This summer, I decided to travel! I took the money I had saved up prior to and during the school year and decided to go to the UK. Most of my ancestry links are there, and I’ve never been.
This may seem like an easy choice for the adventurous, but I’d be lying if I said it was. Everyone in the cohort had a choice to make about what to do with their summers. Some traveled like me, while others chose to visit family, work a summer job, get settled into Chicago, and obtain residencies to work on other theater projects. With choosing to travel until August, I have to accept the consequences that come as a result. I will probably feel a bit disoriented since I only have two weeks in Chicago before the fall term begins. I won’t get to see my family members for more than a few days, as they are spread out all over South Carolina. My decision also affects my financial situation. Since I’m using my extra savings, I will need to have a roommate next year even though I had hoped to rent a studio. I will need to work a part-time job to replenish my emergency funds and if I hope to have a social life, which will need to be frugal. It was important for me to take those results into account so I could prioritize for the following year.
I bet you’re thinking, Cool, that’s great that you thought things through, but can we move onto the travel parts?! Well, no. Not yet. Once I made the actual decision, a million more questions came up.
In choosing a route, prioritizing and planning had to be done there, too. Where did I want to go? How long should I stay in each place? Should I fly, take trains (or coaches), or rent a car? Should I stay in hostels, go camping, or book Airbnbs? People kept asking these questions, and it made me realize how little I knew about what I wanted. Upon reflecting, these are the personal guidelines I made for myself:
- I wanted to spend as little as possible on food (so I brought a bunch of Cliff Bars.)
- I wanted to experience natural beauty.
- I wanted to prioritize places that had been recommended to me.
- I wanted to have limited communication on my phone.
- I would only bring a backpack.
In the end, I decided on this route: London, Brighton, Bristol (with a day trip to Bath), Snowdonia National Park in Wales, Loch Lomond in Scotland, Isle of Skye, Inverness, St. Andrews, Edinburgh, Galway in Ireland, Killarney, the Beara Peninsula, and Cork. Then, I would visit Berlin for three days to get my larger suitcases (thanks again, Adri!) and head back to the U.S.
This whole trip took almost as long to plan as the time I’d be spending there. It’s only my second time traveling alone internationally, so I chose to stay mostly in Airbnbs, sometimes hostels. All of my hosts are women or families. I wanted to be able to chat with and get recommendations from those with whom I stayed. Also, I’m a light sleeper, so staying in a room with multiple people isn’t always a good option for me. I took my friend Georgie‘s advice about booking: In the cities, just book the cheapest decent place, and in the country, spring for something that only that area can offer. Since there won’t be as much activity, book places that you want to spend time in. Therefore, I picked some unique places in Scotland and Ireland, such as a shepherd’s hat, an old hunting lodge turned bed and breakfast, a Buddhist hostel on a cliff, and a tiny room at the top of the tower with windows on all sides.
For the first half of the trip, I was easily able to book trains and coaches, but when I asked my friends for recommendations in Scotland and Ireland, the most common comment was, “You should get a car.” So…I did. (Gasp!) I’m absolutely terrified, but I consoled myself with the reminder that I was able to book a car using an American license. The country must believe I’ll be able to drive on the opposite side of the road. (‘Keep to the left’ has become my new mantra.) One thing to note though is that I had to pay a higher rate to get an automatic car. Unfortunately, I never learned to drive with manual transmission, but I’ll probably want to focus on my road orientation without having to concentrate on shifting gears anyway.
I’ve since begun my trip with London and Brighton, but I’ll save the stories for my next entry. It was so worth doing the research, as it forced me to ask myself about what I want from this summer and next year. I found that it also saved me time and money, and I have more brain space to deal with little crises that have come up with minimal panic. Maybe I’ll even start to enjoy the little crises…navigating the tube…missing my train…getting attacked by midges or seagulls…going the wrong way in a roundabout…AHHHHH!!! I’ll be fine.
Keep to the left, keep to the left, keep to the left.