Tue, 3 October 2023
366: My First-Hand Travel Tips for Flying Internationally to and Arriving in Britain with Ease and Comfort
Britain is calling, and if it is calling you as well to hop on an international flight and cross the Atlantic or the English Channel, or whichever body of water you will have to cross to arrive on British soil, this is an episode I think you will find helpful to ensuring you have a wonderful trip to your destination.
So that I don’t repeat myself, I wrote and shared a detailed 17-point list on how to prepare for international travel in episode #183. This list is for traveling anywhere internationally, not just Britain, but it is definitely a list I always refer to before I head out the door at Le Papillon to France or Britain.
Today what I would like to share with you are more specific tips and insights for traveling to Britain specifically so that you can enjoy the journey to your accommodations as much as the trip itself once you arrive.
Assuming you have your passport all squared away as well as your Global Entry pass should you wish to utilize this swift admissions through security, let’s talk about everything else (again, for general preparation for international travel, check out episode #183).
Sun, 3 July 2022
"When it comes to jet lag, there ain’t — I report from the window seat of a bustling café in Montreal, hence this paraphrasing of Leonard Cohen — no cure." —Mark VanHoenacker, a Boeing 787 pilot for British Airways and the author of Imagine A City: A Pilot's Journey Across the Urban World
The first time I flew abroad from Oregon to Europe (in my case France), concerns about jet lag were far from my mind; in fact, because I had so many other questions to answer and unknowns dancing in my mind, I didn't think about. I was 20 and planning to study abroad during my junior summer of college in Angers, France. I saved up for the $800 round-trip economy-class ticket (2000) by working three part-time jobs, took the necessary prerequisite courses, conferenced with my professor de Français, and along with not knowing I would need an adapter and converter to at the very least blow-out my hair and curled it, I also didn't think to investigate what jet lag was. Being the first member of my immediate family to travel abroad to Europe, I was figuring it all out for the first time on my own, and jet lag was never a word that popped up in conversations.
Fast forward to 2012 and my second trip to France that included England as well. Thankfully I had a close friend who having lived in England for a time and thus traveled back and forth from the west coast to England often, had a few suggestions for combatting jet lag. Nothing worked superbly, but none of the advice hindered my thorough enjoyment of visiting London for the first time, and then returning to Paris. Jet lag persisted, but if it meant I would be able to be in the two countries I loved, it didn't matter a bit.
Each trip following the two shared above, 2013, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2022, I have gradually tried to tweak, adjust and determine what works best to mitigate jet lag's effects, and while I have come to the same conclusion as the British Airways pilot above, as he too shares in his recent article in The Financial Times, there are ways to lessen the discomfort and the prolonged effects.
But first, it is important to note what jet lag is — any time you travel quickly across two or more time zones and is caused when rapid travel throws off our circadian rhythm - the biological clock that helps control when we wake and fall asleep (source)
The more readers I hear from and fellow travelers I meet, the more I realize that where you are traveling from (home departure city), thus the amount of time difference you are undergoing, makes a difference, and so I decided to write specifically from my experience as a traveler from the west coast of the United States venturing to Western Europe where most of my excursions take me. With that said, as many readers/listeners of TSLL blog/The Simple Sophisticate podcast are Francophiles and/or Anglophiles and our destinations are the same even if our departure city is different, it is my hope that some of the tips shared today may be applicable when tailored to your flying itinerary.
~Note to readers: More details are discussed in the audio version of this episode than are shared below, so be sure to tune in.
1.Depart in the early afternoon
When scheduling past trips, excluding my most recent trip in 2022, I selected early morning flights to give myself more time at my desired destination. As well, often earlier flights in the day were a bit less expensive (I have not noticed this to be the case as of late, but in the past). However, when taking the most direct flight possible, leaving in the afternoon on the west coast has the arrival time in France or England in the early evening the following day which lends itself well to having a nice meal before exhaustedly going to sleep in a comfortable bed.
As well, leaving in the afternoon gives you time to gradually begin the day, go through your regular routines, partake in a healthy 30-minute or hour-long exercise routine, and generally, prepare to sit for a very long time. When I am able to exercise and not feel rushed, the rest of the day and any unknowns that pop up are easier to navigate, and I can more easily relax since my body has had the opportunity to fully move, stretch and receive what it needs.
