This is a MUCH overdue recap of my trip to Maine and England. My intention is to tear through this and give a good summary, but knowing my tendencies it’ll probably turn out to be a huge study of my life and my feelings and how I feel about my feelings…. etc. Let’s begin.
I booked this trip to England on a whim- already venturing out as far as the east coast for a wedding, the voyager in me started considering how I could take the trip a step further. I figured that I was already halfway to Europe, and thumbing through my ever-growing list of places I wanted to travel, I saw Britain staring back at me, luring me with promises of rainy weather, beautiful old buildings, and royal fetishism.
I checked my bank account, thought “eh, good enough” (#grownup), and then booked a one-way ticket into Manchester, UK. I’d coordinated with my friend & partner in swoleness Jenn, who was heading out to England to watch the Rugby world cup, and we planned to stay up in Ashton-Under-Lyne with our friend Rick, the owner of the amazing Gritstone CrossfFit (http://www.gritstonecrossfit.co.uk/).
As soon as I booked my flight, I reached out to my good friend Sophie, a girl I’d met while backpacking in New Zealand circa 2009 who lives in the english countryside. She arranged to get some time off of work so we could do *English things* together- okay, a trip was finally starting to come together!
So, here’s the entirety of what I had arranged before I left for England:
Flight to Manchester, arrive Monday
Stay the night with Sophie on Thursday
Fly out of London on Sunday
The question marks account for the gaps in my schedule. I had no idea how I was getting from point A to point B, I didn’t even know what point B was, and I was just gonna head to another country and hope everything would work itself out.
First things first: the whole point of my trip to the east coast was to see our friends Anna and Robert get married. They’re a fantastic couple who Matt and I met while living in St. Louis- they’ve become the definition of #couplegoals for me: they exemplify loving, respectful communication and total support and commitment. I could probably rave all day about them (both individually and as a duo), but I’ll leave you with this: It was really fun, we drank and danced a whole lot, and Maine is beautiful.
We actually flew into Portland, Maine and went out as soon as we got in on Thursday night. We braved the cold and found a cute little pub (with a 90’s alt rock cover band playing… epic), which made for a perfect impromptu date. We woke up the next morning, and I took the first half of the day to wander around Portland eating food while Matt went to a CrossFit gym… typical.
Do you like how those donuts look like they were sent from heaven? This place was fittingly called The Holy Donut- They were seriously amazing and if you’re in Portland you should go check them out: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-holy-donut-portland-2
So, we rented a car, drove from Portland to Bangor (FOLIAGE OMG), and eventually ended up at The Charles, a crazy little historic hotel in illustrious downtown Bangor. We got to explore downtown Bangor in between the festivities, and of course I turned the entire thing into a little food tour.
On Sunday around noon, we packed up and drove down to Boston from Bangor, where Matt and I parted ways and I picked up my plane from Boston Logan to Manchester.
I remember feeling really happy to be on my own at this point. I wasn’t particularly worried about the fact that I had basically NOTHING figured out beyond just getting picked up in Manchester by Jenn and Richard- I’ve traveled enough to know that everything tends to work itself out. This is one of those larger life lessons that applies to everything- embrace the unknown, roll with the punches, etc etc. Trying to plan everything perfectly when you’re traveling closes you off to the endless list of things you couldn’t have possibly planned beforehand- how boring is that?!
After a long, sleepless flight spent watching Bjork documentaries on Icelandair (Boston > Iceland > Manchester), I arrived in a jet-lagged heap in England around Noon local time (with a newfound love of Bjork- Icelandair, you win).
I took a train from the Manchester airport to the downtown train station, where I was picked up by Jenn and a very hungover Richard, fresh (or, not very fresh at all) from the Rugby World Cup match the night before. We headed to Richard’s parents’ home, where I’d be staying for the night, then went straight to the gym. Jenn and I were both coaching that night (like celebrity guest coaches, except totally unknown), so napping was off the table.
I freaking LOVED teaching yoga at Gritstone. Everyone was having so much fun trying something totally new- people were laughing, crying, falling, flying (in my head, I rapped that).
The next day, I hung out with Richard before grabbing a train to London. I’d literally made up my mind that morning to go to London, as I was sipping coffee at a beautiful cafe. At this point, nearly everything was booked up, so I rolled the dice and decided to hostel it- something I might’ve not been entirely comfortable with if I hadn’t spent a few months of my life in hostels during my gap year.
