I get it all the time! No matter how much I plan a head so I have 101 things to keep me busy when I arrive back home… that blue feeling just weighs me down.
Even after a long trip… When I’m longing for the comfort of my bed, cooking my own food (usually when I’ve been around too many meat-eaters!), just looking forward to being in my own safe environment- the blues always kick in!
And this time is no different. A week ago I was lazying on the beach, eating good food and drinking… a lot of good Italian wine! I guess it doesn’t help that as soon as I got back to London, some bacteria found their way into my system causing me to be ill with some non-sense fever, but nothing serious enough to justify a trip to the doctors. So, unwell and blue– welcome back!
I’ve cancelled plans to catch up with friends. There’s no point of them seeing me like this and bombarding me with many questions about my trip that I’d rather keep to myself for now. Yes, post-travel blues makes me a completely different person. I’m either in bed ‘catching up with friends’ (which generally means seeing what they’re up to in their Facebook life since I’ve been gone), or in the kitchen opening the fridge for the hundredth time even though I know there’s nothing inside that doesn’t require cooking. And goodness knows I’m not in the mood to cook!
One option to overcome the blues is to head to the gym… Most times, this actually works for me. But, despite the extra pounds thanks to Italian fine dining, I’m just not in the mood to face people let alone push myself to run on a treadmill.
So, whats next?
I’m going to have to leave my duties in the flat and face reality- literally. I’ve got errands to run and its seems my friends aren’t going to let me cancel on them again- so i have them to look forward to.
A few of the stereotypical assumptions I’ve had to deal with during my travels…
Yes, there are certain travellers that fit certain stereotypes. But as the saying goes- don’t judge a book by its cover… you’ll be surprised what you find inside it!
So that brings me to my first point. I am not your stereotypically Brit.
Had to get that off my chest.
So, that means;
I do not have bacon, eggs, sausages for breakfast (part of an English breakfast)
I do not drink tea at 5 o’clock. I drink it at any given opportunity!
I don’t go to the pub, in fact I don’t drink beer unless its a shandy (mixed with lemonade or sprit)
No, I’ve never met the Queen!
Fish and chips?… can’t remember the last time I ate it.
And not all Brits are hooligans…
ah, and just for the record, I’m black but I don’t smoke weed!
Perhaps I went Spain expecting too much. Thats the only way I can justify an unfulfiling trip- the first half of it that is. The hype of Barcelona had me intrigued. I’ve been to Madrid and that experience was enough to keep me away from Spain for a long time. However I was sure Barcelona would be different… After all they say the more south you go, the friendlier people are. To cut to the chase, I arrived in Barcelona, standing at Catalunya Metro station, I was over whelmed by the city and its vast size… yes i was expecting a somewhat small seaside town, where everyone smiles at you and says ‘Bon dia’. I walked into a city with almost as many tourists as London and the the truth is i felt alone in a city that I would have enjoyed much better if I had friends there or travelled there with friends. Thats the part of solo travel that really sucks- loneliness amongst a crowd of hundreds of people.
Ok, so it wasn’t all doom in Barcelona. I stayed in really pretty and tranquil part of Catalunya called Parets del Vallès, about 25 minutes from the city centre. On my first day visiting the city (before the doom of loneliness set in) I was approached by a man on the street who asked my a question in Spanish. Thinking he’s asking for directions, I apologetically responded that I don’t speak Spanish. My english accent seeped through, ‘Ah, you’re English!’ he exclaims, then invites me for a coffee. Why not?! It’s quite ironic that we end up in Starbucks (my haven when travelling in Europe- free wifi and skinny muffin make a great combo!) and I discover he’s Italian, and I happened to be going to Italy after my Spain trip. So, there, I had a friend in Milan now just by accepting an invitation for a coffee!
After three days in Barcelona, I decided to visit Valencia. My first CS guest was from Valencia and she told me so many wonderful things about her city that I just had to go, beside, I was done with Barcelona. I can say Valencia saved my Spanish trip! I had a blast. From salsa dancing by the harbour to a picnic dinner in the park amongst locals… This was finally my chance to see brighter side of the Spanish people.
Q) How do you know you’ve passed the academic year? A) You’ve either revised so darn much you’re confident as you walk out of the exam room, or you simply wait for results day. Well, I did neither, at least not the latter.
I’m still trying to workout what made me so confident I had passed my first and extremely difficult (for me at least, the younger ones made it looks so easy) year at university. Perhaps it was my tutor’s words of encouragement as I handed in what I thought would be my last essay of the year ‘well done Kai, you’ve caught up nicely.’ Ok, so those words didn’t say you’ve passed so go book a ticket somewhere for three weeks, but i guess in my mind, that was enough.
