Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Maximize Fun, Minimize Anxiety

First blog post of 2014!

There are:
* 9 days to the cruise
* 114 days to the trip with mom to Virginia
* 246 days to the England trip
* 331 days to a potential trip to see the final stage show of War of the Worlds in Leeds.        

This leaves me both excited and nervous.  I can easily get into the “how am I going to make this all happen” mindset.  But there are some things I know that are true that help me through the anxiety that trips can sometimes produce.

The first is: If it was meant to be, it will be.  If things happen out of your control, you don’t need to worry about them.  If things are in your control, well… then you control your situation and there’s no need for anxiety.

The second is: The more you worry, the less likely you are to manifest what you want – or to manifest it in the way you want.  If you get stuck in “how can I afford this?” or “how can I get time off?” you are adding stones to your dry stone wall.  Sooner or later, you won’t be able to see your trip over it!

The third is: Everything will be fine.  I get into a worry loop sometimes about leaving my dogs, my house, my family and friends, my country, taking a long plane ride over sometimes turbulent ocean air, and landing in the middle of a morass of folks all at the end of their similar trips.  Put your heart and head on autopilot.  Put one foot after the other.  Everything will be fine.

The fourth is: Focus on adventure.  Every moment on your trip is a wonderful adventure!  Maximize that by seeing it for what it is.  Missed your train?  Wow, what a great time to hang out and see the sights, talk to the people, have a bite to eat, take some pictures, etc.  I am grateful for every moment of every trip I’ve ever taken.  Even the bad bits have silver linings.  Find them.

The fifth is: Ignore your mom’s warning and talk with strangers.  Some will ignore  you. Some will be curt.  Most will be charming and funny and interesting.  I’ve made so many wonderful friends that way.  Each person is a chance to experience your trip on a deeper level.

The sixth is: Don’t be afraid to veer from your itinerary.  If you have a plan, and someone comes up with a better idea or with an idea to do something you’ve never tried before, give it some thought.  Go for it if you feel like it would add to your experience.  Don’t tie yourself to a schedule to the point that you limit your fun.

Feel free to brainstorm other ideas on your own that will help you overcome anxiety and create the best vacation you ever had!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Walking in a British Wonderland...

I have not blogged in awhile.  I write that up to not having a lot of free time lately, but mostly it’s just due to my short attention span!

My plans for the 2014 trip have been made, and most of the reservations settled.  It looks as if the next voyage will be a doozy!  I’m taking a travel partner this time, April Moore Fager, who is the sister of one of my best friends.  April is up for the challenge and has never been overseas before.  This will be a great adventure for both of us! 

So, with GoogleMaps in hand, I began crafting a trip.

When I asked April what she would like to do, she said she’d like to see some of the legendary sites of King Arthur.  This is one reason I’d recommend traveling with someone else:  They may give you a new perspective on things you had never thought of.  I typically go to London and to the Lakes and possibly Yorkshire… but this King Arthur thread opens a whole new world of possibilities.    I also wanted to include some things that had been on my bucket list more times than I can shake a stick at. 

Lindisfarne (the Holy Island) would be one of those things.  And since we were going to be in the Durham area anyway, why not see Durham Cathedral and go to an Elizabethan banquet at Lumley Castle?

I have several Facebook friends in the Durham area as well as my long-time friends, Kim and Greg who I hoped would be able to meet up with us.  So, I put out a call to all the folks in the neighborhood and invited them to the banquet with us.  I also asked Kim and Greg if they’d like to tour with us around and about Durham and Lindisfarne.  Sounds like a lovely time in the North!

Last on my Trafalgar tour, we went through some amazing places in Scotland.  So I wanted to return to Pitlochry and to the Troussachs.  It’s a bit like the Lake District.  A bit like the Ozarks in America.  Very lush and green with lots of places to hike and breathe fresh air.  I had passed a hotel that looked posh beyond belief, and – just to treat myself, and because I never do go to very expensive hotels – I decided to book us at the MacDonald Resort and Spa.  It is also a perfect hub from which to see Loch Lomand and Stirling Castle.