2. Arrive in the late evening in Europe
If leaving in the early afternoon is not an option, at least try to schedule your arrival time in Europe in the early evening for the reasons shared above. Whether you were able to catch some sleep on the plane or not, your mind as well as your body is tired and after being fed well in your destination city, wants to stretch out and relax. Rather than fight trying to stay awake until night arrives should you arrive in the morning or early afternoon, when you arrive in the evening, you don't have to fight your body and just let it do what it yearns for.
3. The fewer connecting flights the better
If at all possible, scheduling-wise and/or budget-wise, choose a direct flight, or the closest thing to it (I have to take a short hop from Redmond to an international airport, typically Seattle, Portland or San Fran, and then my international flight departs to Europe from there). Not only do you save time, but it is less stressful, thus it doesn't exhaust your mind unnecessarily which is already going to be confused when you arrive due to the time change. Mind exhaustion on top of jet lag prolongs your ability to adjust, and the shorter the hop, the less stress incurred.
The many farms seen in the countryside in Normandy.
4. Try to sleep on the flight
Even if for only a few hours, do your best to find a way to experience real sleep. Real sleep where the hours invisibly whisk by and you wake up feeling somewhat, if not quite a bit, rested and energized. In my experience, the fewer hours I am able to sleep on the trip, the harder/longer jet lag is to recover from on that particular end of the trip.
5. Invest in Business Class if/when possible
In episode #329 I shared my experience flying Business Class on British Airways during my recent trip in April 2022 to Britain and France. Needless to say, even if it takes a bit longer to save up for each subsequent trip abroad in order to fly in such comfort, I will do it. It is worth it, largely because of the reduction of stress and my ability to sleep well. And as I shared in #4 above, when you sleep well during the flight, you reduce (not eliminate) jet lag.
My flight to Europe in Business Class provided more than 4 hours of sleep, and while I did feel the effects of jet lagged for about two days upon arrival, this was far better than it has been in the past. No doubt my excitement being back in Paris helped to overcome some of the feeling, but as I assessed what else may have contributed to an easing of this expected feeling of exhaustion, confusion, malaise and inability to sleep naturally, the one primary variable that was different was the flight I chose and the amount of sleep and quality of sleep I received.
My seat in Business Class on British Airways, bedding products from The White Company
6. Hydrate as much as possible while flying
While toasting with sparkling wine as the journey begins is tempting and certainly something I enjoy doing as well, refrain from too much alcohol as it dehydrates you. Instead, seek out as much water as you can, and even the multiple bathroom-runs are good for you as it gets you up and out of your seat which is an activity that sets your circadian rhythm. The more you can do to set your circadian rhythm to knowing when it needs to be awake and when it needs to rest (the reason why airlines dim the cabin light uniformly for everyone and set the meals as they do), the more quickly your mind will be able to settle into the new sleep schedule.
7. Take a hot bath before bed
Whether at your travel destination or when you arrive home, just before you want to go to bed, take a hot bath as this helps to relax the body and interestingly enough, drop the body temperature which helps you fall asleep.
A deep soak of a bath at The Savoy while staying in London. Take the tour of our stay in this detailed post.
8. Begin to simulate, ever so slightly and gradually, the new time zone before you leave
While a subtle shift at home may not seem beneficial, for me, this is actually quite possible as I like to go to bed early, and an excuse to go to bed one hour sooner, wake up one hour earlier is not a detriment. Of course, this will depend on your work and home schedule, but if you can, it may reduce jet lag a bit so it won't last as long when you arrive.
9. Be gentle and patient with yourself, gradually shift into the new time schedule
Our brains are wonderful tools, but it takes time to change them, and that includes its sleep schedule. When our sleep schedule becomes disrupted, our mind is confused as to what it is supposed to do, so be gentle and patient with it.
When I returned home this past April, it took about 7-10 days to get over my jet lag. Finding myself falling asleep on the sofa at 5pm with eyelids I could not bribe to stay open at any cost, I let myself fall asleep, and pushed myself to stay awake an hour later each night until I was finally back to my regular bedtime routine.
With all of that said . . .
