Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The Appreciation of Circumstance


I stood alone beneath the rolling neon boards, the printed pieces of paper trembling beneath my fingers as I gazed up, not entirely sure of what I was supposed to do next.

I heard an approaching clacking of court shoes across floor tiles. 

"Can I help you at all love?"

I turned to find a small, smiling woman in a brightly coloured skirt suit looking up at me expectantly.

A little bubble of excitement bloomed in my chest, and combined with an unexpected giddiness created the strangest urge to just laugh.

With a gaze that flickered down to the documents in my hand and back up to her face, I found a smile beginning to grow on my face.

Two hours before this, I'd been sat in a mind-numbingly dull lecture at Uni, watching the grey droplets of rain race against each other to reach the bottom of the window, whilst my professor droned on about the importance of using appropriate file names when saving our work.

A frantic series of events and a coach ride later, here I was, standing alone in a place I'd never ever been before, about to do something I'd never ever done before. 

"Departures, please." I said almost breathlessly, "I have a plane to catch."


Okay, so I guess I should backtrack a little. 

There's a word that I think about quite a lot. 

' Dissatisfaction ' 

I think that's a word than more or less every teenager/young adult can instantly relate to.

That unrelenting, gnawingly frustrating, throw-your-hands-in-the-air-like-you-care-way-too-much sense of overbearing dissatisfaction about, well, most things.

Love, lifestyle, career, self, money - everything seems to be sighworthy at this age. 

I'm hopelessly guilty of this, and for me, my greatest dissatisfaction and greatest fear has always been my future. What I’m really terrified of is leading an average, ordinary life with a regular job and an invariable routine, planned holidays, an average household, fixed responsibilities and not doing anything different to be remembered by.

It kinda reminds me of that Marina & The Diamonds song;

' My problem is my problem
That I never am happy
It's my problem, it's my problem
On how fast I will succeed
Are you satisfied with an average life? '

I guess it's just so easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you're stuck in this hopeless rut, being unhappy but not being able to do anything about it, and minute by minute the days tick on by, and nothing ever seems to change.

But it was about a month ago, that I saw something which shocked me straight out of this stagnant place.

It was nothing but this simple post on Tumblr, and one comment next to it:

"This is what really grinds my gears. You Europeans can drive for three hours in any direction and be in a totally different country. If I drive for three hours, I just end up in a town exactly the same as mine, only three hours away."

And for a reason which I'm not entirely sure of, I just couldn't shake that out of my mind. 

I felt... guilt. 

As I looked at that post, not only did it make me realise just how much I take for granted in life, but simultaneously just how little of Europe I'd seen, when it was right on my doorstep. 

In fact, before last year, (despite having travelled a lot during childhood), I had not visited a single European city. 

I felt such guilt.

Here I was living a life that I regarded with heartless dissatisfaction, when I was completely overlooking just how incredibly lucky I was, to have come to exist in these circumstances. 

Sure, there are countless who have life a lot better than I, (and I'm not saying that an inability to travel abroad is the most dire state of poverty), but there are hundreds of millions who have it a hell of a lot worse than I, yet it was me who was sitting here complaining that I might never end up being important enough for my liking, or that my life was too boring. 

It really did have a profound impact on me. 

And in that moment, in place of being able to swap places with someone who wouldn't take it for granted, I thought the least I could do, was to fully demonstrate my appreciation for it all, grab it firmly with both hands and damned well make the most of it. 

It took less than a day to get all of the plans in place. 

Once I realised that there was no way I wasn't going to do this, I found the process to be delightfully easy. 

Because screw it.

Life is too damned short, and youth is even more fleeting.

If you don't like something, change it

If you wanna do something, do it. 

And before you start making up reasons and excuses to just not bother, instead, focus that energy on finding a way to make. it. happen.

Because life is not going to wait until you're ready to make the most of it.

You have one shot and not a lot of time - it's up to you whether you're ready to acknowledge that.

And so, just like that, I stuffed some clothes in a bag, finished my classes for the week, got a coach to the airport and jumped on a plane. And it all cost me less than £100.

It really was that simple. 

My heart pounded with an excitement I'd scarce known, as the mechanics of the plane rumbled beneath my feet and the girl next to me shot me a curious smile.

I gripped onto the armrests as the great jet began to edge forward, and when it suddenly lurched into its full-scale assault on the tarmac, I couldn't help but let out a little whoosh - partly from the force of the rapidly accelerating aircraft, and partly from the sheer audacity and thrill at what I was doing.

I felt so, goddamn, alive.

And for the first time ever, I flew high across the planet completely alone, watching my home country slowly shrink away beneath me, the land which contained my entire life, and I gazed upon the twinkling oceans, swelling and pulsing across the surface of the planet, and in an hour or so's time, slowly descended into a completely different nation, alien to my eager little toes. 

