At 19, I made my first trip across the Atlantic. It was to England; nowhere particularly exotic, but for my first trip out of the country, just the right amount of exoticness. At that point I hadn’t even been in 10 US states, so I was EX.CIT.ED. I was originally going to go with the boyfriend [who is now known as He Who Must Not Be Named], and in retrospect, I’m glad I ended up going along. Now my memories aren’t contaminated and being traveling solo was definitely the catalyst for a lot of other solo trips in my life. Without really knowing much about anything related to where I was, how once should ‘travel’, I had an absolute blast.
During that English summer I managed to do the following things:
- climbed the highest peak in Wales.
- swam with fairies on the Isle of Skye in Scotland
- hiked along parts of the Wales Coastal Path before it was fully completed
- learned how to throw darts in a pub
- read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in hardback whilst traveling by train [gah, I’m so old and if I still had that book…]
- kissed the Blarney Stone and searched for the “Cliffs of Insanity” in Ireland
- go to my first [and still only] EPL match in Manchester, England.
- looked for Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest–Nottingham, England
- walked along Hadrian’s wall
- explored centuries’ old castles and church
- found hairy coos and lambs galore
- explored the not so ancient history of the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland
- ‘eloped’ to Gretna Green, Scotland
I often think back to that summer– I was 19 and clueless about traveling [and safety]–and wonder if I hadn’t had the courage to go through with this trip solo, if I would have ever done any of the others. My nearly 3 months exploring set the stage for my 18 months in Mexico (and Central America), my one month in Italy, my 16 months exploring South America, a different month in Europe and perhaps even gave me the courage to apply and actually join the Peace Corps