— travel inspiration for small budgets and big dreams —

travel inspiration for small budgets and big dreams

Travel doesn’t just show you the world; the best kind of travel also shows you yourself.


By that standard alone, I may have just had the trip of my life. On my recent sojourn to England and Scotland, I learned many things about myself, some of them trivial, and some a bit uncomfortable to accept or difficult to acknowledge. Things could change — we’re all a work in progress — but here are some of the realizations I had:

I’m just not a museum person.

Just. Not. I realized this when my friends and sister and I were at Trafalgar Square — they were going inside the National Gallery when I said, “I think I’ll just hang out here by the fountain.” And one of them said disbelievingly, “You don’t want to see a Van Gogh?” I shrugged and said, “Well, I’ve already been to the Van Gogh Museum…” Which is true, and the VGM was probably the only museum I truly felt a connection with. But the truth is, right then and there, I liked staying outside. I would rather stay outside. I can soak up more joy and energy and inspiration from sunlight and water and strangers doing their thing than from an entire museum full of masterpieces. My heart swells bigger from watching a brightly colored wildflower by the roadside than from examining an utterly brilliant painting of that same flower by, say, Monet.

In “My top 9 travel tips” Paulo Coelho wrote: “Avoid museums. This might seem to be absurd advice, but let’s just think about it a little: if you are in a foreign city, isn’t it far more interesting to go in search of the present than of the past?” As I’m not really a Paulo Coelho fan, it feels kind of opportunist to be quoting him in support of my indifference towards museums, but as far as I’m concerned he hits that particular nail on the head.

But I’m not saying you shouldn’t go to museums — far from it. If you are a museum person, then I think you should go. Absolutely: go. You definitely shouldn’t not go to a museum just because of what Paulo Coelho thinks. If you’re really interested in something, or even if you just feel like doing it for no particular reason, then you should pursue it no matter how others feel about it or what they may think of you. I think the bottom line here is that people are different — we have different tastes, we are inspired by different things — and what’s important is to respect that difference. I’m not a museum person, and maybe that makes me a bit of a bumpkin, but that’s fine. There are worse things to be.

I am less obsessive-compulsive than I used to be.

Well, duh, I missed two trains! I’ve never ever done that before. And the Seven Sisters in Sussex was to have been my One Place — somewhere I’d go that nobody I knew had ever gone before. I missed the train by a few minutes and on-the-day tickets were too expensive (nearly £30 to replace a ticket I’d bought advance for £5!) so I gave it up as a bad job. The funny thing is — further proof that I’m no longer so OC — I wasn’t even upset about it. Okay, at some point, I was praying so hard that we would make it. But when the time came and I realized there was no way we were getting on that train, I actually thought, “Oh, yay, a free day.” And we went to Hampstead Heath instead, which I loved. So that ended well.

The lesson here could be not to buy Advance tickets, but they are so much cheaper than Off-peak or Anytime, I think I’m just gonna take the risk again next time and simply improve my time management. 😀 I think the real lesson is that you can’t always choose what happens to you but you can choose how to react to it. I think I’ve been more cool about stuff since I learned the very important life lesson that s–t happens no matter how much you try to do the right things and to do things right. So many things are beyond our control and there are much bigger problems in the world. Obviously, if something major happens, I’m going to get upset about it, I’m not a robot. But a missed train, heck even two missed trains, less than £100 wasted and, more importantly, nothing I can do about it? I could spend an entire day upset — add that to my losses — or I could shrug and say, well, s–t happens. Let’s go to Hampstead Heath.

I just can’t handle alcohol.

And, no, I don’t mean I easily get drunk and do stupid things. On the contrary, I never get drunk because I could never get myself to like alcohol. I don’t have a moral objection to it — Jesus drank wine, didn’t he — and I know a reasonable quantity of red will do my health worlds of good. But, I don’t know, I just don’t like the taste of alcohol. And I’ve tried, I swear, but I could never get past the first sip. For me, it’s like learning to eat okra. I suppose I could really try, if it was the only thing left in the world, but otherwise: ugh.

And I’ve tried to think of excuses to escape drinking: I’m pregnant (rotten idea). I’m allergic to alcohol (can be easily disproved). I’m a recovering alcoholic (not very good for my reputation). Even if I could come up with a good excuse, there’s still another problem: I’m about as good at lying as I am at drinking alcohol.

