The distant singing of Sam Cooke lulls me to my awakening but oh man its only 3am! It doesn’t matter because for the first time in my life I’m travelling alone…to meet a friend which boths excites me and terrifies me at the same time.
I had this trip planned in my head for so long but thanks to recent circumstances I was able to fulfil my dream of solo travel. The world is such a big place and sometimes I find myself staring out of the window at work to the sea thinking, beyond the ocean and across the land is a much bigger and diverse space. For little ‘ole me it’s a scary big place and even more scary in its recent predicament of mad men running around trying to ruin people’s lives, but why should I let them stop me?
I kept an eye on flights and hotel before finally booking it and then there’s no going back (thanks to the flights being non refundable). But where was I going? Anywhere exotic? Anywhere far fetched? No…just Belgium! A country steeped in history, chocolate and beer! Nothing more for anyone to ask for. I used booking.com and TripAdvisor to search for the perfect spot to relax and Skyscanner to keep an eye on fluctuating flight prices. If you join up to Skycanner (for free) you can create price alerts for your selected dates from your chosen airport to your destination. Believe me it helped a lot!
I love traveling but sadly due to my serious lack of funds (being a waitress is not the best paid job believe it or not) I cannot do it as often as I like. But even so, I have picked up a few tricks along the way which have made me a better and savvy traveller. My favourite trick has been my routine to pack and making the most out of what I take. I always try to take items which can be doubled up both as night time and day time outfits and durable for all weather’s depending where I am going and at what time of year. But I always always always….take a pair of jeans that are either black or ripped. Jeans can be styled up or down and are very durable as you don’t have to wash them once used or spoiled (Jeans were never meant to be washed, just in this day and age have we become accustomed to doing so). I live in my converse at home so it would be stupid not to take them away with me. They are great for during the day especially if you are doing a lot of sight seeing and I think being comfy (also stylish) is one of the most important things when you’re getting lost and immersed in another culture. Plus I take an umbrella and my sunglasses because you never know what good old Mother Nature has in store for you no matter what Mr Weatherman has to say! I find that taking a medium sized bag preferably a small backpack helps, nothing to small that you can’t get the umbrella and sunglasses in but nothing too big that you get neck and back strain after 2 hours of walking, I learned that the hard way!
Brussels is beautiful for sight seeing and great for chilling having an ice cold beer with friends. It’s a little expensive but hey what city heavily populated in August with tourists isn’t! I thoroughly enjoyed Antwerp too even though it rained all day when I was there; made it more serene and beautiful in my eyes but I like the rain anyway! It’s great for shopping, it has a zoo and has amazing bars and quirky but quaint restaurants down the back streets off the squares. One of my favourite places was Kids Rhythm & Blues bar, I can’t wait to go back there, have another beer and rock out to a band with my Belgium bestie! Gent was also very beautiful, a discount Bruges if you will but at the same time just as delightful and filled with history and old architecture. Having tomato soup, sitting outside on the side of a small bridge with the glimmering warm rays of the sun flickering on my face is a memory I’ll cherish forever and even more so for spending time with an amazing young woman.
People always say “oh why go away? Stay here and save money, home can be just as beautiful”, but I disagree slightly. Home becomes stagnant, basically the same old shit different day, nothing inspiring; a little thing will change here and there but nothing stimulating. Nothing is greater than immersing yourself within another culture, hearing them speak their language, learning from them and becoming less ignorant of their existence. As a English woman (a society that sadly sometimes relishes in its own selfishness and ignorance) I feel its important to travel the world. Our ancestors travelled across this globe to develop our learning and understanding, making connections across this planet which I think, if we learn from it now, we can create a future.
But the biggest plus to having a getaway is the chance to have some peace at your own pace and escape the hustle and bustle of the mundane life that we all know happens to us and that life just tend to become. It also gives me peace from the biggest agitator in my life…my mother!