It has been over a year now since I’ve left the UK. I have been on a couple smaller trips in this time to Norfolk, Newcastle and London but the traveller in me is itching for that feeling of freedom again.
I am no stranger to the post travel blues. I used to identify myself as a traveller. Whenever some one asked me what I was doing, the answer was working towards a trip. Technically I still am, however I want the next time I set off to be more environmentally and economically sustainable. I want it to be for the long, long haul and to not come back with no money to a minimum wage job. This requires a plan and a decent money cushion- when working in hospitality both those things will take a long time.
In the meantime, I have been fighting like hell to keep that sense of travel alive in me. Yesterday I had my first day off after working seven days straight in two different hotels. I spent a day exploring and appreciating my home town, as if I had only one day to spend there.
My hometown adventure started with an iced coffee. I went to the Handlebar cafe. One of my favourite spots, I had been to the upstairs cafe a few times however I had never sat in the newly refurbished downstairs. I was intending on writing, however I found myself captured by the music and much to my surprise, relaxing. Anyone that has known me in the past year, will know how rare it is to see me all peaceful like that.
The windows were large, bright and open- perfect for people watching. The broke renter in me couldn’t help imaging how much a of a bitch it would be to heat in winter. The thing I love about people watching in Oxford city centre is there are so many rich people. I like to look at peoples coats especially. I can tell just from their coat whether some one is a local or a student.
This was a very nice people watching experience. Everyone appeared happy or at ease. It makes me sad when I see some one who appears to be having a bad day- I’m quite sensitive you see.
The barista had chosen a Spotify playlist called Rare Soul Grooves. It created the perfect atmosphere and went beautifully with my ice coffee. I even found myself drawing. I drew the the decor, the windows and the music. I wasn’t worried about being productive or getting shit done, I was just enjoying myself.
My Grandma came to meet me for lunch. We went for Thai food and scoffed it all down. I was left with the perfect balance of flavours and happiness in my belly. I asked my Grandma if she could take me to some colleges. She is a tour guide and knows all the best of the Oxford Colleges.
First we went to Exeter College. For any of you visiting Oxford, be sure to come to Exeter. It is free entry and has a breathtaking garden with a secret view onto the Radcliffe Camera. Walking around the garden had me dreaming of studying there. No wonder these students do so well- theres so many beautiful trees to sit under and read.
My grandma told me the story of when she was 14 and she spent a day walking around these college gardens with a boy. He then, for the first time reached out and held her hand. She also told me of her father who used to like to climb to rooftops. Somewhere we have a photo of him sitting at the very top of the Radcliffe Camera. How on earth he got there.. I do not know but I would like to try.
Then we went to New College and wandered the cloisters and the chapel. She took me when I was younger too and going through my Harry Potter craze. In the centre of the cloisters is the tree where Draco Malfoy climbs in the fourth film, before Mad eyed moody turns him into a ferret. She often tells her tour groups of when she first took me and had to restrain me so I wouldn’t climb the tree. It didn’t make sense to me at the time, the fact that a tree existed that you weren’t allowed to climb?
It started to rain and my grandma had to leave. I said goodbye to her at the bus stop and strolled back towards the centre. On my way, I passed the University Church of St Mary the Virgin. For months I have been recommending to my guests to climb the tower for an excellent view of Oxford. Yet I have never taken the time to climb this tower myself?
The man at the ticket desk says to me, unless it’s my only day in Oxford I should come back on a sunnier day as it’s rainy outside and the view won’t be so good. I knew it was raining.. I just came from the outside. Why come back when I could climb it now? He looked at me like I was crazy.. but thats okay.
The steps to the top were narrow and slippery. My concussion brain was having a nightmare, it felt like it would never end. Luckily it did, I got to the top. It was now pouring with rain. My hair got soaked and I must have looked a mess. I loved it. I loved that for that day, I didn’t have to look like I worked in a five star hotel. I could just be messy, little me.
I saw Oxford from an angle I had never seen it. I saw the hills, the colleges the shops. I was hoping I could see all the way to Abingdon but I’ll have to go back on a clearer day.
It was a perfect day. The soul music, the warm Thai food, the warm light on Sandstone buildings, stories from my grandma, the rain and the wind rushing against me as I looked over the whole of the city was everything I needed. It helped me erase all the noise of guest complaints, TripAdvisor reviews, revenue, possible mistakes. I allowed myself to let those things not matter for a day.