Emotions · Out & About

More Thoughts on Travel, from the Cotswolds

Because of course I’m not going to show you my pictures without also making you read my drivel

So here we are in the Cotswolds, for a freezing February week celebrating my mum’s 60th birthday. Back in August, in Exmoor, I’d felt happiness I’d not known in months, or years, happiness that I was worried I was no longer capable of, and the Cotswolds are the same. My chronic pain is the worst it’s ever been, I’m infuriated with myself for not having more energy to enjoy spending time with the various family members joining us, and yet I’m happy. So hopefully this means I can get the knack of being happy in other less-than-ideal times as well. I’d like to think I can. I desperately need to, because there’s plenty of less-than-ideal ahead of me.

I didn’t take as many pictures as I’d have liked, partially because my camera got switched on in my suitcase and the battery ran out, and the photos are of their usual dubious quality. They were taken at Broadway Tower, Chedworth Roman Villa, and Bourton-on-the-Water, the village where we stayed, in which it is impossible not to get tourists in the shot.

I’ve been thinking, often, of  last June – walking through unfamiliar woods in a place I know well, and how much I wanted to be somewhere truly new, and how lucky I was to have my last two holidays ahead of me (although I didn’t know about them yet). And how unlucky we were in the circumstances that brought those two trips about: I could say what if, what if, had it not been for that long, difficult larger first half of that year… But as a rule I try not to get bogged down in the infinite things haven’t happened. I was so ill and so bored and so under-stimulated, and I remember so little of that time. But there was also very little worth remembering.

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Despite my complaints about not going abroad in so long, I do love travelling within the UK. You don’t have to worry about language, or currency, and you know for sure that all the large supermarkets will have gluten free options (handy for coeliacs such as myself). I particularly like seeing the UK in winter, perhaps because Cornwall is so much warmer than the rest of the country, and I need my fix of proper cold,* but also because I like seeing everything bare and out-of-season. The colours are muted, but they are still there if you look carefully: purples and oranges and yellows. And there is something truly refreshing, truly recharging, in knowing that when you go home everything will begin once more to grow. But despite all this, it does feel rather un-adventurous not to leave the country. It’s a comfort zone. Rather too easy. Of course, holidays are times to relax, and should be spent doing whatever one wants (within reason), but all the same I think I need to push myself a bit.

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And it is going to take a push. (From myself, I should add, any other person attempting to push me, in any area of my life, can do one.) As a rule, I like to know what I’m doing, but travel is a huge area where I don’t, so it’s scary. One shouldn’t compare, but it’s tricky when so many other people my age seem to be such seasoned adventurers. They’ve been on elaborate school trips to places like India and New Zealand (though I was pretty fortunate to make it to Italy and Germany), then extensive gap years in south-east Asia, university electives to Australia and the USA, maybe they’ve even worked abroad or moved there altogether, and now they all have jobs that pay enough for holidays. They jet off to niche locations on super-cheap trips, probably to stay in Airbnbs or all-inclusive hotels with not a single gluten-free option in the buffet. And here’s muggins on incapacity benefits who can barely afford to visit her friends and family upcountry, who can’t really complain because she’s from a very privileged background and she might have been able to afford to travel had terrible choices made in the fug of illness not eaten all her money (there’s another thing to try to forgive myself for). But to wade back to slightly shallower waters of conjecture, how do people know where and how to book these things? How much does a holiday actually cost, and is it actually a holiday that I’d want to go on?

Because don’t get me wrong, I do like holidays with my parents – they pay for things and when we’re all in a good mood they’re brilliant company. But it’s easy to feel like illness has pushed me into a kind of extended childhood, and I’m getting to an age where this is embarrassing. I want to live my own life, and make my own choices, and I want to earn my own money and spend it on learning how to choose and book and enjoy my own holidays. Perhaps even with my own significant other and my own car. I’m dangerously close to defining myself by all the things I don’t have, but I’m on the brink of some serious wellness. It’s so nearly safe to aspire again. I can’t stand it.

*I wrote that bit before all the snow we’ve had down here this week!

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