No trip with Joy would be complete without staying several days in theEnglish Lake District.  So, we will be housed with my friends Marion and Peter at Goodwin House B&B in Keswick yet again.  It is here that I hope to meet up with all the wonderful people I saw last year and more who couldn’t make it last year to do a day hike.  Perhaps to bag yet another Wainwright or two!  And, of course, no trip would be complete without a trip to the pub afterwards.
So, with the first half of my trip planned, I was pretty proud of myself.  It’s a lot of work timing things just right for the amount of time and money we have.  But, for me, it’s definitely a labor of love.  And crafting a trip is like crafting a beautiful painting.

So what else has been on the bucket list?  The elusive Portmeirion (pronounced Port Marion) for one.  It’s so out of the way from my usual trekking, but if we’re heading south to see King Arthur anyway, why not?

So, we leave Keswick for Portmeirion to spend a couple of hours in this enchanting town.  And, with any luck, will make our halfway point to Cornwall by nightfall.  We’ll be staying in an area I’ve long wanted to see (Brecon Beacons National Park), though we won’t have any time to scout around much.  We’ll be staying at the Dragon Inn in Crickhowell.

And then, finally, we make our way to magical/mystical Cornwall.  There, to stay three nights in the town of Doc Martin fame, Portwenn (Port Isaac in reality).  We plan to see Tingagel Castle (reportedly King Arthur’s birthplace) and tour other King Arthur sites as well as taking a Doc Martin tour.  It should be great fun!

Sadly, we start heading back toward London and Heathrow not long after Port Isaac, but not before stopping at Salisbury to see the Cathedral and making a trek out to Stonehenge and the Avebury stone circles.  With luck (and a little extra time), I hope to visit Glastonbury.  It sounds like the English version of Austin, and has Arthurian links to it as well!

There you have it.  A complete tour of the outer edges of Great Britain all within a two-week period.  We’ll be driving to Heathrow to drop off the car and catch our plane.  If I’ve done my homework well, April will be hooked on England as I am, and will want to return.  As for me, I treat each trip as if it were my last.  You just never know, do you?  So, I will have enjoyed the long drive, seeing new sights, breathing fresh air, hiking, and just filling my heart with the love and wonderment I feel for England and Great Britain.  It will be glorious and surprising – as it always is.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Someone recently posted to me that she thought I hated England… if so, why did I continue to go back?

As I mentioned in my My First Experience in England blog post, things hadn’t gotten off to a great start.  Nor did they get any better, particularly, over the next three years.

The first year we were there, my husband worked while I stayed at home, alone.  I knew no one, and the folks in Harrogate weren’t particularly outgoing.  I knew the young family next door and that was about it!  Then, there was the Faulklands War (which the English thought we should have joined in on).  When we didn’t, we got the cold shoulder (to put it mildly).  About the same time, Cruise missiles were being sent to UK bases.  The protests began.

The only things that saved my sanity back then were the ability to sightsee, my dog (Sheba), knitting, and taking university classes.  By the time our three years were up, I remember my plane taking off for the last time and thinking, “I never have to see that godforsaken country ever again!!!”

Famous last words!

Over the next few years, something happened.  I began to notice I missed the culture and the history… the tradition and the dialect.  I made plans for us to take a trip back over the pond. 

It was fun, but it was also difficult with my (now) ex video taping every single move we made!  There *were* fun times, though, and I continued to muse about my penchant for England.

And then I divorced.  One of the very first things I did was to go to England.  I went with a friend back then, and had a blast.  That feeling of how fun the trip I’d had was carried over to the next trip.  And the next.  And the next.  Each trip adding on the last.  My knowledge of dialects, places, history, literature, art, hiking, and sightseeing constantly growing with each trip. 

I had become an anglophile!  God, how I hated that.  Anglophile sounds like some sort of English groupie.  It’s not that.  It’s a deep seated love for the land and the history that made it what it is and where it’s going. 

And then someone said…

“Why don’t you teach a class on it?”

And I said, “me???”

