Six months on from the big trip, I’ve had time to think about what I loved about the trip, what I hated about the trip and things in hindsight that I would have liked to have done differently. As my first solo overseas trip this was an experience that I am so glad that I had and I don’t regret going for one minute.
By far my favourite part of the trip was the boat launch celebration that I attended in Lyme Regis which was put on by the Boat Building Academy. I think it was only my second day of the trip, but nothing could have been better than being part of the community and feeling less: “Oh my goodness, am I making a mistake travelling alone” and more: “Ok, this is not so bad, I feel like I blend in and belong here.” I didn’t feel out of place at all, and after I got over the feeling that everyone knew I was a tourist, I relaxed and enjoyed everything. It was in fact a miserable day in terms of the weather, the rain was drizzling down and everyone, about 50 people including children and dogs running underfoot, was soaked. My favourite photograph that I took on the trip was from boat launch day as well – the rain droplets clinging to the recently varnished wood of the double row boat. (the picture is on the boat launch post). Before I left home my mother had urged me to bring back interesting found objects as souvenirs instead of buying touristy things and my first found object of the trip was a champagne cork from one of the celebratory bottles that each boat team opened. I rescued it from the water and very nearly fell in! But it remains as reminder of a smashing start to my holiday.
After all my agonizing about packing, everything came out just right. The 30 L backpack (which I believe was the Surge model from North face) was just the right size for the trip. Anything bigger and I would have collapsed halfway through the trip and been unable to go on. It didn’t leave much room for souvenirs, but then I didn’t end up with many. I did buy some clothing that I couldn’t quite jam into the pack and I was easily able to mail it home. It was such a breeze being able to cruise on through security in airports without having to worry about checked luggage, and getting on and off the many trains was a snap. I did have to do laundry pretty much every other night which was a challenge to get dry in the damp English climate, but thank goodness for heated towel racks! And thanks especially to Evelyn at the Rathlena Guest House in St. Ives. She dried all my laundry twice during my stay at her guest house, it was hugely welcome.
The less good:
I was disappointed about only a few things. Everyone said that the fish and chips would be amazing in the UK but I have to say I had it twice and it wasn’t all that good. Clearly I needed to do more research and find out the low down on the best places for fish and chips. The castles I saw were also a bit of a let down, but that is just because I have a different idea of what makes for an awesome castle tour, which is dungeons, kitchens, laundry, servants’ quarters, back staircases and secret passages, and I don’t think that falls in with the general expectations of castle tourists. And I won’t even mention Land’s End which was a whole post of disappointment.
Things I would do differently:
My main regret is that I did not allow enough time to see Oxford. Especially since, given the way it worked out, I had my backpack with me for all my touring and it was blisteringly hot and sunny. I only had two half-days and I could have easily taken a week to explore all the colleges, back lanes, gardens, river boating, and Lewis location spotting. I did manage to jam in a visit to the Bodleian library and saw the college that inspired the great hall in the Harry Potter movies, but there was so much more to see. I also would have done more research about what to do in Edinburgh. I was in Scotland at the end of the trip and by then I was so tired, I was just weary from walking everywhere. If I had formed a better plan for Edinburgh and learned how to navigate the bus system, I think I would have had a more fulfilling visit. Instead I ended up mainly with a lot of aimless walking in the tartan covered touristy area.
The best thing about travelling are the small things that you happen upon by chance. Maybe you come around a corner and see an unexpected mural or an interesting wreath in a window. I think those little things are what really make the holiday seem worthwhile, something unexpected that makes you smile.