I’ve been home now for around 20 hours, and this is my suitcase. It’s still where I plonked it yesterday, before I rushed off to collect Trixy when I arrived back from a three-week trip. Am I, I wonder, reluctant to unpack it because it means the trip is over, and I need to get real again, or am I just lazy?
I’m opting for the former because I rushed around this morning paying bills and doing banking and shopping, I set the alarm and I walked along the beach with Trix, so I don’t think it’s laziness. I’m inclined to think that I don’t want to get back into a routine.
I know this question – why travel? – is one which is constantly on our minds, and I know that probably there are at least as many opinions as there are travel bloggers (and let’s not forget that not all travellers blog!). It’s a question which has been on my mind throughout this short trip, possibly because on the one hand I’ve had very little opportunity to travel in recent years, and on the other because when I realized that was going to be the case, towards the end of 2009, I made up my mind to take my travel attitude and apply it to the life around me. That was a good move. It brought me opportunities, contacts, and experiences I might have otherwise missed.
The river Guadalquivir in Sevilla, Spain
Travel brings us contrasts and comparisons, which wake up our senses and bring us out of any inertia into which the daily grind might have sunk us. In three, short weeks I took in so many different vibes; from the charm and elegance of Sevilla (in a heat wave!) to the sturdy and handsome history of York (in a finger-freezing cold snap!).
Lendal Bridge, York, England
I went from the chaos of cities like London and Barcelona to the peace of the English Lake District.
My trip wasn’t just about seeing and doing, but also catching up with family. I’m lucky that my family lives in interesting places I guess, but one thing which occurred to me over the days I was in York and the Lake District was how little I know of places I’ve visited so often, which just re-enforces my idea that our minds should always be open to new ideas and experiences wherever we are, and however long we may have known a place.
“Interesting places” said, I truly believe that there are things of interest everywhere you go, it’s just that there are times when you have to scratch the surface of a place to find what’s underneath.
London’s marvelous Kew Gardens – my “new discovery” on this visit to the city.
Travel isn’t just about seeing something and ticking it off a list, but equally you can gain something from even a short trip. A weekend away or a day trip can qualify as travel if you approach it with an open mind; if you don’t try to do it all.For me it’s better to concentrate on one aspect or one theme, and acquire some in-depth feeling for the place. It might turn out to be that you don’t like whatever theme you chose, or that you don’t like the place, but you will have experienced and learned.
I learned that even in the Lake District, a place I’ve known (and, of course, loved) since I was 11 years old, there is still so much I haven’t seen or known. I was unexpectedly stuck there for four or five weeks a couple of years back, in a post-Christmas January blighted by freezing rain and the darkest midday skies you can imagine – definitely not sight-seeing weather, not even for gentle drives – unless there is a purpose! I found mine in the local bookstore (now a Waterstones) in Kendal center. Dripping my way along the shelves in search of books to pass away the time I came across a biography of William Wordsworth, one of my favorite poets since my school days. It was a nice, chunky book to fill my time, but it proved to be a gateway to new experience too. Feet up on my dad’s sofa, I found myself in a world so much more interesting than I remembered from school. It lead me to re-visit Grasmere and Dove Cottage, where Wordsworth lived and wrote some memorable masterpieces. I knew Grasmere quite well, as a point from which to end or begin a hike, and I’d been to Dove Cottage twice previously, but I found myself looking at it all with new eyes in light of what I read. The other thing was that I remember a lot of what I read much more clearly because I visited places which re-enforced my reading, and visiting those places meant so much more because I could fit my newly-acquired knowledge to them. Even now, almost six years on, it stands out as a memory of a great visit, which could have been so much different given the weather!
Personally, it’s exhilarating not to be in a routine too. I know that isn’t for everyone, but I love to wake up in the morning and take a minute to figure out where I am. I avoid routine wherever possible, but a certain amount is forced on us by circumstance, even if we aren’t slaving away at the 9 to 5. By the same token I find myself missing somethings about my routine. I missed Trixy and our walks enormously this time, and since I started to exercise seriously (yep ….kept that one quiet, didn’t I?!) I missed the daily challenge too. Fact is it’s kind of nice to miss things. It’s nice to have something to miss. Would I adapt to a life of constant travel? Not sure, but I doubt it, though I certainly don’t need to feel secure in one place all the time either.
Weeping willows in Guildford – last year’s new discovery.
At the end of the day, I go back to one of my first remarks – there are as many reasons as there are travellers, and probably our reason this trip may be different from the reason we have next trip, for those of us who are not in constant motion. Whatever the “excuse” I can say that the end result is what I seek. Sitting at my desk now I feel as if my brain has taken a cold shower and emerged fresh and stimulated for whatever lies ahead. What I want is for this feeling to last (forever if possible). You know how daredevils say that they never feel more alive than in a moment when they face death? Well, that’s how travel makes me feel, more alive.