Which is all really unfortunate as I was in Scotland. Scotland, for the love of God. Faced with the ordeal of drinking alcohol versus the ungraciousness and uncoolness of declining a drink from a cute guy, I actually chose the latter. It was embarrassing. I think the only thing that saved me was that I acknowledged several times that I was a loser. 😀 But let me get all John Lennon-y for a second and say: imagine a world where you can drink your wine or whisky and I can drink juice. That’s not very hard to imagine, is it? It’s easy if you try…

Trivial stuff

  • My clumsiness finally found its match: Timberlands. Hurray for never slipping, sliding or stumbling once in two weeks! While camping once, my friends actually gave me a certificate proclaiming me “Disaster Queen” because there was no patch of mud I would not fall in, so an accident-free two weeks is quite an achievement for me.
  • I just can’t be bothered to wear makeup. I have tinted lip gloss but that’s about all I have the patience for. I actually brought two lipsticks with me — I figured if I’m going to start wearing makeup, it might as well be in London — and I used none of them.
  • I’m a cheapskate but I would willingly spend on the Caledonian Sleeper again. Best. Sleeper Experience. Ever.
  • I am immune to James Reid and Enrique Gil and Coco Martin.
  • I’m a sucker for tall guys with broad shoulders in church. (Well, they don’t have to be in church but…)
  • I’m a hopeless dreamer.

What have you learned about yourself from your recent travels?

Finding Yourself (And Sucking It Up) On The Road | © Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains. All rights reserved. 

12 Responses

  1. Hey–you’re wearing that awesome backpack you wrote about once!
    I really love this post. It makes me want to travel RIGHT NOW.
    I’ve learned a ton through travel, sometimes on the trip and sometimes later with 20/20 hindsight. Mostly I’ve learned that I’m introverted when I use to identify as an extrovert and that I like to be in control but I also have the ability to go with the flow or let things go instead of getting upset when they don’t pan out as expected (sounds like you do this last one too.)
    Thanks for making me think about this.
    I will also go with the “tall guys with broad shoulders.”

    Speaking of learning about ourselves through travel ( and the introversion thing) I recently read The Longest Way Home which is a travel memoir. It’s beautifully written essays about various locations around the world that are interwoven into a story about what it means to be “home” and learning about ourselves through travel. It was unexpectedly one of the most relatable things I’ve ever read and I you might enjoy it. Any interest?

    Also, do you have the Kindle reading app by any chance?

    1. The Longest Way Home sounds really nice. I haven’t read it yet but I think I will. I’ve had this instinctive tendency to avoid books related to travel because I don’t want to subconsciously copy anyone’s ideas but I’ve realized I should open my mind more and see stuff from others’ point of view, so that’s something I think I will read.

      Tall guys with broad shoulders — yes! 😀 I didn’t see Cillian Murphy btw. 🙁

      1. You didn’t see Cillian?! What was the point of your trip!!=)

        I hope that wasn’t too nosey to ask if you have the Kindle app–but if you do or want to grab it (I think it’s always free) I’d be happy to gift you a digital copy of the book I mentioned. I know actual books are much cooler than ebooks but ebooks do make it easy to “send”…this is the book if you want to think it over:
        I’ve been meaning to write about it for a bit, maybe I should get on that.

        That’s interesting…about maybe being influenced by other travel writers. I bet people are influenced by your writing and you don’t even realize it. You should get paid to travel.

      2. Oops, I forgot to answer that part. I don’t have the Kindle app but yes I think I can easily download it for free. I’d love a copy of the ebook, thank you!

      3. Oh my gosh hooray! I was worried after I wrote that you’d think it was odd. Is it alright if I use your email address from one of the comments in my blog? I have to input it on amazon so you can “accept” the gift with the link they’ll email you. Let me know if that’s okay or if there’s an alternative one you’d rather use. I’m so glad you’ll read it! Now I’m scared, I hope you don’t think it’s boring or terrible.

      4. I got it! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I can’t promise when I’ll finish reading it but I promise I’ll get started soon. xx

      5. And yeah, totally pointless trip, not seeing Cillian. Or Mark Strong. 🙁 😀

  2. Travel is the great teacher I think, because it throws us out of our routines and comfort zones. I still get upset when things don’t go my way. You’d think I’d have learned by now lol!
    I’m a limited museum person – short attention span, and like you am often happier with the museum of life.
    Sounds like you had a great trip. I can’t believe you missed *two* trains. I think I’d have been having conniptions. Until I got over it.

    1. That’s so true. We learn a lot when we travel because we find ourselves in situations that normally wouldn’t happen to us in real life. And we grow. But hopefully I never miss another train again, at least unless the alternative is much better. xx

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