Disclaimer – This blog post is a long one. But it’s full of great stuff!
March 22nd. It’s Saturday at 8:30am and I’m leaving Cardiff on a bus headed to Bath Spa, located in west England. I like these rides where I have time alone in my own head. I met a lady at the bus stop who called herself a gypsy soul, because she can’t live anywhere longer than 3 years. I sometimes wonder if I will forever be a gypsy soul too. Bath is legendary for it’s beauty, so the anticipation builds as I get closer and closer. I met my fellow photo friend Amalia once in Bath. We dropped my bags at a hostel and went on about exploring, until she had to head home just a few hours later.
I saw the Royal Crescent with Amalia. The whole city is beautiful, but that part, where all the very wealthy live, it was truly beautiful.
Once Amalia left, I was on my own. I would be alone for the next few days. As in, not even staying with anyone I know. I was a bit nervous is all honesty. I had no ticket for tomorrow and no phone. No person waiting for me at the next city. It was just me and God.
I stopped to see the Roman baths. Oh my are they everything you imagine them to be. The water was steaming and I just sat around for a good while. People coming in at all minutes and taking photos. I was there until they closed, relaxing by the steaming water and listening to the birds chirp above.
I had the evening to myself, so I was free to wander. And Bath is a small city, so I could just aimlessly walk down streets to see what they held.
With night approaching I decided it was time to grocery shop. I went to the market without my backpack or camera and pretended to be a local. I wonder what it would be like to live somewhere so beautiful and so tourist filled. I had gotten free pasta from a hostel a few nights ago, and I planned to cook that, I just needed veggies and sauce, so I could fix some noodles like Barbara had made for me while I stayed with her in Scotland. I stood there debating if I should spend the extra 1.90 pounds on some fresh tomatoes, wondering if everyone in the store was a tourist too. Did I fool the employees into thinking I was a local? Later that night, while cooking dinner I met Paul, Stephen, and Fletch. All from London. They invited me to eat with them at the hostel, after we all struggled to figure out how to use the stove. After dinner they invited me to have some cider at a restaurant with them. We were cracking jokes about Paul wearing his toe running shoes out in public and laughing together like we’d all been buds for ages. These are the times I really like traveling alone. Sometimes it’s nerve-wracking, but usually I get to meet really awesome people with amazing stories. And generally speaking, we become friends and keep up with each other’s travels from time to time. The three guys all got up early on Sunday because they were all in Bath for a bike race the next day. I didn’t get to see them again in London, but Paul is going to be coming to America in a year, so it will be fun if I can exchange the hospitality that they extended to me. I like traveler culture in that way. Adventurers just run on a different wave length I think.
Sunday March 23rd –
I just finished reading “Through Painted Desserts” and it talks a lot about those who don’t ask why in life. They do what is expected to make them happy without question. But I, much like Don the author of the book, want to know why. Why am I supposed to graduate college? Get married? Get a dog? Have kids? What does success even actually mean? Just a steady paycheck? I want some of those things, but I want to know why. I don’t want to just accumulate all that the world deems important and fall into the monotony of the “American Dream.” The only simple acceptance I’ll ever have is my trust in God. I once questioned why with God, but I realized I’ll only know why once I get to Heaven. Until then, I’m operating on faith alone. I don’t know why God is there. Or how He is even real. I just know He is. Maybe I don’t want the world’s idea of success. I have begun to wonder what God would say is His idea of success. I say all this because I had a lot of time to reflect this sunday morning. I didn’t get to attend a church service, but I had my own private worship as I read the Bible in a beautiful city and watched the sun rise. I couldn’t book my ticket to Canterbury last night and the station was closed this morning until 10am. I had wanted to be on the 7am train out of Bath, but God had other plans. I ended up leaving around 11:15.
Doors in Bath Spa.
More doors in Bath Spa.
I made it to Canterbury and found my hostel with about 1.5 hours of daylight left. So I wandered through Canterbury to maybe find a grocery store. I found this cute little area on my way.
I made my way back to the little hostel for the night to began cooking my dinner. This is when I got the call. My great grandfather had just passed away. I’ve never had any close family really pass away. I had missed saying goodbye to him because I was grocery shopping. All I could do was finish cooking dinner and go sit in the dining room. I shed quiet tears. I had no where to go to be alone. I couldn’t believe it had really happened. I wanted to fly home. What was I even doing here. I felt so selfish to be out galavanting around and now I’d never see him again. At that moment a pretty Aussie girl plopped down next to me on the bench and started talking to me as she ate. I tried to stifle my tears but she immediately noticed. I told her it was okay, that she could stay. I was glad to be with someone. She was traveling alone for about three months like I was, and her grandfather had been diagnosed with cancer right at the time my great grandpa had fallen ill. It was nice to have someone to talk to. I almost feel like God put her there for me. She wasn’t even supposed to be in Canterbury until I had left. We watched a movie and had tea after dinner, and made plans to see the city together in the morning. I fell asleep with my heart much more at ease than I expected that night.