10. Understand there are many jet lag remedies, but honor what works for you
I won't list the suggestions I have received over the years I haven't found helpful for me, or the beliefs from other travelers about what is most difficult (direction of flight) because what is true for them is true for them. However, sharing what has worked and why I have discovered it does work, had I been able to understand these truths, is something I would have loved to have known earlier in my travels but likely could not have known. Knowing that I needed to, for want of a better phrase, 'feel my way' through jet lag to figure out what happens and how I respond to it gave me the tools to figure out how to reduce its effects that most negatively affected me. Self-awareness not only helps you live a life you love living in a general over-arching way; it also affords you helpful insights in how to work well with jet lag to best fit your needs to ensure the best trip and experience possible.
For example, as an HSP (highly sensitive person), sleep is especially important, whereas for non-HSPs being able to function well on 5-7 hours of sleep may be no problem. Not so in my case, so now that I know the value of sleep for my well-being, I invest in ensuring I receive a good night of sleep when I travel as I want to enjoy my trip as much as possible, and that includes on the flight.
When we have the fortunate opportunity to travel abroad and cross many time zones, the price of jet lag is a small price to expense, but being aware of how it affects our minds and physical well-being is helpful so that we don't blame our mental lag on the destination but rather our mind's gradual settling in to the new time zone we have taken it to.
Wishing you many wonderful trips and stamps in your passport! Bon Voyage!
~click here for the full recipe.
~Top image: arriving in London, looking out over Kensington Gardens and Royal Albert Hall
Sat, 21 May 2022
The British culture is varied and vast and while one person's affection for the culture may include punk rock along with their love for the Beatles, another's affinities may gravitate toward the gardening and afternoon tea. While my predilections lean more toward the latter, whenever a culture speaks to us that is not the one in which we grew up in or were raised entirely, we owe it to ourselves to continue to explore because our intuition is speaking.
As many readers of TSLL and listeners of the podcast know, TSLL derives much of its content from two cultures, the French and the British, specifically the ways of life that invite us to slow down, savor and invest in quality moments and approaches rather than quantity and superficial living to gain approval. Instead the only approval we seek is from within.
In episode #144 I shared 20 ways for welcoming the French culture into your everyday life, and so it is well overdue that I should share a similar list for welcoming the British culture into your everyday life. After having now visited London on three separate occasions and the English countryside on two separate occasions, I enjoyed compiling this list as my life in Bend is a marriage of both my love of the French and British culture, incorporating from both the everyday rituals I love, savoring approaches, tastes, décor and ways of life that reminds me of two cultures that tickle my curiosity and nurture my true self most sincerely.
Inspired by my most recent visit, but also drawing upon all of my experiences and fortunate opportunities to explore Britain, let's take a look at how we can welcome different ideas into our everyday life the British culture.
~Note to readers: Be sure to listen to the episode as each item listed below is discussed in much more detail in the audio version.
1. Create a tea ritual in your everyday routine
The feline host at The Rookery in London, Bagheera, joined us for our morning tea.
2. Know, use correctly with confidence and be able to explain the difference in conversation between saying England, Great Britain/Britain and the United Kingdom
~tune in to the audio version for this episode where the differences are explained
Check out this detailed and easy to follow post about the clear differences.
3. Subscribe to either AcornTV or BritBox (or both), and enjoy multiple series, films and BBC programs, some within hours of their airing in Britain
4. Grow a garden no matter how large or small your outdoor space or balcony
Touring gardens was a primary focus on this most recent trip, and Sissinghurst Castle Gardens inspired many ideas as well as soothed the mind and being as I wandered the grounds for hours.
5. Invite others to 'tea' at your home or for a Cuppa
6. Celebrate the Queen's Platinum Jubilee this year
7. Welcome cozy upholstered furniture (reupholstered an old favorite) into your home décor
~Staying at The Pig at Bridge Place introduced many ideas for cozy upholstery inspiration.
8. Watch football (aka soccer), or not and instead watch tennis or cricket or rugby
9. Have biscuits (shortbread cookies) or something simple to nibble on when having tea with guests at your home
10. Tune in via television or radio to the BBC
"The oldest national broadcasting organisation in the world with a global reach, covering world events 24/7 and producing world-class entertainment".
11. Watch Ted Lasso on AppleTV+
A new season will likely be released this late summer/early fall. The first two seasons can be streamed in entirety now.
