Once again I am half the world away from home. After just five weeks in Britain, the majority of which was spent whizzing around the country seeing friends rather than in my own house, I’m back to my travels. And so my summer adventures have begun. The last few days have been spent in Boston which has led to a variety of wonderful experiences. My first day was spent 50 floors up in the Prudential Tower, surveying the city I had just arrived in. Through some stroke of luck I’d actually managed to get all these floors up for free because a fellow backpacker gave me her unused ticket as she was leaving as I was arriving at Hostel International Boston. So it was down to the generosity of another that I was able to gaze down on the emerald-encircled city of Boston with its Parisian-inspired avenues and towering financial district. Total strangers can be truly amazing.
My second day in the city was spent walking. In the morning I set off on the Boston Freedom Trail through Boston Common, the Old South Meeting House with its links to The Boston Tea Party and all the way to Bunker Hill Monument where the defeat of the British is immortalised by a 220′ obelisk. For someone who loves to navigate cities by foot, yet is hopeless at navigation, the Freedom Trail is an absolute blessing. With a clearly bricked red line showing the way for the entire 2.5 miles, it really is a case of just following the red-brick road. With each stop on this self-guided tour you are taken another step into the history of Boston. It was a morning of discovery full of pointy church spires and tales of revolts against the British. In the afternoon I walked again, this time to Cambridge (not so originally named) to visit Harvard. I suppose it’s a pretty good sign for my near future that I really don’t see what the fuss is about Harvard; that campus is nothing compared to the red-brick crescent and Old Joe clocktower of Birmingham. 10 miles later, I felt that I had thoroughly explored Boston during the day.
It’s just as well I crammed so much into Sunday as Monday was just a very miserably wet day. I ventured out to the Boston Tea Party museum in the morning and found a giant milk churn on my journey. Coming back towards the Chinatown area of Boston where the hostel is situated, I decided to find the Holocaust memorial which is a beautiful yet emotive memorial to the lost. Six glass towers represent the major death camps with the numbers to six million engraved onto the panes. Described in my guidebook as an “Off the Beaten Path” sight, I would highly recommend that any Boston visitors interested in history do pay the memorial a visit.
After my first few days in America I’m starting to get into the flow of life across the pond. Even if Britain and The States share a language and an appreciation for the Beatles, there are quite a few subtle yet significant differences. Pedestrian crossings are confusing and I’m feeling the lack of the red-lit man who demonstrates so perfectly how to wait until the green man shows. The people out here have clearly not been instilled with the British awkwardness that I am used to and it seems quite common to have a conversation with strangers which does not revolve entirely around the weather. I’ve also had some issues with food. Firstly, food in Boston seems alarmingly expensive and I’m greatly feeling the absence of a classic Sainsbury’s Meal Deal. Also, when ordering what I believed to be as close to a Full English as I could find, the sausages tasted weird, the bacon was just plain odd and the waitress didn’t even understand what a fried egg was. Even so, I am enjoying the excitement of a new place.
When it comes to general travel though, I’m still finding my feet. Seeing the world is all one big learning curve and, as with any learning experience, travelling has its successes and failures, highs and lows. I’m still figuring out what my favourite things to do in a new place are: whether I prefer museums or public gardens; whether I’d rather take a tour or just see where my feet take me; whether to travel alone or with a group. The great thing about travel is that you can never be an expert, there will always be more things to see and places you’ve never been. The best we can hope for when it comes to travelling proficiency is to learn how to take every opportunity and make the most of it. So far, such an attitude has led to me giving an impromptu recital in Heathrow Airport when I found a slightly randomly placed piano; watching enthralled for half an hour as Wacky Chad the street performer juggled knives which riding a giraffe-style unicycle; and climbing the 294 steps to the top of Bunker Hill Monument. It was around step 126 that I realised that just because something is free, it’s not necessarily worth it. Even so, the views from the top of the monument were absolutely worth it.
As I bumble my way through gap year travel, making countless mistakes and at times just making a complete idiot of myself, my advice to fellow travellers is don’t let your fears stop you. In fact, that advice could extend to everyone, those travelling, those who wish to travel and those who have no intention of leaving the comforts of home anytime in the near future. A life limited by fear is one where your worries have won. Additionally, an opportunity not taken is guaranteed to grow into regret. So whoever you are and wherever you are in life right now, take every single crazy opportunity offered to you, if necessary seek out the opportunities and never let fear clip your wings however all-consuming it may seem. Defying your fears is sure to build your confidence. Either that or it will result in you standing in a field in Cambodia with a tarantula on your face questioning every decision you’ve ever made in life. But either way, it’s all good fun.
Anyway, today I fly to Arizona and there confront a whole load of fears whilst also grabbing countless opportunities as I begin working on a Girl Scout Camp. Tomorrow is just the first day of the rest of my life.
I’ll keep you posted,