Monday March 24th –
Stephanie and I explored Canterbury all day.
I really liked that Stephanie also enjoyed wandering to far off side streets that aren’t on the map at all.
At the end of the day we had one more tea together and sat in the garden at the hostel. Stephanie then kindly walked me to my bus and we said goodbye. Off to London.
Tuesday March 25th – I got in to London last night and got settled at my friend Emily’s house. Early this morning I set out to see my friend Lorenzo for coffee! (We had met in the Isle of Skye a few weeks ago). Then at noon I met up with Emily and we went to fetch Michael!
We immediately began exploring once Michael got in. We walked around the Isle of Dogs in Canary Warf and saw Greenwich.
Emily at the Greenwich Academy.
It was nice to be with someone familiar, so we could goof off together.
Emily at the Academy again.
Michael excited to be in Europe finally.
We ended the day with a hike up to where the Prime Meridian is located. We watched the sun begin to fade with London’s main center off in the distance.
Wednesday March 26th – Today we explored a lot of London.
We met up with Lorenzo for most of the day so we could all shoot together. (Pictured is Michael & Lorenzo)
I was so excited to see this famous Mondrian piece Composition No.III at the Tate. The layers of paint are quite amazing. They’re even cracking and flaking away in some places.
We had an EPIC sunset at Big Ben.
We stayed by Big Ben for quite a while. It was absolutely a beautiful sight.
Michael loves night photography, so I decided to humor him and participate. This is the London Eye and Big Ben at night. We walked a ton today. I now always find myself looking forward to peeling off my boots and having a nightly tea. We will get up early tomorrow to hit the more western side of London.
Thursday March 27th – This morning Emily introduced me to this thing that she makes sometimes. White chocolate pancakes with marshmallow fluff on top. HOLY GOODNESS. Do yourself a favor and try that out sometime. After experiencing that, we were off for the day.
At the Natural History Museum.
Covent Gardens Market. I’m obsessed with how many markets are in Europe.
We ended the day with a visit to the National Portrait Gallery and then watching the sun go down in Trafalgar Square. So many people out enjoying the lovely city. We sat on the steps and ate our little packed lunches and listened to the sound of the fountains.
Friday March 28th –
Emily and I woke up early to go to Camden Market. It was so cute. I didn’t take any photos though, sorry. Sometimes I like to just enjoy the moment, so I force myself to leave the camera in my backpack. We perused local artisan tables and got free food samples. I was happy to find a new hat, as I had lost my other one in Cardiff.
After the market, Michael and I went to Liverpool to pick up my friend Matthew from the train station. We were there a little early so we went to get some fish and chips since it was our last day in the UK. We found out that the fish comes with chips. So just for future reference, don’t order fish and chips, just order fish. Or else you’ll have more chips than you ever want to see again in your entire lifetime. After forcing down as much of the fried potato hunks as possible, we went to get Matthew from the train station. Once he had been added to the crew, we all headed to Saint James Park where Spring was clearly in bloom.
We walked all around together. I had never met Matthew in person, so I was happy to finally meet one of the photographers I had been friends with for a few years via internet.
I only snapped a few photos today, because like I said before, I wanted to take in a day for once. We saw Big Ben again, the Eye, and the Tower Bridge at sunset. Michael was setting up for a shot and the sky turned brilliant colors as the Tower Bridge lit up with colored lights, and I decided I just wanted to watch. So Matthew and I sat and watched the sky colors change into black just before he had to be returned to the train station. I hate saying goodbye to new friends.
Some closing thoughts –
“I’ve realized that I used to be afraid of failing at the things that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”
What does really matter anyway? Certainly not the latest clothing. What matters is relationship, people, time, love. Sure we create as a form of expression, but where does worldliness overtake us? or rather, me. In case you didn’t know, a lot of this trip is my exploring of what I want to do in life. I know I am supposed to create with photography. But I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with the passion I’ve been given. I always wanted to work in commercial photography, but I so question the importance of it. So far on this trip I’ve realized a few important things. I missed my great grandfather’s last days. I will be missing one of my best friend’s wedding day. I have always been missing time with my family to instead make money to pay for school and go on trips. How selfish of me. Societies in general have been on my mind also. Tourism. Since I’ve been here I’ve seen SO MUCH tourism. Paying to go places, then paying to get into a museum to see something that is deemed important to see, then going to the gift shop and getting a mug stamped with the tourist logo on it. Why? Why is all this beauty only seemingly alive because of tourism? Why do we operate on things? I mean. I participate in buying things. I mean I honestly can’t tell you how many cameras I own. And what for? I don’t need them. I could have not bought them, not worked those hours to pay for those things I don’t need, and instead have spent time with my family. Just some things that have been playing out in my brain. One thing I really like about Europe is how they take time for everything. I plan very much to bring that home with me.