Travelling in miniature (and I don’t mean the toiletries)

Anyone who has ever travelled far from home will be familiar with the warm and fuzzy feeling that you get when you come back. They will also, I suspect, be familiar with the sense of longing that creeps up once you’ve been back for a while, and the tingly anticipation that accompanies the planning of new travels and the promise of fresh adventure. The travelling bug is cyclical, you see, and it is only by leaving and then returning to your place of comfort that you can appreciate both what you left behind and what you discovered while you were away. Or is it? If we were always free to roam the world at will and on a whim, would we become complacent about our situation? Or would we simply wake each day beneath a swaying palm, curl our toes into the sand as the sea softly lapped over them and appreciate each lazy second that ticked by and how fortunate we were to have such an existence?

After my travels in 2011 I remember vividly being in a taxi travelling over Vauxhall Bridge after a night out. The sun was beginning to rise, bathing all of London in a gorgeous sleepy morning haze, and I felt a rush of warmth towards this city I call home. It was a particularly lovely moment because it could so directly be contrasted with a rather less enjoyable moment several months before when, unable to bear the sweaty morning commute for a second longer, I snapped at someone on the tube, and subsequently realised that for my sanity and the safety and wellbeing of those around me it would be best if I went away for a while. And you know what? It worked a treat, and since returning almost two years ago I can honestly say I haven’t exchanged a cross word with a fellow commuter.

Unfortunately the opportunity to just take off for months at a time is not something the majority of people are able to do, and now I’m back in full time (well, as good as full time) employment I’m trying to find a way to satisfy my travelling cravings without actually going on a full blown travelling excursion. I had thought the answer was to plan a travelling trip in miniature. That is, to pick a far flung place, book a flight there and then spend two weeks travelling around. The problem, as I’m coming to find, is that when visiting far flung locations the flight alone costs the earth. But a bigger problem still is that half the joy of travelling is the ability to drift around without a firm plan, changing your mind and direction at the drop of a hat when the winds of adventure change. If you only have two weeks it’s not as easy to go where the wind takes you. You have to have some idea of where you’re going or you might just find you’ve wasted your whole trip queuing for bus tickets in some dead end town. In short, if you don’t plan, you risk spoiling the short time you have, and if you do, the experience will likely feel more like a package holiday tour than a genuine travelling experience. First world dilemma I know, but a dilemma nonetheless.

Maybe it’s just not feasible to travel in miniature, and the whole concept was just a pipe dream I constructed to make me feel less confined within the boundaries of my current situation. Perhaps I should admit defeat and book a package holiday to some nondescript Spanish resort, where the all you can eat buffet and watered down cocktails are included in the price and there’s a talent show each night for all the families. Or perhaps I should keep thinking until I find a solution, because otherwise I fear London won’t be this agreeable forever…

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How to cope in the age of commuter rage

When I left London to go travelling in 2007 I was at the end of my tether with the rudeness of people on my daily commute. I genuinely feared one day I’d snap and scream in someone’s face, and it was the day I finally felt that fear about to become a reality that I knew I had to get away for my sanity’s sake.

Don’t get me wrong, I love this city dearly but it never ceases to amaze me how normally civilised people can become ruthless savages the second they step onto the northern line in morning rush hour. Though I’ve never seen a fight I have heard tales of suited businessmen coming to blows over perceived acts of rudeness, and the sighs and grimaces of people who refuse to move down the carriage to let you on when there is patently room because they’d frankly rather have the space to read is an experience I’m certain we’ve all shared at one time or another.

Similarly, there are the people who push and shove and rant and rave when there clearly is no space, and their getting on the train will most likely mean at least one person suffocating to death in their sweaty armpit. But why should they care? They’ve got to get to work, because being so much as five minutes late would obviously be completely unacceptable.

I have seen occasional acts of kindness on the tube-indeed once a man who was well over six feet tall fainted on top of me on the Piccadilly line on a particularly hot day and I myself became a Good Samaritan, shouting for water and asking people to step back and give him air-but on the whole the daily commute is an ‘each to their own’ affair that is to be endured rather than enjoyed.

Take yesterday’s tube journey home as an example. Me and another girl were standing equidistant from a seat when the occupant stood up to disembark at the next station. I felt her body go rigid, and my own do the same in response. This was all out war, and there could be only one victor. But just as I braced myself for the pushing, the shoving and the glaring that would ensue when I beat her to the seat (as I surely would) I stopped and asked myself why it was so important to me to win the seat. After all, I was only going a few stops. If she wanted it so badly-as her reddening cheeks proclaimed she did-couldn’t I just let her have it? And so I did. And I got more satisfaction from that gesture than I ever would have in winning the seat.

So what’s the moral of my story? Perhaps that every now and then it’s good to take a step back from the madness of the morning or evening commute and make a conscious effort to be nice to a fellow commuter instead of automatically scowling at them. Give it a try-you might just like it.