The very first time I went solo-travelling I did much thinking beforehand about whether it was the right thing to do. I wanted to go but ‘what if’ thoughts started to dissuade me. A month before I was due to leave I got some news of a school friend that had passed away. It shook me, it’s not something I had experienced before. Although our friendship had never extended beyond the school walls it affected me greatly and I continue to think of her often. Whilst at school, if she had known what would happen in her early twenties would she have done anything differently? Would any of us?
I shouldn’t have needed the reminder that life could be short. We might not get time to do the things we want to do so we should grab every opportunity to do them while we can.
It’s a thought that is very much at the forefront of my mind this week given the horrific events in Manchester. The people affected had no way of knowing that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were healthy young people with everything to live for. Young people with plans for the future; plans to see more of the world. People living, like so many of us do, like we have so much more time to do all of the things that we want to do.
I don’t profess to know anyone affected by the events of Monday night in Manchester. But I’ve been thinking about them all week and will continue to do so for a long time to come. Assuming I have a long time to come. Either way, events like these remind me to stop putting things off. To stop being so bothered about… stuff. It really isn’t important. What is important is the wonderful spirit of the Manchester community and those further afield. You have my greatest admiration.
It’s not that I don’t like being English. I actually like it quite a lot. Other nationalities seem to like our accent (why?) and our native language one of the most widely spoken languages in the world – which is handy if, like me, you’re terrible at learning new languages.
It’s just that I’ve never really understood why people from other countries around the world want to come here so much. Maybe it comes back to no-one ever being content with what they have but I just don’t understand why the UK is deemed to be such a great place to move to. I’m clearly biased but I’d take a New Zealand winter over an English summer any day.
One huge benefit of living in the UK, however, is the ease and relative low expense involved in leaving the country. Yes, one huge benefit of living in the UK is being able to leave. Hello, budget airlines. The greatest invention in travel since the neck pillow (or maybe the neck pillow came later. Either way, they’re both excellent inventions). It costs less to book a return flight abroad than it does to get some trains within the UK. In about the same amount of time too. The UK is fantastically placed in that a two-hour flight or less will get you to lots of destinations in Europe.
Finding weekend getaways becomes the mission of the rooted traveller. Especially if you’re surrounded by like-minded people who send you messages such as ‘there’s a flight sale on’. Two hours later you’ve booked the flights and just need to find somewhere to stay. Easy.
So this is my ode to and personal thank you to the budget airlines of the world. You make international travel entirely possible on a small budget. You allow moping post-travellers that have returned home to relive their most exciting days and sneak away for a weekend. You make life more fun and you bring the world together. And for this I thank you.