2. Stonehenge, England

Good things come in small packages.

Not everything will go according to plan, sometimes plans will fail, other times new plans will spring up spontaneously. In this case, it was the latter.

Having spent the second night of my three day mini-break in the New Forest, it was time for Sarah – my partner – and I to drive back to London. Since the Salisbury Plains were roughly on the way back (a mere 40 minute detour), we thought now was the ideal moment to grasp the opportunity to tick of an item on my ever-expanding travel wishlist for the first time.

My travel research is still in its early stages, and will continue for several months, and yet there I stood, in the presence of one of the most iconic structures in the world.

My first impression regards the size of this mysterious structure – it’s a lot smaller than I thought from the many times I’ve seen it depicted in TV, film and various reading materials. Granted, one is not allowed to actually walk amongst the stones in order to prevent erosion, damage and vandalism, so a view from a distance is as good as you’re realistically going to get. Even so, Stonehenge’s somewhat modest size was unexpected, although the same couldn’t be said for the volume of tourists meandering around the designated path that circles the henge from several metres away.

Still, once you find a space amongst the audio guides and selfie sticks, the charm and mystery doesn’t take long to set in. Despite many theories, nobody really knows why it was built, but when you stand back and admire the skill and intellect needed to construct such a thing ~4,500 years ago, you don’t really care.

These days, everything has to be created with a purpose, with social and financial pressures condemning projects that go ahead just for the sake of it. I’m probably wrong here, but I like to think that Stonehenge was built just because the people at the time wanted to show off that they could – in an age when they didn’t have to worry about health & safety, world debt, political budgets, or the G20.

My ancient daydreamings were then interrupted by a couple who had hopped over the rope and made their way into the middle of the stones. Waiting for several alarmed-looking, middle-aged, high-vis jacket-wearing men with questionable facial hair to come bounding after them and usher them back to the quiet humdrum of the masses, I was greeted instead by the sight of the man dropping to one knee and proposing. Luckily, she said yes, and after many smiles and multi-lingual murmurs of appreciation, Sarah and I were on the shuttle bus heading back to the car park.

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Deciding against fighting through swathes of overexcited children in order to buy an overpriced umbrella and a rather bland looking £4.75 sandwich, we got in the car and drove to the nearby village of Cholderton, for a very tasty pub lunch at the highly-recommended Crown Inn.

To look at, Stonehenge is not the most impressive structure I’m going to see in my travels, but its ability to give me a mysterious glimpse of an ancient civilisation in a world filling up with skyscrapers and future technology gives a unique feeling that made it a worthwhile visit.

1. The Meeting Place, St Pancras Station, London, England.

Give her biscuits before bedtime.

I’ve unofficially started my travelling.

Granted, I haven’t got very far, but what better place to start my exploration of the world than on my own doorstep?

After a leisurely cycle ride (followed by much panting and intake of instant calories), I find myself sat in a surprisingly quiet corner of one of the busier stations in one of the busier cities on a Saturday afternoon. Next to me stands “The Meeting Place”, a 30-foot high, 20-tonne bronze statue depicting a couple locked in a (presumably amorous) embrace.

The artwork is intended to symbolise the romance of travel – or possibly her reminding him at the last minute to remember to feed the cat – and yet the feeling I get whilst underneath it is not romance, but the epitome of the many juxtapositions of modern-day London.

Here is a sizeable structure in the middle of a very commonly used station, but as the Londonites scurry around on the ground floor in A-B mode, giving passive-aggressive looks to anyone who slows them down by more than a millisecond, this serene, calming feature stands still on the floor above, being noticed only by the people dining outside one of the restaurants, and the “must see absolutely everything” group of Chinese tourists currently taking far too many selfies standing next to it. One can’t help but feel that if people appreciated their surroundings more and weren’t so transfixed on their destination, they would open their eyes to so much more that this wonderful city has to offer – something I know I’ve been guilty of many many times in the past.

Noticeable, too, is how old the statue looks, especially compared to the more modern surroundings of the recently renovated (2007) St Pancras station. A symbol of the old and the new, trying desperately to coexist in this vast-yet-cramped city, with varying degrees of success. In this case, despite it only being nine years old, it’s aged look underneath the giant clock only adds to the calming influence it imbues upon its passers-by.

Anyway, that’s enough of me rambling for now, or there’s a very real chance I might say something slightly romantic. Besides, I’ve just about got my breath back now, so it’s time to cycle home.

New Digs

Has anyone seen the kitchenware?

Having spent the mandatory period of time being frustrated, confused and perturbed by my lack of website design skills, I have finally figured out how to make the necessary additions and changes to start turning this blog’s abode into something resembling what I want it to look like.

I’m still not happy with the overall design and colour scheme, something I will be looking to change at a future date, but wait! There are new fancy buttons for you to press! You now have the ability to follow this blog either directly (if you have a WordPress account), or by email (if you don’t), so you don’t need to worry about keeping up with my social media updates or coming back here 19 times a day to see if I’ve posted anything new like I know you’ve already been doing.

You can also share any of my posts to your own social media pages, so my unrivaled writing skills can reach the same far corners of the (round) world that I’m hoping to visit in person over the next couple of years.

All I need to do now is work out how to get this blog to do the hoovering for me and we’re in business.

Prologue

It’s all downhill from here…

In 2007 I spent three months travelling round North America, doing a ‘lap’ of the United States, starting and finishing in New York, and incorporating the fringes of Canada. It was a life-changing experience that opened my immature, 20 year-old eyes up to the world that lies beyond my bedroom and left me with a thirst for more knowledge and experience of the diverse and beautiful planet we live on.

Unfortunately, through a combination of long-term relationships, insufficient funds, and other life responsibilities, I was never able to quench that thirst, until now.

Next year – with the starting date to be determined by a number of factors – I plan on expanding my travels to include as much of the world as I can afford to see. From lost cities to vast animal migrations, giant Buddhas to heart-shaped reefs – and that’s just the small fraction of destinations I’ve already researched.

You might think, therefore, that starting a blog at this stage is a tad premature, but like most things I do in life, I’m doing it a little bit differently, and for good reasons.

The first reason I’m sharing with the class so soon is because I want to blog the entire travelling experience, and that includes the planning and preparation phases. I have books to read, websites to browse, and will no doubt be given a healthy platter of suggestions and recommendations from friends and family, so if you’re reading this and you have an idea of where I should go, and why, then by all means let me know.

The other reason for starting this blog now is that, despite not officially starting my travels until some time next year, there will be odd places here and there that I visit in the mean time – the first of which could happen as soon as this weekend – and I might also include memories from past destinations (particularly those I’m not planning on revisiting) to keep my admiring audience captivated until I properly start my “oh my God I’m in my 30’s now I should probably actually do this before it’s too late” voyage.

So stay tuned for updates – I’ll put links to the bigger entries on my Facebook page – and like I said before, if you know somewhere cool, tell me. There is no such thing as too many places to go.

You never know, if this goes as well as I hope it does, I might do it again someday.