12. Acquire a high quality umbrella (and use it when it rains)
~James Smith & Sons in London on New Oxford was a must-stop during my recent trip to London.
13. Layer with pillows, let go of matchy-matchy
Instead keep in the same color tone, and mix large and small prints with the occasional solid.
14. Find time to spend time at the oceanside
15. Make and enjoy scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam
16. Watch Come Dine With Me (on Channel 4)
Premiering in 2005 and running for 27 seasons, so far, this reality series is a hit across Britain.
17. Find your favorite color of a pair of wellies and have them on hand
18. Make and enjoy a traditional Cornish Pasty
19. Watch The Great British Bake-Off each late summer/early fall
20. Enjoy a proper English Breakfast
What exactly is a traditional English Breakfast (we're not talking about the tea here)? Sausages, back bacon (not a crispy version, but rather more hearty as it consists of a little bit of the loin and is smoked), eggs, tomatoes - pan seared and seasoned with salt and pepper, mushrooms, fried bread, and beans.
21. Practice your French
Did you know that the Queen looks over the weekly menu given to her by the chef who writes the menu in French, as has every chef dating back to Queen Victoria's reign? Yep, and just another lovely reason to incorporate both cultures in some way into your daily life. :)
22. Practice thoughtful manners
Give personal space (an arm's length distance), use both a fork and knife when dining, don't ask nosey questions, please and thank you, respect the queue, refrain from superlatives (i.e. the best, greatest, worst, tallest, shortest, most exciting, etc.)
23. Make and enjoy Yorkshire pudding (and it isn't a 'pudding')
24. Welcome trays into your everyday for serving tea, meals, courses, etc.
~Be sure to enter this giveaway to win a high quality, handmade rectangular tray with glass top.
25. Enjoy daily walks with your pups and say hello to passing pups
During this trip walking was done both in the heart of London (seen here with Big Ben in the background) and in the English countryside as we toured Sissinghurst Castle Garden. This photo was captured after just having departed from The Tube in the morning on our way to Westminster Abbey, followed by a visit to The National Gallery and then to Claridge's for Afternoon Tea. Needless to say, Norman was missed, and our reunion upon arriving back in Bend was quite sweet.
Enjoy English tea at home in Bend, Oregon, with Norman as my companion. Bliss.
SIMILAR POSTS YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #330
~Explore all of the posts shared during this year's Annual British Week. Today's episode wraps up all of the new posts that will be shared (16 in total), and be sure to enter to win all of the five giveaways by 4pm (Pacific) today. All winners will be announced in a detailed post tomorrow on the blog. Thank you to everyone who stopped by this week. What a fun week it was! To talk all things British's and reminisce and hear your stories of travel as well as future trips, I am excited for everyone as each of us welcomes the British culture in our own way of everyday life continues. Have a wonderful weekend.
Sun, 15 May 2022
To feel intrinsically connected with a culture other than the one you were raised involves the feeling of a coming home. A 'coming home' in a way that seems impossible until you feel it first-hand, deep in the marrow of your bones. As I share in detail in the introduction of the month of May in my new book The Road to Le Papillon: Daily Meditations on True Contentment, my first trip and time spent in the English countryside spoke to my inner most true self in a way I didn't expect, but completely understood.
Returning to England this past April was life lifting. Noting not having visited since 2017, which I didn't realize consciously is nearly 5 years, ended a drought of British culture seen with my own eyes that I needed more than I realized. It was a figurative deep breath of fresh air that upon taking in, immediately brought a smile to my face and a calm to my being. While I didn't spend my time as I most enjoy for most of my days when I am in England, which is to rent a vacation rental out in the countryside and go about many days just savoring the everyday routines and visiting an occasional destination of interest, I was in Britain, and that was all that mattered. I saw places and spent time partaking in activities that further introduced a culture to me I had not done before, and for that I am grateful.
In today's episode/post, I'd like to share with you 20 Life Lessons learned during these 3 1/2 days in Britain - both in London and in Kent as we took a train ride out to the southeast countryside of England and spent the night as we were intent to visit Sissinghurst Castle Garden, and oh what a treat that was.
Let's take a look at the list:
~Note, if you tune in to the audio version, I share much more detail about each item on the list. Be sure to check out the podcast wherever you enjoy your favorite shows.
