I’ve struggled to connect with England.
I have always felt that connection with Ireland from the day I first set foot in the country.
And I definitely bonded with Scotland.
England has not completely won me over despite meeting some incredibly kind English folks along my travels.
Yes. York was a city I connected with. It has soul.
London — not so much even though I wanted to like it.
And the Cotswolds were a mixed bag.
But here in these areas southwest of London
Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire — spending time with a friend whose husband grew up in the Somerset region and meeting his family and hearing his stories, well this has changed it all for me.
This is what travel is all about for me — connecting with the locals and their stories. Seeing every day life and hearing those stories of family and history.
In the short week or so I was here I just felt as though I was truly seeing England.
Many of the towns don’t necessarily have any particular sites, although Templecombe has ties to the Knights Templar and there are legends around of this area being the Camelot of the legendary King Arthur.
In fact, Sue and I hiked to Cadbury Castle (there’s nothing left as it’s all under the earth), a possible site of Camelot.
But I’m fine with this. I love seeing these towns and villages without hoards of tourists. It’s a treat to see the locals simply going about their day.
And the houses are still beautiful, with the occasional thatched roof, stone walls and gorgeous flowers.
The fields are as green as anything I’ve seen in Ireland.
There are churches with bell towers and sheep and cows dotting the fields.
I think the best thing for me
Has been to connect with my friend’s husband’s family. To talk to people who have lived here all their lives. To hear the stories, the history. It makes me feel more connected to a place.
There were definite highlights of visiting Avebury with its stones circles set in the green fields where the sheep graze — actually going up to touch the stones that have been standing for thousands of years.
Visiting West Kennet Long Barrow — a very cool burial chamber that you simply walk inside after a hike through the corn fields — was also a treat.
And I did make it to the more famous Salisbury with its stunning cathedral that dates back to the mid-1200’s. The Chapter House of the cathedral also happens to house the best preserved copy of the Magna Carta. It’s amazeballs.
The most touristy thing I did while in this area
Was visit Stonehenge. And to be honest, while there were a lot of people there, it wasn’t so bad as far as being crowded.
It’s an impressive site for sure. And the area around it is simply filled with more ancient sites and stories. Plus it’s really beautiful in a pastoral way. I loved it!
So I guess for me this part of England was the part that really sold me.
But that’s the great thing about travel —
There’s something out there for everyone.
What I love may not appeal to someone else.
And what you gush about I might be kind of “meh” over.
And that’s okay.
I know I’ve been to places that I’ve not been crazy about. And I think to myself, “I really should like this place.”
Then I stop myself. Because who says I should like it?
My friend or co-worker?
Some travel guru?
You like what you like.
You connect with the places that speak to you…not to your best friend or your dad or your sister.
And as a personal travel planner
I have to remind myself that I may not connect with a destination that my client loves.
And my client may not care for a place that I love.
Travel is individual.
And I’ll always strive to do my best to make your dream vacation just that — YOURS.
Would I recommend England to clients?
Would I recommend London?
But I’m always willing to give you all my impressions and my opinions. You just have to take them with a grain of salt.
Because I’m not you.
As I sit in the hotel room with my bag packed and ready to go
I think about this whole travel thing.
Admittedly, I don’t want to go home yet.
In fact, this feels more like home to me — being somewhere else.
But I know I’ll come back to Europe.
And I know how much travel means to me.
A specific site.
A city or town.
But mostly it’s connecting with people.
And I have been so lucky to meet some amazing people on this journey.
And I’ve been lucky to meet up with friends on this adventure.
I’m heading home broke — from a financial standpoint.
But I feel so incredibly rich because of all that I have experienced over the past 10 1/2 weeks.
It was fabulous!