There has been an extensive discussion (17 posts and counting) on strathspey.org over the 'proper' way to transition from a strathspey setting to str. traveling. The post by Oberdan Otto caught my attention and I am reposting it (without permission, please forgive) in its entirety.
This is a subject on which I have spoken in the past. I have my own views which are not necessarily shared by much of the SCD world as they are governed by what I consider good body mechanics and not by dictum.
As for the Manual, you will get very little consolation there because it generally does not address step transitions. There are so many different step transitions, that trying to cover them might easily double the size of the manual and it might end up generating much discontent in the SCD community, because for many step transitions, there is not a single obvious method and our practitioners have chosen different solutions. As for getting a general consensus in the SCD community, that might be equally difficult.
Some step transitions are "natural" such as the transition from a right foot traveling strathspey step to a left foot traveling strathspey step. The normal end to one step is the normal preparation to begin the other.
The transition in question however--a left moving common scottishe (sp?) step to a right foot traveling strathspey step--is NOT natural. To do the transition, you have to decide if you are going to change the end of the previous step or the beginning of the next step. The setting step ends with the lift behind. The traveling step starts from 1st position. You cannot avoid changing one or the other. In this particular case you are likely to get as many people answering one way as the other as there are many practitioners on both sides.
For me, the first principle is that the transition should be smooth--no awkward bumps, halts or interruptions to the body flow. Well, in this case, a skilled dancer can do both methods smoothly, although a less skilled dancer might have difficulty moving into the traveling step with his stepping foot "trapped" behind the other leg.
For my personal answer to this question, I take one (mental) step back and ask "why is there a lift with the free foot coming up behind the other leg in the setting step?" In a mechanical sense, it isn't necessary--one could just draw in the free foot to the standing foot and step out again. However, anyone who has done the setting step correctly knows how good it feels to do that lift behind as preparation for the next setting step. It is great for reversing the body flow from going to the right, to the left and to the right etc. That is why I think the lift behind is there and when it should be used--for side-to-side DIRECTION REVERSAL.
So I ask myself, if I am transitioning from a left setting step to a right forward traveling step, is that a direction reversal? No, I think it is not. From this line of argument, use of the lift behind would be inappropriate. So I will transition through first position, not through 3rd rear aerial. If I am dancing a Petronella figure, there are lots of direction reversals. I will use the lift behind between the right-moving setting and the left-moving setting, AND between the left foot traveling strathspey and the right-moving setting!!!
But this brings up another transition on which we were all carefully schooled--circling to the left using strathspey traveling steps to circling to the right. I was taught that we should NOT lift behind because we are doing a traveling step, NOT a setting step. But how many of us have simply disengaged the brains, let our muscle memory take over and done the lift behind without thinking? It is MOST CERTAINLY a direction reversal, and that lift up behind feels really good. My personal view that dogmatically forbidding the lift behind in this case "because it is not a setting step" is a fundamental mistake that ignores body mechanics. Moreover, calling what we do when we circle left or right in stathspey time a "traveling step" is a pretty big stretch. It is a fairly contorted version of strathspey traveling with the dancer trying to have the upper body facing the center while the feet are dancing the circumference. The direction reversal is the only time we are not contorted and it sure feels exactly like the end of a setting step! I think this is a case where dictum has got its foot in its mouth.
OK, I'm off the soap box. Next!
If you want to read the entire thread you can access it from the archive page of the Strathspey server. You will need to either open the December Archive or do a search - try "strathspey transitions".