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #329
Sun, 21 November 2021
The busy holiday travel season is upon us. After two years in which many people have not been able to gather with loved ones, the liklihood that even more people than usual will be hopping on the road, the plane or the train this time of year is to be expected. Even with unforeseen hiccups along the way, arriving at the doorstep of a loved one will often erase any stress caused and make for a story to chuckle about over a glass of mulled wine or while sipping brandy after a long anticipated delicious meal with hearty, heated, yet playful exchange.
Having just shared one idea for handling well travel headaches (finding the hilarity in it all and sharing a moment with a loved one to savor), I'd like to share a few more to help assuage the stress and enable you to move past them quickly so you may enjoy your visit, stay, and the experience you have been eager to partake in after having planned, saved and waited. Each of the examples have been experienced first-hand. I feel fortunate to not have experienced others that are far worse, so can only speak to my own travels (thus far and fingers crossed for continued good fortune). With that said, let's take a look!
1.The accommodation's description was less than accurate in a disappointing way
Just this past August, a vacation rental on the coast boasted their lovely accommodations (a place we had never stayed before); however, they neglected to share important information that would have steered me away as I was traveling with my two boys (lots of stairs and very little grassy areas for quick potty breaks). However, while only planning to stay one night, I did what I could to make it easier for my pups, and had I planned on staying more than one night, I would have found a different rental or changed my travel plans because enduring accommodations that make everyone uncomfortable is not something to spend money on.
Waking early in the morning, be scooted down the coast for a beautiful early morning walk on a new-to-us beach. Had the accommodations been lovely, we may have lingered longer, but I looked for the "lemonade" in the situation and found a lovely outdoor excursion that I had not planned on.
As well, I chose not to write a review as I find it unhelpful to leave negative feedback when my expectations may not be someone else's. I have in the past directly emailed the owner of rentals to provide feedback that may benefit future travelers, but preferring to only share positive reviews online while sharing specifics as to why I enjoyed my stay. This approach is a way to extend gratitude and also leaves me with peace of mind. Sometimes we travel with high expectations, and venting in the form of a negative review isn't as therapeutic as we may initially think it will be.
The next time the accommodations you have arranged are not what you had hoped, don't be afraid to change your plans. The spontaneity may usher in an unexpected wonderfully memorable moment or experience.
2. You cannot find your vacation rental (or think you cannot)
During the summer of 2018, I had finished a week of cooking with Patricia Wells and was now in my rental car (picked up in Avignon) to the Luberon area of Provence - the Golden Triangle as it is often called. Searching for a hamlet off one of the many less traveled roads that wind through vineyards, I had turned around and retraced the notes received from the owners multiple times. Having driven through Gourdes (gorgeous!) which I later learned was too far southwest, and then finally arriving at the home, I scratched my head: A very nondescript property with no similar vignettes as shown in the online posting and nobody to be seen. I had to be at the wrong house.
I asked one of the neighbors who was out in their yard if they knew the owner (whose name I had from our correspondence). It turned out they were also a traveler, traveling with their family from Australia enjoying their yearly stay in the region. Unable to determine if indeed I was in the right place, I emailed the owners. It turned out I was at the correct location, and they were on their way to open the doors. Their home was hidden behind large barn doors that upon opening revealed a gorgeous Provence three-story refurbished house (view the tour here).
While I waited to hear from them, I stayed put, stepped out of my car and began walking around the hamlet, capturing pictures of sunflowers, and the sublime Provençal blue sky. Turns out I could trust my directions and my sense of direction. Sometimes we become a bit more flustered and doubt our ability to read directions properly when we are in a new place, a new country and communicating with someone new. The best advice I have found is to yes, double-check and triple-check the directions by rereading them slowly. If you have someone else with you, have them read the directions as well. Follow the directions as best as you can and when you arrive, if nobody is about yet to let you in (should that be part of the accommodations), let yourself wander about and get to know the area. Chat with neighbors to ask for help or to ensure you are in the right spot. And absolutely reach out to the owner to alert them to your arrival.