And it was perfect.

Sometimes we all need to take a moment to make the most of all that we do have, instead of pining over all we do not.


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  1. Wow! That's such an amazing, exciting adventure. How long did you stay for? Did you tell anyone where you were going? I wish I could do this. I'll have to try it one day.
    Lucy xxx

  2. I went to Amsterdam/Utrecht in Holland and stayed for 4 days :) The only people that knew were work really as I quickly informed them that I wasn't going to be available, and then the friend I stayed with! It was so so much fun, I definitely want to do it again! x

  3. Oh perfect! Is your friend doing a year abroad or do they live there permanently? I bloody wish my friends would spring themselves on me but I guess it's a bit unreasonable to expect them to trek from Exeter to Milan when they have research projects and dissertations to do whilst I swan about eating pizza :p xxx

  4. What a wonderful post, full of fantastic ideas and extremely well written. You're so, SO right. We need to make the most of our situation. I've been to Europe a few times but am currently craving more adventures, though I'm not sure if I could do what you've done; I'd worry too much, and I'm an incessant planner. I dream of being spontaneous! Amsterdam looks beautiful and in fact I've been thinking of adding it to my travel bucket list recently. You have a fantastic philosophy. Loved this, thanks for sharing :)

    Jo xxx

    She Wears Burgundy

  5. This is such a lovely comment to receive, thank you so much :) I too get seriously stressed when things arent meticulously planned to perfection and I don't know exactly whats going to happen, but it was actually a bit of a relief to throw caution to the wind and just go for it!

    I definitely recommend doing it at least once in life, and I deffo want to make it more of a habit (If I can afford to haha)

    Thank you so much for reading :)

  6. Very nice post! :) I was thinking just yesterday how sometimes we got stuck in stupid everyday concerns and forget how lucky we are and how life needs to be fully lived!
    And congratulation on your decision of traveling with not too much planning. that's the best way of traveling in my opinion that makes you connect with different people and cultures. And that freedom feeling you're talking about is just so freaking good! A couple of years ago I flew alone to India to travel!
    xx Umberta

  7. Little London Girl13 March 2014 at 08:48

    Wow that sounds very exciting. I think travelling alone is such a great idea as you spend much more time talking to new and different people. I went travelling on my own for a year after uni and it was amazing. Maybe that could be your next step, just arrive somewhere and work for a bit then move on to the next country, you can even write a blog about it all which is what I did. I haven't done much proper travelling (backpack in tow) recently and always thought I would but having a proper job and bills to pay it becomes so much harder to be spontaneous and escape from it all. Plus I can't deal with slumming it like I used to! Enjoy it whilst you can. God I sound old!!
    Little London Girl x

  8. How to awaken ones spirit!! Your post rings so true. It is frighteningly easy to continue on in an endless pattern of routine and expected happenings, forgetting to actually live, experience, enjoy.

    I'm so glad you took that leap and spread your wings. That is something that will stay with you always, and hopefully gives you the courage not to settle.

    I took a little leap too and recently (a few days ago), moved to Holland. Not alone, to live with my boyfriend who is from/lives here. I still don't have any answers of whether it is the right direction, but there really is only one way to find out, and like you, I intend to go and experience life, while its there!!

    : )

    Gemma x

  9. This is such a lovely post! I completely understand how you felt and I used that energy to plan a trip around Europe this summer. It seems like such a brave thing to just hop on a plane alone so I admire you for that!

  10. Peter D. Barker14 March 2014 at 08:20

    I'm studying a masters degree here, but I did my study exchange here as well. As Katie's post points out, we're all so close together in Europe, and taking a 100 minute flight to Milan for a weekend should be well within most people time constraints! Bug them until they come, sharing your adopted city with a friend from home is great :D x

  11. Peter D. Barker14 March 2014 at 08:24

    Make sure you make a real effort at learning Dutch (it's a very beautiful language, once you get over the sounds, some brilliant imagery), and get out and make your own friends away from your man as well, and you will love it here. Welkom in Nederland!

  12. Peter D. Barker14 March 2014 at 08:25

    The point that really rings with me is the decision to do it. You see lots of people talking about plans and ideas, or the stress of doing such things, but I absolutely agree RE: the decision to just do it. It's always a huge weight off your shoulders and it feels wonderful :) x

  13. This is the dream! Amsterdam is a beautiful city, if you're ever in the mood to escape again I highly recommend Krakow. Such a beautiful city and it's really cheap! xx

  14. eeeeeek! i love this!!

  15. I loved this post, it's written perfectly and I felt all of the emotions so well. It's actually amazing to live in Europe, yet I sadly forget this too often.

  16. amazing post!!

    xx Julia

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