scotland with a Stranger: A Memoir

Scotland with a Stranger: A Memoir

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A true story of the most insane healing adventure ever taken. Fans of Eat, Pray, Love, and Wild will enjoy this riveting journey through the Scottish Highlands. Read the first chapter of this unputdownable pilgrimage with humor and heart below.

USE CODE SAVE20 to save 20% on all books.

All paperbacks come autographed by the author. Personalize an inscription when placing your order. (See photo for more instructions.) 

A true story of the most insane healing adventure ever taken. Fans of Eat, Pray, Love, and Wild will enjoy this riveting journey through the Scottish Highlands. Read the first chapter of this unputdownable pilgrimage with humor and heart below.

Who goes to Scotland for two weeks with someone they met over the internet?

Part insanely crazy shit show, part incredibly healing hiking journey through the Scottish highlands. An "Eat, Pray, Love" inspired trip gone hilariously wrong, yet beautifully right.

276 pages.

At forty-three, Ninya was depressed, out of shape, and filled with crippling anxiety after addiction, cancer, and divorce had destroyed nearly everything. One day, she received a message from a stranger. This woman offered to lead her on a self-healing trip hiking through the Scottish highlands.

It seemed like a sign—a big sister sent when she needed one most.

In this sometimes hilarious, sometimes terrifying, but always inspiring memoir, an introverted pollyanna is paired up with her polar opposite—a steamrolling, abrasive female with completely unorthodox healing methods. As they barrel through the winding one lane roads in a tiny rental car stopping to hike at breathtaking mountains and glens, an outrageous series of events forces Ninya to reclaim her power and find the strength to heal herself in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Preface

To write this book, I relied heavily on my private journals, blog posts, text messages, photographs, and videos. I recalled all the events and conversations from my memory as accurately as I could. All the names and identifying characteristics of the individuals portrayed have been changed to preserve anonymity. I omitted a few events leading up to and during the trip that had no impact on the substance of the story.

I have strived to tell this story as accurately and as truthfully as I can.

A Fair Warning

There are some pretty heavy topics in here, and a bit of profanity. If that offends you, then you will want to read something else.

Chapter One

Who goes to Scotland for two weeks with a stranger they met over the internet?

I did.

I remember the very first message; I was part of a women’s photography group on Facebook, and I was nearing the end of my photography career. It was an uncertain time, and I was trying to figure out what was next for me professionally. This coated my life in fear that was nearly paralyzing, like a boat floating in the ocean, no longer tethered to the career that had been my identity. The last three years after my divorce had been punishing in nearly every measurable way, and I was completely depleted.

At the time, I was working exclusively from home, rarely leaving the house because, when I am depressed, I tend to hunker down and hide. I was sad and lost, and nothing seemed to make sense anymore, stuck in the soul sucking social media career I never wanted but which seemed to want me. The daily grind of it and the comparison factor left the sour taste of dissatisfaction in my mouth when I looked at the smoking wreckage of my life. Social media is the devil, camouflaged as connection. Showing us the greatest hits reels of people’s lives, which we compare against our personal struggles, making us feel insignificant, unworthy, and less than. I was stuck in this land of fraud and make believe, unable to find an exit.

Every day was the same, stretched out before me, looking bleak and barren, and I just existed in the most basic ways, only fulfilling the basic needs for myself and my children. That day, I posted a photo in the group of the five-figure engagement ring I had just returned to the wrong man, needing some encouragement from strangers because my life was so isolating. And then I heard the Facebook messenger notification ding, and there it was. A message from a stranger named Erika.

I read your post. I have this idea I want to do. I know the mountains of Scotland. When I had to take my life back, I took off for Scotland and hiked and hiked and found myself again on the mountains. It was amazing.

I want to take a group of women there. Not like a workshop. But more just for self-healing. There is something special about Scotland. And don’t worry, I know how to do it cheap.

I pray a lot, and when I was there last time, I knew I was supposed to do this.

I will just lead you. When I was there last time, I knew this was something I was called to do. I know the country. I know what you are going through, and I know the need to regain your sense of self. This is a God thing.

A God thing. The magic words. It hit my heart hard. I was raised Catholic, and it stuck, especially the guilt. I didn’t identify as Catholic anymore, but I definitely believed in God, and nothing would ever change that. I have always had a wide-eyed optimistic ‘Pollyanna’ quality, always thinking things will get better, even when knee deep in disaster. I should have been a boxer. My ability to recover, knockout after knockout, was so strong, like one of those weighted superhero punching bags that take a pounding and then pop right back up again, over and over and over.

Hiking, healing, the trip of a lifetime… These words resonated in the deepest recesses of my heart. Being a self-help junkie since nearly birth, my library was filled with inspirational books, my favorites being those of journey and self-discovery stories like “Wild” and “Eat Pray Love.” Those stories planted a seed in me that yearned for an experience like this, and the idea that I might actually have one in real life was thrilling.

It called to my soul in a way that there was nothing else I could say except yes. It just felt like it was the exact thing I needed, at the exact, right moment I needed it.

The messages flew back and forth furiously for a few minutes. Erika would plan everything. I would just need to show up and be transformed.

The people there are so happy.

Happiness and joy like you have never experienced before.

The landscape is so beautiful.

The mountains and waterfalls are amazing.

When I got to the summit, I cried.

Beauty. Joy. Happiness. I could use some of that. Those things had been so elusive for me for so long, I almost forgot they existed. She said we could do it all for less than $3000, so I made up my mind in seconds. I had been dying to use my passport since I got it a year and a half before. I had never been out of the country, ever, not even to Canada or Mexico, and I was ready! I was finally going to travel and do all the things I said I was going to do ‘someday.’ I was going to heal myself and reconnect with my soul on the mountaintops of Scotland. Finally, I was going to fill up my own well and figure out who I was now that I had no man in my life.

When I read her words through my cracked rose-colored glasses, I sobbed like a baby at the rightness of it all. When the student is ready, the teacher appears. I could not have been more excited and ready for an experience like this.

The next day, I wrote in my journal:

God sent me an angel in Erika. A guide, a leader, a sister. Someone who has been there. Who knows the struggle to get back to your sense of self when you have lost everything. When you don’t know who you are anymore. When you are little and lost and broken. Someone who can gently guide you back to center. Who can push you to break through the sadness and pain to the other side. That is what Erika will do for me. I just know it.

Fair warning: I must also admit I have a flair for the dramatic and over romancing things in my head. Looking back now, I was a sitting duck. I mean, “God sent me an angel?” “When the student is ready, the teacher appears?” “Reconnect with my soul on the mountaintops of Scotland?” Reading those words now makes me want to puke in my mouth a little, but at the time, I was serious. It felt so right. It was destiny.

Yes, I am in. I am all in.

I needed this so badly.

That’s how it started. A Facebook post in a group and a message from a stranger. That’s all it takes to change your life.

Autographed/Inscribed Editions are autographed by the author and can be inscribed with any message. See photo instructions above. Double check spellings as they will appear exactly as indicated. Inscriptions must be submitted in the "Special Instructions for Seller" text box at the time of the order or you will receive an autographed copy only.

5.0 out of 5 stars Your Book Club Needs This Book Now!


This candid account of one woman's quest to find her mojo again is funny, touching, and sometimes a little alarming, but, above all, inspirational. A single mom with two teens, Ninya takes a leap of faith to meet up with an internet acquaintance, a self-proclaimed life coach, who says she has planned a tour of Scotland that will restore Ninya's soul. Once there, however, Ninya finds that, as the Buddha warned, no matter where you go, there you are. Alongside the vivid beauty of the Scottish wilds, Ninya rediscovers her strength and resiliency. The "life coach" turns out to, instead, be self-absorbed and the trip "plan" turns out to be more of a vague notion, but, in the confusion, Ninya finds the clarity she was missing: you have everything you need inside you, already.


5.0 out of 5 Stars: A Perfectly Crafted Memoir that Keeps You Reading


I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The premise alone hooked me and then delivered in a way that surpassed my expectations. Detailed, emotional, and even suspenseful, Scotland with a Stranger is a page-turner that shows that embarking on your dream trip doesn't mean you won't have your share of bumps along the way, but it's what you take from it that counts. I highly recommend to anyone who wishes they had the nerve and opportunity to escape the pressures of their life the way Ninya did and come out of it better despite its rocky, tense, and even dangerous moments.


5.0 out of 5 Stars

There are things in life that speak to the deepest parts of our hearts; our triumphs, our failures, our hopes, our fears, our dreams, our pain. For some it is art, for others, it is music.
  For some, it will be this book.   Ninya shares, in an authentic and uncomplicated way, that she is living a life so many of us live. The names are changed, the rooms are different colors, the smells vary in their complexity.   You will cheer her as she makes discoveries about life and self you yourself have made. You will find hope in the lessons she has absorbed; lessons we all know intellectually, but may still be struggling to fully bring into ourselves. You will want to hug away her pain, so much like your own. You will want to assure her she is on a good path, she is worthy, she is strength.   She is another version of you, on paper for all to see.   She will remind you that your journey is YOUR journey, and yet is the journey of us all. And wherever that journey takes us, we are on a good path, we are worthy, we are strength.


5.0 out of 5 stars Tragedy and Comedy go Together

Scotland with a Stranger: A Memoir
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