A Villa in the Golden Triangle of Provence: Villa Dæsch (tour the entire property here)
3. Lost luggage
With more reliable tracking than ever before, most often if our luggage doesn't arrive when we do, it isn't lost. It simply hasn't arrived yet. The bags may have been put on a different plane leaving for the same city that hasn't landed at the airport. However, as your bags are not on the conveyer belt, be sure to check in with the information desk in the luggage area to let them check where your luggage actually is and where and approximately when you can pick it up.
Upon arriving in France in 2018, one of my pieces of luggage was not on the same plane as I had been (one was and I saw and collected it per usual). I checked in with the luggage information desk, they scanned the bar code I had received when I checked my luggage, and they were able to tell me at which station to pick it up and when it should be available. They were right and within 30 minutes to an hour, I was reunited with my bag.
When traveling to a country where English is not the primary language spoken, making reservations can be difficult if not done online. When I chose a small boutique hotel for my accommodations in Paris a couple of years ago, the manager's English was about as strong as my French, actually his English was far better than my French but not by much. While I did successfully make my accommodations, the taxi pick-up at the airport didn't happen for some reason, and completing payment was delayed for three weeks (I began my trip in Paris at the same location I ended it three weeks later). However, all of this may sound avoidable or absurd to us Americans who expect everything to happen swiftly, but the manager of the hotel particulier was not worried in the least, especially about the latter snafu. "We'll finish payment when you return. Do not worry!"
Often we bring our culture conditioning into situations - what causes us stress, our expectations while visiting - when what we need to do is take a breath, knowing we have what we need in order arrive, stay and enjoy, and then let go. Communicate as much as needed to confirm, say what you desire to know repeatedly, but then take a breath and enjoy your stay.
What eventually helped me to relax was my knowing the credibility of the accommodation, so after a quick phone call with the manager after my first stay, I chose to relax and yep, indeed all was tended to and paid for when I returned.
When we've done the necessary homework ahead of time, often the best thing to do is the reason we take vacations in the first place - relax.
5. You don't get what you don't ask for
I have quickly realized, especially in larger cities, if you don't confirm what floor, what type of view, etc. you want, you likely will not get the one you imagined. Case in point, for a one-night stay in London before my flight back home to the states in November 2017, I stayed at the Portobello Boutique Hotel in Notting Hill (see the street on which the hotel is located below in my IG post). A beautiful hotel and wonderfully located, my room was in the basement. The room itself lovely, but as someone who doesn't like basements as a general rule, I was surprised. Well, at least the price was nicer than a room on a higher floor, but still, it is always important to share your preferences. Even if they cannot accommodate them or only a few of them, at least you did your best to tailor your experience.
6. You forget to pack your necessary toiletries
Last New Years the boys and I headed to the coast to ring in the new year. I packed all of my necessities neatly in their containers, totes and bags, and set out for the four hour drive. Upon arrival at my accommodations, I unpacked my entire suitcase and situated everything as to make the home-away-from-home just that, as much of a home as possible. Well, I couldn't find my toiletries bag, and I remembered vividly packing it . . . ahhh . . . I packed it, but I then left it on my bedroom chair where it was neatly sitting when I arrived back home after our two days and nights away.
What to do? Not wanting to incur too much expense but still needing necessary items such as moisturizer for my skin, floss for my teeth and contact solution, I made a quick trip to the local grocery store. I didn't purchase anything terribly expensive, but I did purchase items I would use again should this mistake occur. Those items now are left in my main piece of luggage and NEVER leave it as my toiletries bag that I usually prefer to bring requires I add a handful of items I use at home on a daily basis (I do have travel sizes of most items that never leave my luggage, but again, the toiletry bag was removed to stock it and never made it back to the main luggage piece).
I will acknowledge with great thanksgiving, if these are the worst of travels gone awry, all is going quite well. The truth is, very often most of our travel plans go very well, even unexpectedly amazing. To remember to celebrate when such is the case is a practice in gratitude and holding ourselves in the present to witness and savor fully.
Travel of any kind requires us to be malleable, to stretch, to bend, and not to break and throw in the towel when all does not go precisely as we had hoped. Perhaps yet another lesson presents itself: set aside expectations and instead while plans may be in place, bring your preparation without rigid and narrow expectations of what must happen. Let it all unfold as it will and engage with your whole, true self so that you can drink up the beautiful surprises, connections and memories created along the way.
