Traveling as a student sometimes doesn’t seem like it could be as fun – you don’t have a lot of money and neither do your friends! In my opinion, traveling is one of the most important and life changing things one can do in college. I didn’t really have the money or time in my school schedule to study abroad, so I decided to just travel on my own! Two weeks before classes began I scheduled a 10-day trip to the U.K. and Paris, France.
Don’t get me wrong, I had been planning this trip for almost a year in advance – which sounds like a lot of planning but it really wasn’t! This length of time gave me the chance to save up some money to spend along with saving some money on flights and hotels (more on this later). I planned to make the most of my trip and so I will cover all the places I went in the U.K first.
The U.K was the best decision I could have made on being the first foreign country to visit. I am a nerd in all things Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who and the U.K has all those things. Also, it is primarily English speaking so I didn’t find myself lost very much. Public transportation on the Underground (read tube) is the easiest thing to use to get around London. In the case that you would need to make transfers, the signs are very clear as to what direction to go.
Some interesting things you may not have realized:
#1 American English is more proper than Great Britain English due to the influence that the nearby languages have had on it. (French, Welsh, Gaelic etc.) Examples: Color vs. Colour, Southwark (spoken as Southark)
#2 Driving on the Left side of the road has to do with knights in medieval times, your sword was carried on your left side. It was easier to engage with an enemy or greet a friend if they were approaching you on your right side.
#3 It is cheaper to live on the east side of London than the west because before they had plumbing, everyone dumped everything outside and into the Thames river. The wind usually blows west to east so those that lived on the west side got the fresh air from the countryside. If you lived on the east side, you were the recipients of some unsavory smells.
Everyone in London, Cardiff and Bath were very welcoming to travelers. Often the tour groups I was a part of were made up of native Brits that just hadn’t gotten the chance to see different parts of their homeland!
One of the biggest surprises I didn’t anticipate was how much of an outsider I would feel. I could speak the language, but due to my American accent, I was always asked where I was from. Since I was traveling alone, I didn’t want to bring too much attention to the fact that I was not a local. I found myself speaking less and less!
My favorite place that I visited was Stonehenge! I spent 2 hours there admiring the rocks and I could have done it for another 2 hours. Stonehenge is found in the middle of fields and farmland. You don’t get to touch the stones, but I could get reasonably close!
Another great place I visited was the Roman Bath’s in Bath, England! It’s a great city with a lot of little shops that surround the Bath’s. This is water you would not want to drink as the Romans used lead pipes to route the Natural Hot spring’s water into the bath itself.
London was amazing and there is always something to go see. I wasn’t completely absorbed by the royal palaces as much as others were but there is so much history you really need to spend your time to get a hold of everything!
Cardiff, Wales is a place that I would love to go back to. I went during a time where they had a fair along the waterfront that is reminiscent of Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles. It just so happens to be where Doctor Who and Torchwood are filmed.