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.
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.