LUCKILY, the hostel ended up being AMAZING. My first night there, I stumbled into a wine and cheese party with some french dudes and an australian girl. You were all perfection. I loved you all. That’s the thing about hostels: you never know who you’ll meet, and you get a nice dose of forced social interaction. It’s more comfortable to stay on your bunk, embracing the free wifi and sending love notes to people back home, but my favorite travel experiences have been the ones where I’ve put down my technology and just interacted with the people around me (SHOCKING, I know. It’s harder than it sounds).
I woke up the next morning and started walking around the city without much direction. I’d taken some screen shots of maps in my phone, but without mobile data (or an actual paper map, for that matter), I was pretty much on my own. THIS is the type of travel I love- you’re walking by yourself, eyes up, embracing the atmosphere, the people, the scenery. My one regret is that I have a limited capacity for caffeine, or else I would have just popped around from cafe to cafe, sipping flat whites, people watching, and meeting people.
After two straight days of walking around London (I seriously clocked over 20 miles), I hopped on a train to Diss, where my friend Sophie lives and works as a veterinarian. She picked me up at the train station, we grabbed a quick cup of tea at her house, then headed to her CrossFit gym, where we did the most brutal combination of 1 rep max Clean and Jerk and “Angie” (100 pull-ups, 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 air squats). Yikes.
The next morning, Sophie and I grabbed a train back down to London (it’s only a 2hr trip), walked miles and enjoyed the open air markets and shops, and eventually ended up at afternoon tea at the Hotel Cafe Royale. It was one of the most beautiful meals of my life- just over-the-top fancy without being stuffy. I had no idea what to expect from a “proper high tea”, but it was basically a food orgy. Oh, and you get champagne, not just tea! Nothing is better than an unexpected glass of Dom.
I booked my last few nights in London at the same hostel I’d began at. I debated going to some super posh hotel and just living it up, but I knew I’d have more fun with the people I’d met at the hostel a few days prior, so I requested my same room and was happy to be back for two more nights.
I got to take a restorative yoga class, see lots of sights, tour the National Gallery, eat so many pies, and go out on the town with my excellent hostel mates. I crammed my day with activity, but all on my own schedule- I didn’t see everything, but I didn’t expect to. I just did the things I wanted to prioritize (beyond coffee and donuts), and it ended up being one of my favorite vacations EVER.
Sorry about all of these tiled mosaics… I’m kinda loving this new WordPress feature, especially when I’m just puking photos at you.
Sunday rolled around, and I headed to the airport for my 1:30pm flight out of Gatwick. I ended up booking a super budget flight on Norwegian Air, but it was surprisingly pleasant and I ended up having an empty seat next to me (livin’ the DREAM) and a really cool girl in the aisle seat who shared food with me. It was a direct flight to LAX, so Matt was a doll and picked me up all the way in LA. Love him.
Now that I’ve explained the general gist of my week, here’s the point: I needed a little “me” time. I needed to mix things up a little. Going about your normal routine for weeks, months, years… it wears these patterns into your mind. It grooves out these paths based on things you do and see every day, and I think that over time, it zaps the creativity out of us. When we’re able to break out of these patterns, even temporarily, something amazing happens: our minds get to bathe in new sights, sounds, emotions- we’re stimulated in new ways, allowing us to get creative and force new perspective on ourselves. I’m aware of when my brain needs some new stimuli because I get really antsy- I can’t exist for very long in a routine without longing for an adventure to the point of going a little crazy.
I know a lot of people who are like this, but they don’t really know how to address that madness/existential ennui/antsy-ness. My simple response is CHANGE IT UP! You don’t need to compulsively book a flight to England to achieve this. You can do something as simple as taking a different route to work, trying a new type of exercise class, or taking a long walk around your neighborhood by yourself. Take a day off of work and enjoy the city you’re in- sit at the coffee shop and observe. My personal preference is to do some of this exploration by yourself- It’s such a treat to be able to be in your own head and get to know yourself, like you would anybody else.
Anyways, sorry for bombarding you with pictures from two months ago. I’ve totally neglected this blog so I wanted to do a quick little journal entry so I could get the damn ball rolling again.