My first bank holiday

Travel tip: the Monday after Easter is a bank holiday in the United Kingdom. Why is that significant?

No bus service.

Maybe in London I would have had transportation to my next destination. Or I would have been pleased to spend another day sightseeing in the capital city. Instead, I found myself isolated in the southwestern corner of England.

Two months into my semester abroad, I was cocky about my ability to hop on a train to anywhere. I scheduled my coursework so that I only had class Tuesday through Thursday. This allowed me ample time to become an expert traveler.  But on the second day of my three-week spring break, I returned to campus with tail between legs. I got myself to Gloucestershire only to find the castle-turned-youth-hostel that I was dying to stay in fully booked.  Back in my dorm room, I planned my itinerary and confirmed accommodations for every night before setting out once more.

(Over)confident that I had learned my lesson, within days I was staring at a timetable that revealed that the bus to the town where I had a bed booked only departed on Tuesdays.

It wasn’t Tuesday.

But by the end of the second week of my adventures, I disembarked in Penzance having avoided further complications. I had honed my tourist chops. I strolled the town secretly hoping to see a pirate.  When clouds moved in, I caught the bus to St. Just-in-Penwith. The small village’s hostel would serve as base of operations for exploring Land’s End during the Easter weekend. Then I would continue to power through my sightseeing agenda.

As specified in my hostel guidebook, I got off the bus in the town centre. I checked the notice board to see what time on Monday I needed to be here for my return trip to the rail station. You know, “fool me once . . .”

That’s when I learned about the bank holiday. Shame on me.

Since things were already going so well, it began to drizzle. The mist obscured the landmarks I needed to find the youth hostel two miles away. As I walked, I alternated between reading the directions and looking for my next turn:

walk past the library away from the town centre along Market Street, turn left following Bosorne Terrace past a chapel and recreation ground, turn right down narrow lane passing cottages and old well, where the lane ends, past the sign “Unsuitable for motors,” turn right down a footpath following signs for YHA.

A poor judge of distance, I nervously walked on, uncertain if I was going the right way. I was relieved to spy the familiar green triangle.

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As I neared the hostel’s gate, I heard ocean waves crashing into the Cornish coast. The fog thinned, and I caught my first glimpse of the sea. I was humbled by its vastness and beauty.

Suddenly, I was no longer stuck at Land’s End. I now had time to walk barefoot in the sand. I had another day to hike the coastal path and get stranded in a sheep pasture. I had extra moments to visit the local galleries before lunching on fish and chips. I had an additional hour to sip coffee with an Australian guest and compare notes on our experiences. I had an entire afternoon to sit in the just-blooming garden and read a book from the lending library. More importantly, I had time to reflect on how much more I still had to learn about travel and myself.

Lucky for me, I had inadvertently banked some extra hours on my holiday.

40 thoughts on “My first bank holiday

  1. Your gumption and worldly experience is admirable. I wish I had the guts to travel alone like that! I’m sure you have a ton of great stories as a result, including this one 🙂

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    1. When I left for England, I kept saying, “I’m going to do this traveling while I’m young and single.” Of course, I thought I might always be both and believed that was just something to say. Let me tell you, I’m glad I traveled while I had the chance.

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  2. I especially enjoyed two lines in your piece. After you did your initial set up, you wrote. “It wasn’t Tuesday.” Loved that!
    Then when you wrote “Since things were already going so well, it started to drizzle.” Hahahahaha! The comma gives it the perfect pause.
    Loved it! I admire your sense of adventure too.

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  3. How awesome that you navigated so much all by yourself. OVERSEAS. It’s one thing to do it while you’re somewhere close to home but to be so far. That’s courage!

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  4. This cracked me up: “I strolled the town secretly hoping to see a pirate.” I mean, I actually laughed out loud at my desk. But I really loved the way you ended your piece (and your trip), suddenly understanding what those unanticipated extra hours were good for. And the last line was fantastic. Thanks for sharing this!

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  5. You know what I love best about this post? Remembering what it was like to RELY, utterly and completely, on those guide books! They used to be bibles of travel. And now we just type stuff into phones. So much less of an adventure.

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    1. I still don’t have a smart phone, so I would still have to rely on the books.
      One of my travel memories was of eating breakfast at a B & B in London. Every guest at the table had a copy of Rick Steeve’s guidebook.

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  6. I lived in France for nine months right after college and this brought it all back. So many times I had plans spoiled by strikes or holidays I had never heard of. I also remember the feeling of looking out the window on a Sunday morning and being truly amazed by how quiet the streets were. Ah, Europe! They take leisure seriously.

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  7. I used to travel around the UK a lot, I have a vast collection of train tickets. I have always struggled with Sundays, it took about 15 hours to get home once, when it should have taken 6, all the trains were taken off and I had to get several buses instead. Still, I do love the train. My friends in the states, some of them have never been on a train in their life! That’s so weird to me being from the UK.

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  8. Love travel stories. Love this. Love the coast and the sheep pastures and the fish and chips and the coffee with a new travel friend and the reading of the book. Love allyou learned about travel and about yourself on this bit of wanderings.

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