As my time in England is coming to an end I have been reflective of my time here. I have looked inward to what I have expected of this trip and myself. Hopes, imaginings and ideals. Starting out I foresaw nothing but fun, awe and inspiration. Some parts of it being glimpses into culture and social interactions while on the move. Others parts were languishing the slow speed of housesitting or remaining stationary. It was going be one incredible trip. And it has been, but not in the way I was expecting. So how has it been these last two months in England?
The majority has been housesitting. This is where I almost feel like a sham. Let me explain. Now I have done my part as the two cats and two fish are still alive and healthy and the house remains standing. What makes me think that I am somewhat spurious is my (lack of) activity. I have explored the area of Yorkshire with only limited vigor and have often opted to read, walk, cook or watch TV instead. Doctor Who rerun viewings have increased exponentially due to my being glued to UK Netflix and Sky TV boxed sets. Additionally I have spent copious amounts of time scanning the Internet seeking out my next place of discovery. I hummed and hawed over the next spot, only to pass it up for another locale that made its way into my psyche. It was information overload so I then I put it off and once again was lackadaisical. This occurred fairly often. I also had to consider funds. Everything here is double the cost for me due of the value of the Canadian dollar. All this had me feeling as if I am a travel fake – I am reading, cooking and watching TV. Stuff I can do at home. Stuff I do do at home. I have not had life altering experiences. I felt dejected, a failure at travel so to speak.
But am I a sham? Part of housesitting, of slow travel is to learn of a country and its culture and of myself. Now with England being part of the westernized world I did not expect much in the way of differences beyond local parlance and driving on the left side of the road (which I still fear may kill me when crossing the road). I don t ‘claim to know what makes an English person “English”. Hell, I don’t even know what makes a Canadian person “Canadian”. Yet I have essentially been living in South Yorkshire for six weeks. In that time I have been doing the everyday things that people do: cleaning, cooking, learning the transit system, watching TV, going to the movies or for a drink. I have had “small talk” with store clerks and commiserated with locals over the weather. I have summed up my courage to go to pubs for a drink on my own and had some good conversations some of the times and just sat and had my ale on my own other times. I have learned of myself that I immensely prefer cities over small towns or rural living more than I ever thought I would. I now have a general idea of what is a reasonable price for groceries, which stores carry the styles I like and that it seems that there are no postcards of Barnsley anywhere. I finally figured out the transit system. I have come to like, if not love having rich or bourbon biscuits with tea; that British ham is the best; real Cadbury’s chocolate is yummy and that pre-paying your food and drinks at a pub makes complete sense. I even know the size/denominations of the coins now. So perhaps not all is lost and I still am a traveler.
Maybe I have been a bit lazy with reading and watching TV. Perhaps I could have seen and done more. But I didn’t . There will be plenty of time for doing and seeing more. Bath, Cardiff and then most of Ireland will be keeping me busy. I have slow traveled and learned a bit about myself and England in the process. Traveling is not always about adventure and excitement. Sometimes its about the everyday. And the best part of all this (and which I often forgot) was that I was able to help someone else travel and have fun by caring for their home and pets as if they were my own. So, happy traveling.