Why travel plans never work

So, I’ve been back now for a week and I’m so very badly missing my holiday! I visited Spain for the first time and caught up with an old friend, as well as my friend who I met in Thailand who is now in Indonesia (jealous? me?). Then, I headed to France for Uzes and Montpellier…just, wow. I knew after last year that I could live there, but this time…as soon as I headed towards Uzes, I had a huge sense of calm. It seems my heart has found a home. Pictures and more detailed posts to come.

Anyway. Enough mushy stuff. As the title suggests, not very much of my trip went to plan – it was just another reminder to me that trying to control what happens in life is a complete and utter waste of time. Luckily, for me, the changes were all good. In a nutshell:

  • It turned out that getting to Madrid airport in the dead hours of the morning from Alcala de Henares was more than a bit tricky (note to self, check transfers to the airport are possible outside normal hours next time). It was no biggy, though. There was a train from Madrid to Nimes that took 6 hours – and as we know, I love trains.
  • Except, we didn’t factor in the waiting time to buy a ticket at Madrid Atocha station. As we were waiting in the seemingly never moving queue, my train left without me. Another note to self, ask if there’s a counter for international tickets. Because there was. And I could have caught the train if we’d have known. Oh well. In the end, it meant an impromptu flying visit to Barcelona, somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit.
  • Except, I didn’t stay very long. I literally found a bed to sleep in and had to be up for a 7.20am train. I eventually arrived in Nimes at 11am on Saturday and headed straight to the Market in Uzes to catch up with friends. It quickly became apparent that two days there simply wouldn’t be enough, so…
  • I extended my trip by four days. This was a combination of helping out my host and also because I got a little sick (as much as I love trains, I hate the air con – always makes me ill).

Were all these changes costly? Yes. Massively so. But then again, I had a blast. Because I stayed on in Uzes, I got to take part in the full moon party with my musician friends, my host and her lovely friends, and the other volunteer staying there too. I also got to hang out in Montpellier a bit, somewhere I’d been intrigued about for ages. And, more importantly, I got my itchy feet back.

Central America is no more. I really want to go but the flights are horrifically expensive and the time away would be too short. In fact, it looks like I’ll be heading back to Goa to do the Shiatsu course I was interested in for 3 months. The moral of the story is? Go with the flow. Having a packed itinerary is just silly and in the end, much more restrictive.

Which means I have a tight budget and schedule to work to up until it starts in December. And, this includes editing and releasing Heart Shaped Bruise.

Deja vu, anyone?


Getting the bug

So, as I might have previously mentioned, I’ve been bitten by the travel bug. I first got it into my head that I could combine travel and writing last year, though I hadn’t decided to publish Together Apart at that time. I’ve always harboured a dream of spending time in the south of France, handwriting an epic manuscript with a glass of red wine in a crumbling farmhouse. I think this was possibly further enhanced by Colin Firth’s character in Love, Actually (at least, I think it was that film).

The first rule of travelling, is to actually go. Or at least make preparations. Decide where to go, and book a ticket. After learning French for a year, I decided to do just that. So, last August, I found myself in Nice, alone on holiday for the very first time. After a week of beach-side living and wandering around Monaco and Grasse, I moved inland, to a tiny little town called Uzes, not far from Avignon. And it was there the bug got me.

South France? Check. Massive, rustic farmhouse? Check. Manuscript? Check (albeit, not handwritten. Come on, it’s not 1850). Red wine….well, I don’t actually like red wine, so it was substituted for beer. In any case, I’d completed the first step. I had arrived. And for the next 6 weeks, this was home.

The fresh air, the countyside, the food, the drink, the people, the sun. What wasn’t to love? As cliched as it sounds, it provided some great, great inspiration. The population of Uzes is around 8,000, though the town itself feels small with an abundance of art galleries, an enormous market, friendly locals, craft shops and of course, cafes. It’s like a little hippy town – apparently it was a des-res for Parisians to escape to in retirement. For a first experience of travelling alone, it was perfect.

Did I get much writing done? Not really. Aside from the fact that I was busy relaxing and other such things, I was earning my keep. I’d signed up to Workaway, a site which lists people wanting to travel the world and hosts willing to put them up and give accommodation and food in exchange for help with a project. I was beyond lucky. The family I stayed with were awesome. A little bohemian, a little eccentric and a lot of fun. The host’s daughter had emigrated and got married, and while I was there, she came back to celebrate the wedding with her new hubby and a load of their friends. What resulted was a 2 day garden party with some of the best food I’ve ever tasted, as well as making new friends.

Travelling this way opened things up to me that wouldn’t have presented themselves if I’d have stayed in a hotel on my own the whole time. Because of where I stayed and the people I met, the following happened:

  • I decided there had to be more to life than my 9-5 back in England. I wanted to write.
  • I met an awesome group of musicians who ended up convincing me to go to Goa.
  • I had an amazing massage from a woman and then decided I wanted to learn how to do it myself – thus ending up in Thailand.
  • I decided that, in the pursuit of a new life, I wanted to do all of these three things. And publish my book while doing it.

So while I didn’t get to sit on my laptop every day and write a new chapter, I did advance in what I wanted to be my new life. I started putting the building blocks in place. And I can’t imagine never having gone now.

I’ve met so many people who have given me so much inspiration for new books that I’d struggle to write them all. I’ve been to places I would never have gone, again, getting inspiration that I can translate into my books. It was probably the best decision I’ve ever made.

So, I guess my advice is this. If you’re considering doing something similar – do it! If you’re on some kind of creative pursuit, all the better. Look at it as research. I thought it would be impossible to write a book and publish it outside the UK, but let’s get real, everything is done on the internet. As long as you have an internet connection, you’re all set.

It’s never going to be the wrong thing to do. Experience is the best inspiration there is.

I’m always looking for/fantasising about places to go. If you’ve travelled somewhere amazing, please share it!