Through Wednesday November 24th, use promo code GIFTSAPLENTY to save 12% off your order.
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #317
Sun, 5 August 2018
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #220
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“It seemed an advantage to be traveling alone. Our responses to the world are crucially moulded by the company we keep, for we temper our curiosity to fit in with the expectations of others…Being closely observed by a companion can also inhibit our observation of others; then, too, we may become caught up in adjusting ourselves to the companion’s questions and remarks, or feel the need to make ourselves seem more normal than is good for our curiosity.” ― Alain de Botton, The Art of TravelWhat if I lose my keys to my rental/car/etc. while I am traveling? No one knows me where I am. I am the only source of income - what if my wallet gets stolen? My passport? As a woman, is it really smart to travel alone? But I will be by myself - won't I become lonely? I don't want to eat alone the entire time - and I love to eat! Above are just a few of the fears I have heard from those contemplating or dismissing solo travel, and at times, some of those fears have danced in my own mind when jetlag was severe and my mind was not being mastered well. And while these are all natural fears to utter if you have never traveled alone, each can be assuaged and should be, after proper preparation, dismissed and not to be worried about. I have written extensively on this topic (see all of the posts at the bottom of this post), so I won't go in detail which has already been shared, but rather share a few thoughts on the wonderful opportunity and insights traveling alone provides the traveler. As I type, I have just returned from a month-long excursion throughout France, as many of you already know. But I am writing that as a reminder. I would advise travelers who may have shaky nerves prior to traveling alone, even myself, to read this post before stepping on a plane for any future trips on our own. Why? Because even I, prior to traveling, especially if my schedule has been busy and harried leading up to the trip, will consider the worst-case scenarios. And every time I return from the trip, I recognize that doing so was energy wasted. All of my energy should be split between preparation and excited anticipation. After all, part of the gift of travel is the time leading up to the trip as studies have shown that it as well can increase our overall happiness. Traveling alone in many ways is a misnomer, as we are never completely alone if we consider our fellow travelers we find along the journey, Mother Nature, and conversations we have with loved ones when we check in from time to time if we choose to do so. The difference is we are never with the same person or persons the entire time which can not only provide variety, but as Alain de Botton shares above, free us from conforming in ways we often do unconsciously. Ironically, when I travel, my barriers tend to come down moreso than when I am at home in ways that allow me to relax and be more fully present. Now that doesn't mean I do not take precautions to protect myself for security purposes, but those are habit at this point when I travel as I have traveled alone for more than a decade and doing so is merely functional as opposed to the emotional barriers that tend to become activated when I am going about my everyday life. The truth is, it was travel that revealed to me this dichotomy of instinctual behavior based on geographical location which caused me to dive deeper into what made me keep my barriers up so adamantly. This examination led me to shift a few things in my everyday life - move away from some friendships, step more intimately into others, etc., and yet this is another example of how travel can improve our lives.
~My luggage for the return flight (one more bag was gained!)~If we consider the headaches that we worry might happen by choosing to travel alone, most, if not all, could just as easily happen when we are traveling with someone or multiple someones. While yes, you will have at least two heads to solve the fiasco, you will also have two heads to step into a fiasco that could cause the headache in the first place. I guess what I am trying to say is that neither is better; they are just different. The common gift of traveling alone that is universally shared is that your confidence increases as you recognize you can do things you perhaps dismissed were possible previously. And this is true. As well, traveling alone, especially if I have not done so in a few years time, reminds me that I need to trust myself. Traveling alone clears away the cobwebs from my intuition, if I have not trusted it as much as I should have, and shows me that I need to stop doubting so often and instead calmly keep listening to its direction and striving forward. And most importantly, traveling alone brings me back to myself, centers me and shakes me awake if that is necessary.
