Hello. Yikes. A lot of time sure has passed since I last sent word or update regarding our year of travel. Fear not, below is all you have been patiently waiting for… my return to blogging!
We began this journey– this year of travel, almost 2 months ago. We find ourselves currently in a rural community outside a small village, 1.5 hours east of London.
It was an accumulation of events… (isn’t it always?) to get to where we are now– Bradwell-On-Sea, England. We spent August in Ireland volunteering with a family I connected with on Workaway— a program that connects travelers and volunteers with hosts all over the world. Our next stop in early September found us in central Wales, on a cider farm. We stayed for about a week, but had to move on due to poor internet connectivity. When your travel companion is a 4th grader and goes to school online, internet access is essential. We headed to Cardiff in southern Wales and enjoyed a few days in that beautiful welsh city, going to markets and enjoying the late summer weather.
However, at this point in time, I was calculating several options in my mind. Do we stay in Cardiff for the rest of the month? Can we afford to live in Airbnb’s? Do we attempt to find another Workaway asap?
October and November we will be volunteering in Spain, but the remaining three weeks in September were totally up in the air! Fortunately, I was able to connected with a Workaway opportunity within 24 hours of searching and a new leg of our trip began. Our time here is almost over, and in one week’s time we will be heading to London for the weekend and on to Spain.
There are vast distinctions between touring 10 countries in two weeks and slow traveling.
With quicker trips, jam packed with impossible itineraries and constant train connections, you DO get the thrill of an ever changing backdrop, exciting interludes with other travelers, and lots of stamps in your passport.
Slow travel demands you to be present. The exhilaration of a new experience takes its time, seeping into your memory undetected. You recall the times of high and low tide, you learn the nuances of those around you, and the farewells are more tender. You may not check all the “hot spots” off some list, but you have now spent significant time in one place, outside of your common routine, and have called it home.
Before our trip began, I had to come to grips with a reality about myself. I suck at buying plane tickets. I buy way too early, like months too early, because I get excited about the trip. This is more of an impulse issue. I just enjoy solidifying my travel arrangements and getting that flight itinerary sent to my email… 6 months ahead of time.
This trip has shown me the way of the last-minute-method. I can now comfortably book train and bus tickets 48 hours before a projected trip and feel ok about it. Not amazing, but ok. I’m learning to let go of having a journey routed out step by step in advance. Sometimes we make Airbnb reservations in the train station upon arrival to our destination, and sometimes I stay up late the night before departing a city, comparing train and route prices.
I think this comes from traveling with my daughter. I want the experience to be seamless, not rushed or stressful. HA.
But we understand that is part of the journey. Lugging the rolly- bag down narrow isles, bumping every elbow unfortunate enough to be sticking out; running through train stations in search of the correct platform; and making the best of a missed flight. We have successfully navigated the Parisian transit system! We have traveled by bus, train and ferry all in one day! We are learning to be flexible in our expectations, knowing that 9 out of 10 times when something doesn’t go according to plan, there is an even tastier adventure waiting for us.
I like rural. I like the countryside. I like space around me and quiet mornings. Our time has been spent in these locations, waking up in a cozy caravan, with an early start to the day. Most mornings, while stationed here in southeast England, have us harvesting the endless early fall bounty, followed by walks along the sea wall, visits to the beach, communal cooking and meals.
However, what makes the charming rural life charming is the ability to leave it from time to time.
I don’t miss owning a car, but I do miss driving. That access to freedom, knowing I can escape for a weekend, or just go to the grocery store when I want. I enjoy the hustle of a big city, especially European cities. The ancient and the contemporary, side by side, offering a provocative playground for visitors, and an inspiring yet oft disregarded backdrop for locals.
I want our journey to encompass these extremes, because both have much to teach a traveler– the isolation and contemplativeness of the countryside and the brilliant commotion of the city. I know I need both.
Just the two of us. 24 hours a day. Through boarder crossings and tantrums (hers and mine), arrivals and departures… we are together. I’m not gonna lie. It is intense. But I feel that 9 is a perfect age to expose a child to long-term international travel.
Penelope charms the hearts of most everyone we meet, infecting them with her energy. I have seen dance parties erupt and cartwheel competitions launched on the whim of her suggestion, it’s brilliant to witness.
She is old enough to stay with the luggage while I run off to use the bathroom, and I can give her a handful of coins and she can self-assuredly order a beverage on her own. I get to observe her learning and experiencing new things, her confidence and curiosity growing by the day, but I have to remind myself that she is still a child and needs comfort… and me.
The day we lost Squishy on the train transfer in London could have been a very unfortunate day. Squishy is her stuffed animal, this awkward round owl with droopy eyes, that she selected after taking inventory then performing an in-depth pre-trip screening process of her stuffed animals– who among you is worthy to take the journey with us??
Penelope didn’t realize she had misplaced/dropped/forgotten Squishy during one of our transfers, and only upon arriving at our destination, did we comprehend what had happened. Squishy was ready to fly solo, to go off on her own adventure in London, and so she had to slip away quickly– she hates goodbyes. And this is what I told my daughter. She believed the reasoning and found comfort in it, nodding her head understandingly.
I want to bottle up that magic and wear it around my neck. How fucking brilliant is it to live in a world where mermaids exist, stuffed animals are sentient beings, and navigating YouTube is second nature??
It is an ephemeral paradox, being 9 years old. I’m glad she is sharing it with me.
This post comes to you just shy of 2 months on the road and I haven’t posted anything since starting our trip! I haven’t been able to settle all of the thoughts and ideas percolating in my head and get them from my brain to my fingertips until very recently. I want to share useful information on the blog about slow travel, and traveling with kids, and navigating a round-the-world trip, how to nurture relationships while traveling, and occasionally tickling the massive topic of the meaning of life. Huzzah! This sounds like it could be a perplexing, and beautiful experience.
It is my privilege to have you along.
All photos property of Graveyard Shift Travel