I recently returned from a trip to England, a country with which I have great fascination. I made a few interesting observations about my trip and my response to travel at my advanced age. When I compare present myself to my younger self, I realize that I no longer have a very adventurous spirit; I do, however, have the time and freedom to take on new challenges. I have never traveled abroad by myself, so this trip offered me a new opportunity. I heard about the trip from the local radio station, and with the encouragement of my sisters, I booked the trip.
As I prepared for the trip, I realized that I had some anxiety about traveling with people that I did not know and going to new places. I was constantly researching travel information related to proper passports, exchanging money, temperatures, time changes, the cost of baggage, and a host of other things not connected to the actual places that I would visit. Because many aspects of travel connect technologically, I felt a degree of apprehension about my capability to find information successfully. Flight times, gates, and departures as well as boarding passes come through email and with a click or swipe on a smartphone, I can slip through security in record time to find my gate, which is invariably at the end of the terminal.
Driving myself to the airport often seems like the most sensible thing to do. I don’t like to depend on my kids to take me or pick me up,although they never seem to have problems asking me to pick them up from a Red-eye flight. I find it’s often easier to Groupon a long term parking place near the airport and take the shuttle over to my terminal.
By the time I checked my bag, went through security, and found my gate, I was ready to look for a snack. But since I traveled alone, I realized that I had to take my carry-on luggage with me. A security announcement blasted through the terminal announcing that if any baggage is left unattended, the authorities will be notified and the bags will be destroyed. So, a lesson I learned on this trip is to take a rolling bag, at least for long trips.
Lesson two is to bring something to do. On this trip to England, my first stop from Philadelphia landed in Washington D.C. where I had a six hour layover until my next flight. I can drive to D.C. in less time than that layover. I always have a book and my phone cables. I also brought my headphones so that I could listen to my audiobook. What a life saver those earphones were! People watching can only maintain my interest for so long.
After a long trans-Atlantic flight, I landed in London, and along with my fellow travelers met our tour guide. Lesson three developed as we traveled approximately 1500 miles on a beautiful tour bus. Although the driver was more than adequate and efficient, only allowing us to travel for ninety minutes before stopping for a break, sitting for hours on the bus became a dreaded occurrence. Fortunately, the bus was relatively empty and we passengers had plenty of room, but a neck pillow, snacks, and water should always accompany a bus trip.
The challenge of using foreign currency is also a challenge. In my experience, credit cards are the best choice for spending, except that I found very few places that took my credit card. I had already consulted my credit card company ahead of time, and they assured me that I should have not trouble. But, I had trouble. I’m glad that I took my brother-in-law the banker’s advice and purchased British sterling before I left home. Needless to say, I did not spend much money.
I have a few other thoughts. Have a good pair of walking shoes. I walked between 12,000 and 14,000 steps every day. If I wanted to see something for myself, I needed to walk to the location, so good walking sneakers are a necessity. Prepare yourself for different foods. I love to try new foods, provided the food isn’t monkey brains or eye of newt. It’s always good to get a taste of the edibles from the place you are visiting. If you are on a diet though, you might be in trouble. Air conditioning is not a priority in England. Although it is seldom extremely warm, this year was different. The temperatures were in the high 80’s and low 90’s and only a few hotels had air conditioning. Windows in hotels open part way to prevent suicides, so getting any significant relief from air flow is not likely. So, my advice is check the temperatures of the place you are going before packing.
As you travel, admire and enjoy all the things you see and experience and then compare them to home. As much as I enjoyed my visit to England, I began to get anxious after seven days about getting home. What’s at home? Nothing really, but I missed my home, my family, my church, my friends, and fewer crowds of people.
Would I go again to England? In a heartbeat. Well, maybe a few heartbeats from this moment.