Over the past few years, I have travelled quite a lot, both to different countries and within them and I can honestly say that I love and have loved those journeys. When I was asked to do this post for letter ‘J’, there were many journeys which came straight to mind as being memorable for many reasons. I include a few here but I also want to share with you what it is I love about journeys.
We all get the chance to take an amazing journey as we travel through our lives every moment and we experience all the highs and lows and meet people along the way. Some of those people stay in our lives as loved ones or friends and become a big part of our joys. There are memorable times throughout our lives if we choose to see them as such and experience them to the full. Physical journeys are exactly the same and they become whatever we make of them.
Often as I travel around, I am asked similar questions. ‘Aren’t you ever scared?’, ‘Are you ever lonely?’, ‘Don’t you find all that travelling boring?’ and also ‘Isn’t it quicker to go by plane?’
Why would I be scared? There are so many amazing people to meet along the way who will help you no matter what and I have been on the end of many acts of kindness when I travel that I know for sure that there is no need to be scared.
I am never lonely! I know this is partly due to what I’ve just said above as you will always meet people along the way if you are open to doing so. The idea is not to be surrounded by people so you are not alone as you can still feel lonely in a crowded room but to make connections with the people around you is something truly magical. Many of my closest friendships came from simply being ready to smile and say hello or start a conversation.
Travel can never be boring. Just think you start somewhere and end up somewhere else and generally see things along the way. There is always nothing boring about sitting in a plane or on a bus or train and knowing that you are exactly where you need to be for that length of time. There are no other demands on you or your time and if your lucky then you won’t be connected to the outside world so you get the chance to switch off and simply watch the landscape through your window or take a nap. That’s an amazing gift that a lot of us don’t get regularly enough, the chance to simply be with ourselves without needing to do anything else.
Isn’t it quicker to take the plane? Well yes it probably is. However, when you take public transport through the country you get to see the landscape, meet the people and take part in or simply observe traditions throughout their travel experience. In a plane, you get picked up and dropped off without seeing anything of the country. So, when I can I will always opt for buses or trains which may take longer but I’ve noticed how much more you experience. The customs experience from country to country, the rules of travel in each country and more importantly how people interact with me and each other, that is all an experience I would not wish to miss. More of this to follow in the country specific posts!
Now for a couple of the journeys I’ve loved:
RMS St Helena: I can’t possibly write a post about journeys and not include this one. Between 2014 and 2017, I was lucky enough due to work opportunities to live on St Helena Island and therefore I made the journey on the RMS St Helena 6 times, 5 of those were between Cape Town, South Africa and St Helena whilst one was St Helena to Ascension with a stay of a few nights and then on to Brize Norton, Oxfordshire. The island is now served by an airport however during my stay, the airport was yet to open so I had the luxury of spending 5 nights at sea, eating delicious food and chatting with tourists and local Saints. This will no doubt remain one of the best journeys I have taken for years to come. Those 5 nights gave me ample time to adjust to the fact that I would be living on an isolated island for 10 months each time especially as each day past and all you saw was open waters.
Oslo to Bergen and back: In December 2018, I went to Oslo, Norway and was also convinced by blogs I read online, to go to Bergen and to take the train which guaranteed an amazing journey. Sometimes you hear such enthusiastic recommendations and then wish you hadn’t followed the advice but this time was different. Leaving Oslo in the morning, it was cold, foggy and dark for the beginning of the journey, however that soon changed. With big windows to view from, it was as though someone had created a montage of all my favourite scenes and pressed play as I sat down in my seat and I started to see one Christmas scene after another with snow covering the landscape before me. The train travels upwards towards the ski resorts to give greater views of the mountains and then as you approach Bergen, lakes come into sight which in the afternoon sun allowed for gorgeous colours as the mountains are reflected in the lake. Doing the journey from Bergen to Oslo a few days later was also very rewarding in views and I couldn’t help but imagine what it would look like in spring and summer time.
There are so many more journeys I could include here, however as there are so many to choose from it is probably best to leave them for their country-specific posts to fully appreciate them. One of the things I enjoy doing whilst travelling is to look at the people around me as it is easy to spot the locals as they are the ones who aren’t in awe of the view before them. This was especially interesting when I flew from Kathmandu to my placement in Bhairahawa, Nepal and noticed how no-one else on the plane was desperately leaning across their fellow passengers to catch a glimpse out of the window as we flew over the Himalayas! What made it even funnier (maybe not at the time though) was that they had their big newspapers open wide so were not only looking but were also blocking the view for others (me) for most of the time!
There’s a top tip: always ask which is the side with the best view and ask for those seats!
Solo traveller tip: I know journeys in a foreign country can feel a bit daunting especially for female travellers so here are a couple of things I make sure I do:
Wear comfortable and baggy clothes which allows room to move without showing off your body
Try to sit next to women as much as possible but if next to men then find a way of forming a barrier between the 2 of you especially during an overnight journey if that makes you feel safer
Mention meeting up with someone in the destination so they know someone is expecting you
There are times when it is best to remain as invisible as you can and you will know these times but other that those times make sure you engage with others. This adds to the travel experience but also ensures someone will notice you aren’t back on the bus if it is about to depart without you
Always make sure you have everything you need on or with you and not in the boot. When I pack for journeys, I pack my suitcase with items I don’t mind losing and everything important is with me in case I need to get off the bus quickly.
Always know where the exits are and always put your safety first so if you don’t trust a driver or don’t like how they are driving, try to find another bus if possible. Wear seatbelts!