So I was in Spain, preparing for my flight to Italy the eve of results day. I had in fact forgotten about the date until notifications were sent every 5 seconds to my phone as my peers posted on the Facebook BAJ1 group wall- sorry, timeline. I didn’t have my student ID number with me to check the results anyway so I was happy to go along with my theory that I had passed home and dry… Just carry on with my holiday!
But of course I hadn’t! I knew there was one essay to be handed in, but i was hoping my marks would average out and I could possibly pass… Wishful thinking! Anyway it wasn’t the end of the world it just needed to be done once i got back- fine. But what the hell? Re-take short hand?! Thats an exam I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy! When I did the exam the first time, despite not feeling at all confident, I managed to pass. In fact if it wasn’t for Taryn, encouraging me to just get it over with, I wouldn’t have gone into the exam in the first place. So thanks girl- I owe you a drink!
After sending emails to my tutors to clarify if i had to re-sit the exam and getting no response, the day of the re-sit came… Today! So I went in (a little late) but sure it was all just a mix up. Of course in the back of my mind I was wondering if it wasn’t… and the exam board had decided i hadn’t done enough to pass… Naaa!
And, so it was all a mix up. As smart as examiners are, they mistook my attendance as not attending the exam (my attendance was worse than the exam, just as well i wasn’t being marked on that)! A pass is a pass and thank you God that I’m out of that one!
The moral of the story is just pass the exam in the first place… and revise enough so you’re confident you’ve passed incase some cock up like this should happen, you know its all just a mistake!
Now, where was I… Back to my summer…
My summer vacation was near and I was itching to get out of London. After a stressful year at university, a painful breakup (best friends are particularly useful during this period) and the British weather looking unpromising, its no wonder I needed to get away- and quick! So I booked a ticket, and found myself in Italy… Quite literally.
I love London. I probably don’t say it enough but I do. However, its an overpowering city, even for an expert Londoner like myself. Sometimes I just need to get out of it’s context to be myself again. Slow down (not sure I’ll ever lose the city girl walking pace though),lighten up and just simply re-charge with positivity- its not all doom and gloom (even if the weather is)!
Italy was a safe choice. I’ve been there at least three times, and I’ve got friends there, so a somewhat safe bet. However, ‘safe bet’ is a little too cosy for my style of travelling so I booked two and a half weeks with a plan to start from Rome and work my way up to Milan… Of course plans don’t always go accordingly- at least in my case!
I travelled with my best friend Rosa which was actually quite surreal. Since we were 18 we spoke about travelling the world together (another plan that didn’t go accordingly- that’s another story). So here we are, two 20 something year olds living our (somewhat) teenage dream!… But that dream would only last a few days as she had to fly back home, so I was left solo as my train departed from Milano Centrale, and she waved frantically and gestured ‘call me’ from the platform and distance between us disappeared with speed… That’s when my journey in Italy began…
With the distance between me and my best friend getting wider, it finally dawned on my that I would be all on my own. Fluent in Italian, Rosa also happened to be my translator. Now I was left to fend for myself. And it didnt take long before I was put up to the challenge.
Sitting opposite a rather cute looking guy, we exchanged a few friendly smiles. It wasn’t long before we got talking as I quickly established I don’t speak Italian. However my Italian was better than his english so that was a boost to go ahead with my broken Italian. The journey to Florence was long so making conversation with a rather pleasing on the eye Italian was a good distraction. We exchanged email addresses however by this point he’d already told me he had a girlfriend whom he was going on hoilday with soon. Not that I was interested in anything other than to keep in touch. Anyway, he got off the stop before mine. And that was the end of that.
Florence is beautiful. And I have a fabulous host to thank for allowing my to be completely open minded and open hearted to indulge in its beauty.
From Florence, I took a train to Rome. There I walked aimlessly with no sense of direction or particular purpose. In the mist of the summer heat, I sought refuge… A Starbucks!! I sat down in front of a gated Roman ruins sight and started googling ‘starbucks in Rome’. Then a polite voice caught my attention. Distracted from my starbucks search I put my phone away as I made conversation with Paulo (I actually can’t remember his name for the life f me!) Paulo was a shy, geekish looking 30 something year old who also happened to be a journalist. Perfect! He offered me a mini tour since all the places he asked if I had seen I hadn’t heard of let alone visited as I had just arrived. Our mini tour ended in eating the ‘best gelato’ and exchanging emails. I must get round to sending an email to thank him.
Later that evening I met up with Fred. A young Albanian guy who’d lived in Italy most of his adult life. He could sense I wasn’t so excited about seeing yet another statue or fountain, so we ditched the tourist route for the back streets of Rome where the best pizzerias could be found. I was thankful to see a different perspective of Rome from someone less enthusiastic about the city. I have since been told by many friends to come to Rome when they are in town and they’ll show me a good time. It’s not that I didn’t like Rome. I just wanted something beyond another statue of a Roman Ruler.
I carried on my journey south to Napoli.