On Tuesday I board a flight from Melbourne to London. Twenty two hours later I’ll land at Heathrow as I have done many times before. This time is different. It’s a month long holiday which for the last 20 years has been unheard of. Running a business and with the end of financial year looming, a month long holiday has been out of the question…. until now. Closing my business in 2018 has given me new opportunities and freedoms. As my 70th birthday approaches at year end this trip is different in other ways too. I write this now as a wish –list of my explorations. In a month’s time I’ll be able to take stock of my wanderings and reflect on the experience. Another Viva article!
This trip is different in so many ways. I’m older and more thoughtful about how I plan my trip, how I’ll manage my luggage over many trains and airports and safe places to stay as a solo traveller. Budget matters more than previous trips yet it’s a celebration of 70 years of living, giving and Elderhood. There’s no checklist of castles and museums. I’m not rushing from one country to another. I know myself well now and understand that watching village life from a tearoom or chatting to locals on the train can be enriching and memorable. This trip is about returning to places I know and love and exploring Scotland where I have never been. There’s the Chelsea Flower Show, music in local pubs, a gentle hike in the Scottish highlands and staying with friends on a farm in North Yorkshire.
More than anything this trip is a homecoming. I left England aged 16 and in spite of my age I have never made peace with where I belong. Even after 54 years of living happily in Australia there is an emptiness- a tiny spot in my soul that belong elsewhere. I think it belongs in England- in Derbyshire where I was born. I’ve travelled to the UK since my twenties every 2-3 years, mostly to London, Dorset, Yorkshire and Devon. Two years ago I spent some time in Derbyshire and revisited the village of my childhood. It’s as if I finally came home. My shoulders relaxed and I smiled in memory of everything- the dialect, the cakes, the dour stone cottages, the vivid green fields, tough stocky older women and the woodlands. I get it! Or at least I think I do.
This trip I’m spending days in my favourite part of London near Hyde Park. I have an apartment in Nottingham for a week, to use as a base for my Derbyshire explorations. I spend a few days in beautiful North Yorkshire staying with friends on the farm before heading to Edinburgh. Then I take a tour of the Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Skye before bedding down in Oban as an entry point to the islands of Mull and Iona. A few days in Glasgow and the train takes me back to London for my final days in the UK.
This trip is also different because my trusty computer and iphone will be constant companions to document my travels and collect content for VIVA70. I hope to write a couple of articles a week for the blog while Facebook and Instagram posts will be plentiful… So stay connected….
It’s been a busy few weeks preparing and planning but here’s what I’ve learned. These tips may be helpful to you in planning your next adventure
- Think Travel Plan. What’s the purpose of your trip? How do you want to travel? I need a few bases from which to explore. Time to unpack, create a “home” and feel grounded.
- Create your own itinerary and book your own travel. Draw up a calendar and scope the amount of time you’d like in each place. Do your research. Read reviews on – line not just official sight-seeing guides. Scroll down through reviews- the good ones always float to the top. You need to see the bottom dwellers too! Once you have the overall plan start slowly booking accommodation.
Think of location, price, amenities you want, self- catering? B&B. send your special requests to the hotel- early check-in, quiet rooms etc. I need reliable internet and walking distance to everything as I won’t have a car. Take it a few days at a time and check the details carefully. I always book trains in the UK ahead of time- much cheaper and then it’s organised. You can use a campervan or take a punt on finding accommodation when you’re in the county but UK in spring is hugely popular! Why not use a travel agent? Because it’s fun doing the research and making decisions. Also it’s cheaper. Whatever travel agents say I have priced 2 identical trips doing my bookings vs travel agent bookings and the agent trip came out at 25% more expensive.
- Think Luggage. Last time I was in the UK I rented a car. Never again. Medieval villages and miles and yards left me meandering around the Nottingham ring road 17 times before I could find my way out of town! I swore to use public transport and walk in future. So this time I have been VERY thoughtful about luggage. I’ll be taking my laptop too. My back can become cranky after hours in the plane so I’ve found a smaller lightweight suitcase with 4 moveable wheels. I’ll take a smallish light weight back pack which is my only carry- on luggage and will be useful for a day of walking the highlands. My old reliable leather Le Sac shoulder bag that converts into a 2 handled handbag is a trusty friend and has seen many travel adventures
- Think wardrobe. Gone are the days when I needed a huge wardrobe and then purchased another large suitcase to carry all my acquisitions home again. Everything is non- iron and multi season. On the plane its loose black elastic waisted pants with pockets with pewter coloured dressy flats. Layers- a t-shirt, overlayed with a thicker jersey t-shirt with long sleeves and a trench-coat rolled in my back-pack. A scarf multi-tasks as a shawl if I get cold. I love Skechers shoes which are great for walking and a little more stylish than running shoes. Underwear and night wear. Three pairs of pants, one dress, a wet weather jacket, 4 t-shirts, a woolly cardigan, 3 long sleeve t’s. It’s a minimalist approach and a limited palette of navy, black, white and pale blue with colourful scarves and jewellry.
- Boring Bits: Good health insurance, copies of passport and all travel documents. Leave copies with family at home too. Buy some currency from your bank before you leave- not at the airport- exchange rates are awful. Don’t forget any medication you need. Use WHAT’S APP to connect to family and friends while away- easy to use and free.
Au Revoir dear Viva readers. We are all travelling every day…whether it’s in our minds and attitudes or whether its thousands of miles in the air. Stay well. Be kind and live fully! I’m off to create and relive memories!