Journeys

Journeys

We’ve all set out on a journey at one time or another – indeed you could say that every day is itself a journey.

How do you prepare for a journey?  Do you plan, plot?  Do you countdown to the start of the journey?  Or are you more spontaneous?  To some degree I’d say there has to be some level of planning involved in a journey – however long or short – for a start, how are you travelling?  by foot?  car? public transport?  Once the decision has been made on how to travel, do you plan where your journey will take you?  Often we embark on a journey with a destination in sight, already planned and anticipated.  We know where we are starting out from, we know where we are headed – the journey itself is the adventure.  Some embark on a journey not knowing where they will end up – and that’s a real adventure!

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As a child we often went out as a family for a drive on a Sunday afternoon – no doubt my father had some idea of where we were going – perhaps to visit a relative?  Or perhaps he formed an idea of where to go based upon how long he anticipated being out and how far we would travel.  I always thought of these trips as ‘mystery’ journeys.  I was an avid reader of Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven – so as we travelled along roads, through villages, down lanes, I would gaze out of the window imagining we were on some secret mission, or adventure and make up the stories in my mind.  I often would look at the road map and trace with my finger the route we travelled, looking out for road signs or landmarks.  My parents would often drawn my attention to a church or landmark, or village sign so that I could plot where we were.  This served two purposes, it fired my imagination and interest, and it kept my mind from the ever looming travel sickness which afflicted me during my early years.  One whiff of a barley sugar boiled sweet and I’m back in that place, sitting in the back seat behind my father, legs sticking to the pvc seat, no air conditioning, but a gentle breeze from the partially wound down windows of my parents.  No in car entertainment, CDs, MP3s, DVDs, just watching the scenery pass by as I gazed out of my window and followed the coloured squiggles of the roads marked on the map.  I both loved and feared the holiday journeys of childhood.  The ones I can remember being long – we didn’t travel on motorways, as frequent stops were necessary to ease my queasiness, I hated the aftertaste of the travel sickness tablets I had to take before such journeys, they dried the mouth, and so the inevitable boiled sweets and barley sugars were sucked throughout the journey.  We often travelled through the night, I remember once arriving at Brixham, Devon just before 6am and watching the fishing boats in the harbour as we waited until the time we could gain access to our holiday apartment overlooking the bay.

As an adult I’ve taken great pleasure in planning journeys.  I write numerous lists – what to pack in suitcases, essentials needed for the journey and during the time away, jobs to do before going.  Then there is all the preparation, booking accommodation, booking tickets, checking personal paperwork is in order, which cameras to take, notebooks and pens, maps, guidebooks route planner.  Researching the destination for places to visit, ‘must do’ tourist attractions, local cuisine.  One of my favourite parts of the journey is planning the route before we go, looking for interesting stop off points or places to pass through.

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I was in my element with the preparation required for a recent visit to the USA.  One of my favourite journeys and one I’m sure I’ll write about in great detail at a later date.  I still think of it as ‘The Journey’ rather than ‘a journey’.

The Journey

23 days, 8 states, 5000 miles.  Car, Plane, Train, Boat.

During 23 days we flew half way around the world, hired a car, drove 5000 miles through 8 states and during this time took a train ride and travelled on a boat.  The Journey took in desert, city, prairie, forests, lakes, rivers, ocean, island, mountain, beach, sunrises, sunsets, snow, wind, rain, fog, sunshine.

So many memories, some real landmarks too – driving miles and miles on the Interstate highways – we covered many miles on the old route that took the early explorers across the country from east to west – much of it now replaced by a state of the art double lane highway, running parallel to the old route 66 – and we could see deserted gas stations, diners and stores that stood empty and forgotten now, alongside the unused road, discarded for the bright shiny diners and casinos along the Interstate.

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Some days we drove many hundreds of miles, something not possible to do in our home country, indeed in one day we travelled further than the length of Great Britain – when we set off one dark Sunday morning from Amarillo in Texas, I couldn’t help but think of the lyrics ‘When the day is dawning, on a Texas Sunday morning’ – our destination that evening was to be Las Vegas in Nevada – I programmed the hotel address into the Sat Nav of the hire car and the calculated miles to travel was 854 miles – we stopped along the way for fuel and rest stops, met some interesting people who were very friendly and eager to chat to us when they heard our accent.  Even the hire car drew attention as we drove across so many states with Californian plates.  We arrived at our destination, our hotel, on the Strip in Las Vegas at 6.30pm – we’d crossed Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, saw the sun set on the mountains of Nevada and as we rounded the bend before descending into the valley the bright lights of Las Vegas were a sight to behold.

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Our Journey continued to California, where we saw the sun set over the Pacific ocean from the great vantage point of the Griffith Observatory, we walked the sands of Santa Monica beach, took a train up the Coast to San Fransisco and a boat over to Alcatraz.   You can see why I can only think of this time as ‘The Journey’ – so much to write and I will set down more memories, descriptions and details in future blogs.

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Yes, I’ll write about The Journey in great detail – I took thousands (seriously!) of photographs and kept a journal as well as collected leaflets, newspapers, maps so I have the resources to write all about The Journey.

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On journeys these days I’m sometimes the driver, often the navigator.  But still, part of me is that young child who’s mind is full of imaginations and the anticipation of adventure.

I take great pleasure in all journeys – a day trip, a visit to family, or a holiday… the planning, preparation, and anticipation are all part of the journey.  The return home, with a mind full of memories, a camera full of images – to view and relive the experiences.

Where are you going on your next journey?

Enjoy your journey – where will it take you?

Liz Clark

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