Manchester – 20 years on 

So strangely enough, on this date 20 years ago, I was in Manchester, England. I actually arrived on the 22nd…yesterday…the same night as this newest tragedy…not the way I wanted to be reflecting on this anniversary at all.

For some reason I still thought today was May 22, even though I was flying all day yesterday. I don’t have any of my photos or diary scans with me now. My laptop is at the office and I’m at home, so I’m writing on my iPhone in lieu. Bummer…but I will catch up tomorrow.

Maybe this is a way of giving myself a bit of a break so I don’t have to be as militant as I had planned to be…that’s my Type A behaviour, which I can’t seem to escape. You’ll see more of that over time undoubtedly.

But I still can’t believe we have to worry about these kinds of things in this day and age. Terrorist threats did not exist in this way twenty years ago. No one knew the term ISIS or IS. There had been no 9/11.

I don’t know what to make of this day and age. What would I do as a traveler now? Would this affect me? Would I feel scared on a whole different level than just being out in the world on my own? It’s so hard to know.

Bath – Part Deux

Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 16.17.37

Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 16.19.16.pngScreen Shot 2017-05-21 at 16.20.10.png

Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 16.16.03.png

Spent way more time in Bath than I expected due to The Boy but it was fun. Obviously a little too much fun. That’s the only time in my life I have ever gone for a morning-after pill. Once was enough.

Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 16.25.06

So if you’re wondering what he looked like – he’s the one on the far right in this photo. Boy did I ever like him, but it was also the first time I felt free enough to get caught up with something that wasn’t necessarily going to get serious. He was very sweet and I have fond memories of him and my time in Bath to this day. Have no idea if he ever went back to Australia or what…I did end up there much later and tried calling his house but his parents said he was still in England so maybe he stayed, I don’t know. Couldn’t find him on Facebook or anything so he’s just a lovely memory now.

Here’s a few things about my trip to Stonehenge…first of all, the route:

That’s a better written history than I’m going to give you…should let you know I’m actually in Petaluma, California, sipping on a Lagunitas Lagunator Lager  awaiting the wedding of one of my oldest friends. My mother (whose best friend is the mother of the groom) is drying her hair beside me here at the Best Western. She and I had a good chat about this blog earlier today. She can’t quite understand why I’m doing it…and I guessI’m sort of still figuring that out myself, beyond the posterity elements of it all…but it will all be revealed.

Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 16.27.44Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 16.27.54Screen Shot 2017-05-21 at 16.27.02

I remember waiting for AGES to get those top two shots so I could get photos of Stonehenge without anyone in them. I still try to do that to this day…unless you’re really trying to take a photo OF someone, people really often wreck photos, imo. But I guess in the bottom shot of the Avebury Stone Circle, you do get a little perspective. But I was mesmerized by these famous rock formations. I didn’t really know about Avebury so the fact that it was less famous made it WAY more interesting to me.

When I talked about Meera & Lisa at the end of the blog, Lisa is my sister and Meera was my friend (we’ve since lost touch). I remember feeling isolated as an early-20-something, trying to find my way…feeling along but finding people who were just like me.

Kind of pressed for time today so this is a little less reflective than normal. I have a wedding to attend in Sonoma. Feel like I can’t give this it’s fair reflection but that will probably be part of what this is like…it’s busy being a grown-up!

Why it’s good to write

I don’t have another journal entry until May 21 but an article popped up in my “Thursday Morning Briefing” of the New York Times that I thought was wrote sharing here, entitled Writing Your Way to Happiness. Seems like reflecting on my personal story has the potential to “lead to behavioural changes and improve happiness”:

“The concept is based on the idea that we all have a personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves. But sometimes our inner voice doesn’t get it completely right. Some researchers believe that by writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way of better health.”

– Tara Parker-Pope, New York Times 

I have to say that at 43, I’m actually very happy. I have a very fulfilling job and work with wonderful, caring people. I have a lovely home that I share with someone I love and our two cats. My family is nearby and also quite healthy and happy. I have a fantastic group of friends and colleagues, I still travel a lot (for work and pleasure) and enjoy all kinds of physical activity, outdoors as much as I can be – kayaking, hiking, biking, running and more – all great ways to see the world.  So perhaps I started with a good habit on my travels and by writing when I was younger, I embedded the opportunity to improve my happiness.

But I often write to think. Sometimes I talk – we all need that – but I find I retain many things better once I write them down. And if I don’t retain info, then I at least have something to go back to. Which leads to this blog and why I’m glad I wrote what I did when I did and can revisit it now.

 

 

Bath – Part 1

Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 22.38.56

Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 22.50.34Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 22.51.06

Long entry to catch up on the previous days. And a new era begins…the first foreign boy. Prior to this trip my only real encounter with Australians was ‘Crocodile Dundee’, which is as cliched as it sounds. But I was so enthralled with the exoticness – the accents, the slang, the idea that these people came from SO FAR AWAY that I was mesmerized. A big deal for a Canadian prairie girl. I met and befriended mostly women in the early stages as I wanted to feel safe in my new surroundings – and Nicki was amazing for that, though she was a Kiwi…but Greg was this sweet guy that made me feel special. There’ll be more on him later.

