I lay my head down to rest each night on a pillow, next to my husband, who is the love of my life. Sometimes the pillow is in our own bed, in our home town. Sometimes it’s in a hotel bed in a distant land. Sometimes it’s even a jacket stuffed with clothes inside a tent on some remote campground. My husband is the best travel partner in the world and the one who makes all the Faraway Pillows so much fun. Happy Valentine’s Day!
For my travel partner and me, the love of our lives is travel. We fell in love, with travel that is, the summer of 2001 when we backpacked around Europe. It was then that we discovered the excitement of being together in a foreign place. That summer after my high school graduation my high school sweet heart had transformed himself into my travel buddy extraordinaire as we successfully and enjoyably navigated Europe’s many streets often lost, tired, and hungry.
This love story is a tale of hard work and perseverance. Travel pushes one to go beyond comfort zones, to explore despite jet lag, culture shock and a handful of misadventures that are bound to happen on any trip. However, with any worthwhile relationship, a good companion will push you to discover things you never knew possible.
Travel is love. Travel is understanding. As Maya Angelou said, ‘Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try to understand each other, we may even become friends.’ This statement is very powerful to me and should be reason to travel for so many people. Travel to me is learning and appreciating how other people live while having a great time doing it.
It would be so easy to stay home and perceive the world as small and comfortable. It would be so easy to save the money that travel requires and spend it on other things. However, to think of all that wouldn’t be learned, experienced, tasted, and felt is too difficult to comprehend. The good, the bad, the pleasant, the unpleasant, the trials, and the triumphs… it’s all for the love of travel.
We saved up for our European adventure for six months, both working in the same restaurant as servers. We worked gruelling 14 hour shifts to save the money required for three months abroad. We bought the airline tickets, the Eurorail passes, and had enough money left to budget $89.00 per day for hotel, food and activities. This was more difficult in some places than others.
We began our journey in London, England on May 15, 2001. We had looked forward to the trip for so long and were exhilarated to begin. We were somehow surprised that our money seemed to evaporate in London as the poor exchange rate and sky-high prices took a toll on our budget. The first night we stayed in a cute little bed and breakfast in the outskirts of the city. It was there that we experienced our first case of jet lag. We awoke at 4am wondering what time English people eat breakfast as it was just about time for our dinner back home!
That day, after a rough morning adjusting to the time change, we set out to explore the city. We had coffee in a chic café in Soho while watching a girl eat chicken cordon bleu and I thought to myself, ‘I’ve never wanted anything so badly in my life’. Turns out, I wanted to save the money and ensure that we would be able to stay abroad for the full three months even more. As a side note, I’m glad we were able to stay in Europe for the whole summer but I REALLY wanted that chicken cordon bleu! I still have dreams about the bubbling cheese running out the side…ok I’m moving on.
We had a hard time in London as our budget didn’t allow for deluxe accommodation or gourmet meals. After the first night we moved from the expensive bed and breakfast to the Leinster Inn, a large and very expensive hostel (still cheaper than the bed and breakfast) in Central London. I thought hostels were supposed to be cheap or something?!? I mean you sleep in bunk beds in a smelly room with like 8 dudes but normally you pay around $10 a night which takes the sting out of it… sort of.
Despite our subpar accommodation, we were able to enjoy the city. We visited sights like the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, and Harrods’s (look for the most amazing Parisian macaroons at Ladurée…now inside Harrod’s!) We saw the ‘tourist sights’ but the most enjoyable thing we did was our own bus tour. We bought an all day pass for about £16 on the city buses and went from one bus to another without a plan in the world. Ok, ok, ok, hold up…when I say city bus I don’t mean one of those ‘expensive, cheesy red tourist buses with a lady holding an umbrella and a microphone on the top deck pointing out sights’ buses. I mean the real deal public transportation. The London city buses are all double decker and have great views from up top. We didn’t care where we ended up, we just wanted to see the city and sit amongst the people. We rode different buses for hours, hopping on and off whenever we felt like it. We saw London in an unusual way and were able to candidly talk to Londoners. One conversation we had was with an older English man who believed that all people from Colorado ride horses like in the ‘Old West’. We were gracious ambassadors and set him straight. When we finally decided to end the tour we took the ‘Tube’ (London subway system which is easily accessible all around the city and included in the price of the £16 day pass) back to our hostel.
Our short time in London was just a prelude to the lifelong love affair we started with travel. The more we travel, the more we learn, and the more we enjoy our trips. We have returned to London several times since our first encounter and have had a better, more rewarding experience each time. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a just a few of my favourite places in London:
Moro Restaurant- Award winning Moorish cuisine at the heart of the lively pedestrianised street, Exmouth Market
Tate Modern Museum- A National Gallery of International Modern Art
Macaroons at Ladurée in Harrod’s- Small, round cakes, crisp on the outside, smooth and soft in the middle. A new flavor is created for each season.
Absolut Ice Bar- A bar made entirely of ice in London’s West End. Everything in the bar is made from ice that has been harvested from the frozen Torne River in Northern Sweden. When I say everything I mean everything but the floor is ice (glasses, bar top, chairs, walls, EVERYTHING!) Very cool bar…ha ha ha
For singles and couples alike, on this Valentine’s Day deepen your love with travel and plan a trip somewhere, even if it’s just down the road to the next town. A love affair with travel will surely be an exhilarating and fulfilling lifelong relationship that will teach you about yourself and about the world. In the words of the greatest travel writer of all time, Robert Louis Stevenson, ‘the great affair is to move’.
Stay tuned for more European adventures…XOXO!