Hmmm…  well, it is my passion.  I guess I could!  So, I began teaching travel classes to the UK and enjoying the heck out of them.

And, of course, I continued my travels. 

Well, it IS my passion.  :)

To Solo or Not to Solo... That is the Question!

The year was 2003.  I had been working at a Fortune 500 computer manufacturing company for two years, and in those two years, I had seen the most miserable management model and most depressing corporate culture ever invented for the torture of modern woman. 

I had gone to the ER for (what was later determined as) an anxiety attack.  Each day shuffled a mountain of stress down my throat.  It was inhumane.  So, it was no wonder that I when I handed in my resignation, I just wanted to get away from everyone and EVERYTHING. 

I’d traveled numerous times to England, but never alone… but if I wanted to get away from it all, this was just about the furthest I could get.  So, with passport in hand, and no new job on the horizon, I booked a trip by myself.

Now, I do have some friends over there (so I wasn’t going to be alone all the time), but I was dead set that I was not going to mope around.  I was going to see what traveling solo was like and it was going to be fun, by God!

That trip was epic.  I saw Warwick castle that year.  Traveled to my beloved Yorkshire.  And, saw London.  But, what I hadn’t counted upon is that solo people traveling in foreign countries who look like they’re having fun are a magnet for even more fun!  I’ve since traveled solo almost every year – enjoying each adventure as much as the last.

You meet more people traveling solo than you would if you had a travel partner.  If you’re outgoing and upbeat, you make new friends instantly! People appear out of the woodwork to chat or have a glass of wine.  People find out you’re from America and they want to talk about their trip to America or to ask what your part of America is like.  You become an Ambassador of sorts! 

Traveling solo means you don’t have to go to dusty museums if you don’t want to… you can go for a hike up a distant mountain or sit quietly by a placid lake in the Lake District.  Your itinerary is your own!
I’m a morning person, and there are very few travel partners who could keep up with that early to bed/early to rise philosophy on vacation.  I enjoy wandering empty streets.  Smelling warm bread baking for the day, watching market stalls being set up, and catching a sunrise over a churchyard. 

I don’t sleep well, so if I want to get up in the middle of the night, I’m not bothering anyone.  I just turn on a light, open a window, write in my journal, or read.  It’s up to me… I’m doing everything I want to do!  Who often gets a chance to do that?

There are pluses and minuses to being in a relationship.  I count this as one of the blessings.  To paraphrase Richard Bach, I’m not tying myself to the limits of someone else’s airplane!

I do make exceptions to traveling solo on rare occasion.  Last year, I didn’t know a country I was traveling to, so I spent a week on a guided tour to familiarize myself with the area.  I don’t typically recommend guided tours, but they are good for the more timid tourist, the elderly tourist who doesn’t want to mess with baggage handling for the duration of the trip, and for familiarizing yourself with unfamiliar places so you can tour unhindered the next time and have a general idea of the lay of the land.

Next year, I’m traveling with someone who I know will be exceptionally fun as a travel companion.  If you do choose a travel partner, there are some things you should ask yourself:
  •  Are we personally compatible or will they be a downer? Last year, a friend of mine met a lady from her travel meetup group who wanted to go with her to England.  The friend found herself tied to a dismal rock for two weeks!  Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your potential travel partner before saying yes to traveling with them.
  • Are their habits in tune with mine?  Do they smoke? Drink? Keep unusual hours?  I definitely need a morning person who doesn’t smoke or drink overly much.
  • What sorts of things do they want to do?  Are they the same things I want to do?  My travel partner suggested a “King Arthur” themed tour, and I hadn’t considered that before.  We’re going to be doing it!
  • Are they independent travelers or dependent travelers?  I love showing people places and things they may never have known existed.  I also know I need my personal space.  So, a travel partner who understands I need some “me” time now and then works well!
So, if someone wants to know my opinion about traveling solo vs. taking a travel partner, I have to say there are pluses and minuses to both.  I’ll probably continue to travel solo on those years a fun partner doesn’t land in my lap, but if one does… rest assured, we’ll be painting every town red!