But beyond that, I love that I saw the beauty in this place and the places around, and that it reminded me of books my mom read me when I was a kid. And my references to the places I visited were only Canadian (Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg, Butchart Gardens in Victoria, BC). And I think I was able to capture it a little bit…

Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 22.57.11

I should probably mention at this stage that I’m putting the full pages of photo books in now because I can’t peel the photos off the 20-year-old sticky pages very easily. But I want to be able to share the shots I took, dark as they may be, they were significant of the time. That’s Nicki in the bottom shot with me, and no, she is not wearing my shirt. She got that all on her own.

I love that I discovered a music festival that made me think of home. Funny that I mentioned Folk Fest because I loved it then…and that’s where I work now.

I also find it interesting that I had put this pressure on myself to go places and do things and be certain places at certain times. I’m not all that different now. And it has to be a conscious effort to allow myself to chill out and relax a bit. But when I do allow myself to let myself go, it’s amazing, as will be evidenced in future posts.

I also wanted to share my all-time favourite sign, which I found hilarious at the time. One of those things that just translates differently to us Canadians:

Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 22.55.03

WHAT KIND OF CHILDREN PLAYING???

The Slow Coach

Turns out I didn’t write for the next few days as I started my time in Bath but found the info on the transportation I took around the UK: the Slow Coach.

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 10.30.00.png

The only articles I could find online about this company were from the ’90s and even Googling the phone numbers provided nothing, so I suspect they went out of business or were bought long ago. It sure was a great way to get around though. I met a ton of people (including, funny enough, my friends from Winnipeg that I ran into at the British Museum) and it took me directly to and from reputable hostels while also giving me an idea of what to do, so a great way for a solo traveler to start off.

I used a Let’s Go travel guide, which was a refreshing change from the Lonely Planets that most of the others carried around – it provided some different perspectives, including one in Hungary in particular. We’ll see that one later.

I also liked that it showed the route it took with things you could do – nerd that I am, I highlighted some of the things I saw when I was there here:

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 10.45.31.png

 

More on many of these things to come…

Reflecting on a bus

Screen Shot 2017-05-14 at 21.56.43

I’ve noticed I really didn’t have much to say about where I was for the first week – but it’s interesting to see how people affected me and the things I was reflecting on…and how feeling that needing work on myself was seen like a fault. Now it’s a daily occurrence!

Well, it’s late in the evening on May 14, 2017 and I don’t feel like I have a lot of capacity today. Had a big and busy weekend but got to see lots of my friends, many of whom I could also describe as I saw “Lesley/Lel” now. So happy to have so many amazing women in my life to this day.

The White Cliffs of Dover

Screen Shot 2017-05-13 at 07.36.57

When I was young, my grandmother always sang “White Cliffs of Dover” to me whenever she put me to sleep. Made famous by Vera Lynn in 1942, it was such a simple but beautiful song:

There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Tomorrow
Just you wait and see
There’ll be love and laughter
And peace ever after
Tomorrow
When the world is free
The shepherd will tend his sheep
The valley will bloom again
And Jimmy will go to sleep
In his own little room again
There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Tomorrow
Just you wait and see

I remember being particularly in awe because as a child, I thought it was so incredible there was such a beautiful song about my dad, whose name actually was Jim. My grandfather had died in the Dieppe Raid in World War II and a visit to where he was buried was a planned part of my journey. But being in England I wanted to start with the white cliffs.

Screen Shot 2017-05-13 at 07.42.32

That gentleman really did make my day. I was lucky to have that experience because it could have otherwise been a very sad day that reminded me of loss in my family.

But instead it provided me with the sense of wonder and adventure. Funny enough this morning I spent a good 45 minutes going down the rabbit hole that this article, which appeared sponsored on my Facebook page, provided: Dame Disruptors: Meet the women changing travel. So many inspirational women doing so many inspirational things.

Back in 1997 I didn’t have access to the internet – I didn’t even get my first Hotmail account till I went to the Edinburgh Library – but I did have this book:

IMG_1025

And though it’s dated now, it did help me build the confidence to leave Canada in the first place…it helped me pack and prepare to be on my own, to be safe, to be smart when I was far away from home. Yes, a lot of it is logical and common sense but it was validating.

It’s been really interesting this past week to revisit the beginning of this trip, to think about these thoughts and perspectives twenty years later. I’ve had a lot of thoughts about this time in my life I haven’t visited for a long, long time. It seems many of my opinions and feelings about what’s important to me haven’t changed. For example, I still love meeting solo travellers, and I still prefer visiting rural and outdoor locations to being in cities, although I think I have a more mature appreciation for what urban environments have to offer now and can see the beauty and wonder in almost any location. But even that ability to have gratitude for the built world came from this trip.

Apart from the tags in the side which seem to be drawing a few people to this blog, I haven’t been publicizing this on social media or to friends and family.  Partly because I don’t know what I’m going to find in some future entries and I feel that I’m taking a bit of a risk by sharing this. I want to be authentic with sharing my experience, but I’m worried I’ll feel a little embarrassed about my 23-year-old behaviour. I guess that’s part of being authentic with this project. I’ll work it out as we go along…which is really all we do in life.