It’s quite nice not having a plan sometimes. When I decided that I was going to travel Europe, that is as far as the plan got and it’s still not got much further!
Dealing with the logistics of packing up my life and relocating to the other side of the world is something I’ve done before but it doesn’t get easier. Particularly when I’m constantly plagued by doubts of whether I’m doing the right thing or not; having the norms and trappings of society on one shoulder is a burden, especially as adventure and wanderlust are pulling on the other.
However, I did it and here I am, sat in my best friend’s spare room in Cardiff, fog blanketing the windows and the cold tapping at the door, typing away with a smile on my face. This is day 7 of my 43-day road trip around the UK.
I didn’t plan initially to include the UK in my European trip. I wanted to immerse myself in all that Europe had to offer and if the opportunity came for me to work somewhere where I lay my hat, before ‘brexit’ potentially restricts it, then even better. I need the money to continue to travel! However, as I started thinking about the joy of what histories and stories I would absorb around this diverse and rich continent I kept thinking about the immense past which would be on my doorstep, as I exited the plane at Heathrow. I decided that following some quality time seeing my family and friends, a road trip had to be at the top of my agenda.
When I started thinking about where to go in the UK, it dawned on me how little of this little country I had seen. I always thought travelling meant going as far away as possible. My travel ideology was to travel a spiral, working from the outside in, going everywhere far away when I’m young and able, then visiting the places closer to home when I’m older and potentially less able. When I moved to Australia, it left that pattern of thinking somewhat upside down. As well as the rest of me.
Deciding on where to go in the UK was devised with a few key factors: where I wanted to go, where I could stay for free or next to no cost and what would allow me a maximum travel time of 2 hours a day. I’m not quite sure how the total duration became 43 days but so be it.
Those who know me, know I’m not backward in coming forward. I reached out to friends and family (some of whom I’ve not spoken to in a very long time) and asked for a spare room, a sofa or anywhere comfy, where I could stay in exchange for a warm smile and a thank you. Upon doing so, it reiterated how lovely my friends and family actually are, as I was inundated with a number of people agreeing to shelter me, take time off work to be my tour guide and integrate me into their lives for a few cherished days at a time. This also added another dimension to the trip – reacquainting myself with people I’ve not seen for years. Some I’ve not seen for 3, some for 5 and some I’ve not seen for over 10 years! It also fostered a new thought for me – everyone I am virtual friends with via Facebook should also be friends in real life as well. If I’m friends with you online, then I want to see your face and book your time in the real world. (Friendships and travelling is going to be covered in its own blog, as I have lots of thoughts on the subject). So slowly, an itinerary was formed and after some quality time with my nearest and dearest over the Christmas break I started wandering.
I waved goodbye to the docile town of Worthing on Friday 13th January and with forecasts of ‘thundersnow’ predicted for many parts of this chilly little island, I set off with my first port of call only 30 minutes from my parent’s front door. Arundel is a picturesque little market town and my reason to visit there was the medieval castle and the stunning cathedral, which sits high on one of the many hills where Arundel has laid its streets.
Arundel Castle and Cathedral
Britain is steeped in history and so far, some of the most impressive buildings I have seen are the cathedrals and churches and Arundel’s didn’t disappoint. I spent the morning wandering around, before moving on to Portsmouth for an afternoon of roaming this historic Naval port and the UK’s only island city. Despite the rumblings of increment weather from those who should be able to predict it better, I had beautiful blue skies on day one of my road trip and I really got to dive head first into some extreme history. I saw some beautiful architecture and learnt a lot about the origins of these towns and really counted myself lucky that many of these dominating and beautiful buildings managed to survive through so many wars and seasons, over the past 600 years or so.
Portsmouth at sunset
I stopped for the night at my friend Jasmin’s house, who has been an amazing friend since school and continues to be so. Enjoying the company of Jasmin and her happy little family allowed me to ease into this trip and as we had travelled together in the past (as you’ll know from my previous blog). Travel was a top topic of conversation and Jas was able to give me some top tips for when I set off in the morning, to explore Southampton and briefly, Winchester.
I never knew Southampton was a walled city. The wall was built after the French came and invaded back in 1378, while everyone was at church. It really pissed off the King and so he made the people of Southampton erect and maintain a wall, to prevent it from happening again. Chances are they were at St. Michael’s church, which was founded in 1070 and is still in use today! After walking the walls and the port, I took myself to the Titanic museum to learn more about the historic voyage from this very city and those on-board. I took a quick pit stop at Winchester Cathedral to see it lit up at night, before resting my head at another friend’s house, who will always be close to me but will be anonymous in this blog.
St. Michael’s church
The following morning, I headed off to Stonehenge and to enjoy one of the original wonders of the world, which I can’t believe I had never visited before. It’s overwhelming to think that Stonehenge was formed over 5000 years ago and we’re able to still visit it today. I left the site in awe and continued on my way to Bristol and to reconnect with my friend Lisa, who I first met in Brazil in 2005 and we have since caught up with each other in Germany, Australia and of course good old blighty.
I had no preconceived ideas of Bristol, I just knew Lisa was there and it was a good stopping point between Southampton and Cardiff but let me just say, Bristol is an amazing place! Lisa was kind enough to be my tour guide for a couple of days and show me the delights that Bristol has to offer. From the original iron age forts from their time to the 3 storey terraces houses we see today, Bristol is also a host to a wealth of history, including where the first ship to discover North America sailed from. As a city, it has a great feel to it and there is so much to see and do and nearly everything was reachable on our walking tours. It is a beautiful and vibrant city, with some fantastically diverse areas, yet it still maintains the charm and dignity that most university towns seem to effortlessly present. I would highly suggest visiting Bristol, if you get the chance.
Bristol and an original Banksy piece of art, following the Brexit vote
So now we’re up to date. Well, I’m in Cardiff but I’ll leave that to a later blog for fear of boring you with too much to say, which I’ve been more than capable of doing in the past. Although is it only day 7 of this trip, I write this on the day which marks my first month away from Australia. I’m really glad I made the decision to take the time to travel this fantastic and historic Kingdom and I’m happy to say, there is no turning back now and as the host of Mastermind says, I’ve started, so I’ll finish.