~Looking up in Paris in late June: I find that when I travel on my own, my feet follow my eyes. Whatever catches my attention is where I often go, and I don't worry about leaving someone behind.~Speaking of the shaken awake part. It has happened in the past that I was shaken, but not to a clear state of what to do upon returning; however, it was a start, and I chose to see it through, continued to shake upon returning until the cobwebs and learned behaviors that were not aligned with my authentic self finally fell away. Such a shedding doesn't always happen quickly, sometimes it has taken years, but if we keep 'shaking' so-to-speak, our truth emerges, and it is then that we look back at our travels with even more gratitude. And gratitude for having traveled alone. There are truths that I have only been able to experience because I was traveling alone. Partly because at different times in my life, I didn't have the confidence or support to speak up enough to those I was traveling with and say clearly what I would prefer to do or at least in a way that yielding an enjoyable experience. And sometimes I didn't know what I wanted to do, so I just followed what the alpha person suggested. But if I had been by myself on those journeys, I would have just followed my curiosities without worrying about what anyone else thought, when I was supposed to return, etc., which is exactly what I do now.
“The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.” – Anna QuindlenFor me, traveling has led me to the life I want to live. Without travel, I would not be and be doing what I am, today. As Anna Quindlen's quote shares, the life I was leading when the trip began, especially the first trip I made to France (which was by myself), is not the life I live now or will be living in the future.
~A journal for your travels is a wonderful way to upon returning, reflect on the person you were when you traveled - where did your mind go, what curiosities caught your eye, how did you feel, why did you feel that way?~Traveling alone will show you quite quickly where your weaknesses are that can be strengthened. For example, if you immediately are not comfortable in your own company, that is something you can strengthen, and for your best self, you should. As well, if you do not know how to communicate well or engagingly, even if you do not speak the language, perhaps that is a hint that your awareness of the power of clear and effective communication needs to be tended to (which includes body language). One of the lessons I learned on my first trip to France which was in 2000 was to relax, let go of the worry and frazzle that perhaps we have learned when things are not going perfectly, and look around. Ask for help, take a deep breath and know that there will be another train if you miss the one you were scheduled to be riding. More importantly, since you are traveling by yourself, you learn to step outside of yourself. And while yes, you are taking care of yourself, you begin to see that when we only focus on ourselves, our inner world, our potential is limited. When we instead choose to examine "how can I contribute?", "how can I improve so that I can be effective not only for myself but the community I am currently in?", we begin to get out of our own heads and become more present. And when we become more present, the experiences of travel become far more rich and memorable.
~With moments to engage and moments to observe and moments to reflect~
If you are considering traveling alone for the first time, be sure to read the below posts that have been previously written. They will help you prepare specifically and clearly for a successful trip. And if you have traveled alone, but haven't done so in a long time. Or you find yourself settled and perhaps desiring a boost - consider traveling alone. Not only will it boost your confidence if you need it, but it will remind you how amazing the life you life already is or perhaps share with you how to make tweaks and changes that you couldn't see had you stayed in one place.~SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~International Travel Prep List, episode #183here ~Sign up for the weekly newsletter
~Chicken Marsala - view the recipe here
~SPONSORS of Today’s Episode:
Images: (1) Gordes, France; (2) Charles de Gaulle airport; (3) Paris - right bank; (4) & (5) Loire ValleyDownload the Episode
Sun, 8 July 2018
As my travels continue in France, Part Deux of the travel musings-themed episodes is shared today as I recorded the episode while walking in the country amongst vineyards, olive trees and under the brilliant blue sky of Gordes, Provence.
Be sure to tune in as I talk about topics that have been on my mind these past few weeks. Some have to do with travel and some have to do with everyday life and how to elevate it. I also share a few upcoming posts that I will be sharing in the coming weeks and months inspired by the trip. Below are specific topics and links to deepen the discussion. Thank you for tuning in and have a great week. Bonne journée!
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #216
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~3rd Annual TSLL French Week - Sunday August 12-19, 2018
~How to Create an All-Around Healthy Life, episode #208
~Daily Simple Luxuries (to enjoy while traveling or at home in our everyday lives)
~Listen and Catch Up! French Trip Travel Musings, Part One, episode #215
BELOW: images captured like walking and talking (taping episode #216 on July 7, 2018) just outside of Gordes, France.
~the sandals I have been wearing constantly during this trip - les tropiezennes. Recommended to me by author M.L. Longworth (who I had the opportunity of meeting in Aix-en-Provence this week - a detailed post will be coming soon on my excursion to this fantastic French city), these sandals are made in the south of France and can be ordered from the states - which is what I did prior to traveling.
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~Enjoy an aperitif and nibbles before a meal or with friends for a casual gathering.
~SPONSOR of Today’s Episode: