Any soul that has embarked on adventure by passing through hostels knows that, as the myriad of generously-measured cocktails begins to flow each balmy evening, so does talk of home. Each mosquito-ravaged traveller sitting around the synonymous white plastic table represents a different part of the world; their experiences and stories are coloured by the places they were born.
Their politics, culture, tastes, humour – an amalgamation of an upbringing undeniably different, yet so similar to my own. Topics vary, but discussion of the legal drinking age and the US election is inevitable. Soon you'll be equipped with essential knowledge ranging from the subtleties of the Australian immigration system to the cost of a vodka and lemonade in Slovakia.
I have never possessed a particularly strong Scottish accent – something I've become increasingly aware of since travelling. The fact doesn't trouble me. I always thought it a good indication of my ambivalence to my nationality. It even became part of these nightly rituals to challenge fellow backpackers to guess where this peely-wally, freckled redhead might be from. You'll never guess how many got it wrong. But whereas in previous years, before the EU referendum, I would have let the subject be, I now find myself asserting the fact that I am Scottish. And I might even be proud of it.
It is no secret that, in recent years, the young people of Scotland have been thrust head-first into the exhausting world of identity politics. But the reality is that most had at least a foot in already. I always resented the patronising assumption that the Scottish independence referendum was the first worthy issue 16- and 17-year-olds had ever engaged with. The golden days of teenagers walking the school halls discussing last night's headliners on 'Top of the Pops' have long past (although even this was an expression of personal identity).
But it would be false for me to claim I'm satisfied with our participation in politics. I grew up with stories of my parents' generation marching for nuclear disarmament and to end apartheid. You can imagine the disappointment of living through an age where we can just about rally a hashtag on Twitter. Maybe my rose-tinted glasses are a tad thicker than usual. Or could there be an element of truth in our disengagement?
Rather than feel ignited by my first opportunity to be involved in a democratic vote, the independence referendum left me disinterested. There were noble arguments on both sides – anti-austerity, environmentalism, autonomy, unity. It didn't seem to matter. Every discussion descended into an argument about how damn patriotic you were, and as someone opposed to nationalism, I switched off. Lines were drawn and many friendships didn't recover. My parents each took an opposing view and only two things were certain to me: I couldn't wait for the whole thing to be over; and I definitely wasn't getting any more siblings.
I expected to be similarly frustrated by the vote on whether to leave Europe. Again, it felt as if facts were redundant and individuals were basing their decision on a fragile belief in the importance of where someone was born. Blood and politics. But even after the result went disastrously against my opinion, weeks later I feel revitalised, rather than worn down. I was, for the first time in my life, united with my neighbours by our belief in an institution so important to many my age. We all voted for different reasons. But I like to think that most of them would have been worth marching for.
Certain things haven't changed. I will never own a Saltire, and only one verse to 'Flower of Scotland' resides in my repertoire. But we all know this isn't actually important, and being Scottish is more than the tropes and assumptions of others. On 23 June, Scotland voted for global engagement and stood up for our socialist values. Something we believed in. Finally I feel an affinity to this flawed, wonderful country. If next time I'm in a hostel, surrounded my humans from across the world, and one of them happens to guess correctly in which country I was born, I just might turn round and say 'och aye, and I'm proud of it too'.
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