So I did it. I went to England again. What’s funny is, I thought I learned sooooo much about travelling when I had my first trip to England that I was going to do everything PERFECTLY this time! As if i were instantly a seasoned traveler! Well, it’s true that I did learn a lot in 2006 that I was able to apply to my 2012 trip, but I really wasn’t as smart as I thought I was. Fancy THAT!
Here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to talk about all the things I did right (or things that worked well) and the things I did wrong (or things out of my control that had an effect on how I felt while I was in England.) This post may seem a little out of the blue, since it comes so long after my November 2012 trip to England, But, it has taken me several months to get my wanderlust back because I was some homesick in London, so if I ever find the chance to travel abroad again, I will be referring back to this post to help me make sure I do more things right next time…
The “Yay me!” list:
- My smartphone: In 2006, it was not fiscally possible for me to use my phone. I relied on phone cards and phone booths to call home. Now, it would have been possible but still expensive to use my smartphone in England in 2012, but I didn’t have to go that route. I was able to connect to wi-fi and make phone calls with Skype or use the internet for emails, social networking, and researching things to do. It was wonderful. And I’m so impressed with myself that I didn’t lose my phone. I’m prone to misplacing it here, much less 4,000 miles from home!
- A rolling carry-on bag with “360 spinner” wheels: I had a really difficult time with the “backpacker” style bag I used in 2006; there was just too much in that backpack, and I had to do a lot of walking with it in tow in order to get from the airport to my hostel/from the hostel to the train station/from the train station to the hostel, etc. My new, rolling luggage was great! Full disclosure: My new luggage was so spacious that I might have put too much in it, which made it hard to lift into the overhead compartment on the plane. But it was just so much better than carrying everything on my back! Or, even worse, having to check any of my luggage! *shudder*
- Disposable face cloths: This might not even seem worthy of listing, but my sister gave me a box of Olay face cleansing cloths before I left. They were brilliant! Unlike how it was in 2006, I didn’t have to worry about keeping up with a wash cloth, keeping a bottle/bar of facial cleansing soap in my luggage, rinsing out a wash cloth in the hostel sink so I could use it again, or anything like that.
- A reusable shopping bag: Not just any reusable shopping bag: a reusable shopping bag that’s lightweight and takes up practically no space when it’s not being used. Mine was made like these. Not only was this great for when I picked up items at the supermarket throughout the day, but when I needed to redistribute the weight in my messenger bag, I could take some items out of it and put it in my shopping bag.
- Electrical outlet adapter: I actually bought this before I bought my ticket last summer. I found it for super cheap and took it as a sign that I’d need it later in the year haha. In 2006, I didn’t take anything that plugged in, so I didn’t need an adapter. This time, I was taking my phone and my straightening iron, neither of which required a voltage converter (those converters are HEAVY!) This adapter was perfect!
- Boots: I bought some cool Macbeths in which to roam the streets of London in 2006. In 2012, I couldn’t think about buying sneakers because I don’t wear them at all under normal circumstances. I just don’t think they look good on me! That’s right. I’m admitting to vanity here. In 2006, I didn’t care how I looked, for the most part. I was all about being practical while travelling. This time, I wanted to marry both pragmatism and style. Enter these boots. I ordered them the week before I departed for London, and they arrived only two days before I had to leave! While I wish I had been able to break them in a bit before I had to pound the pavements of London in them, I was still very happy with my choice of footwear. Matter of fact, the night we went to Brockham for Guy Fawkes night, sneakers would have been ruined. Walking to the celebration was the muddiest walk I’d ever been on! Fabric shoes would have been obliterated. Boots, I just rinsed off the next morning and went on with my life!
- My “super sophisticated film labeling system” – I’m actually really excited about this. In 2006, I regretted not keeping better track of which rolls of film I’d taken where/which day. I had written the name of the camera I’d used on each film canister, but that didn’t do much to help after I had taken the film to a photo lab. This time, I took little stickers like you’d use as pricing labels at a yard sale. After I’d finished a roll, I’d put a label on the canister, and write a number on it that corresponded with information in the little notebook I had with me. That way, things were in chronological order, thanks the way I’d numbered the film canisters. The information I wrote beside each numbered entry in my notebook had notations about which day(s) that roll of film was shot on and the places I’d been while using that film. That, along with looking back at the emails I’d written to my family while I was away, made it a thousand times easier to get my developed photos all organized and helped me construct the Amanda Goes to England blog posts!
Labeled film and the little green notebook with all the good info in it
The “Oh dear…” list:
- This is extremely hard to admit, considering how much I agonized over this decision BUT…I took too many cameras. I took seven film cameras (plus a compact digital,) two of which were pretty heavy. Looking back, I would have taken perhaps three or four. The two heaviest cameras were the ones I used least. I should have left the Diana, because I’d never used it before and a lot of photos were ruined because I wasn’t used to that camera. I should have left the La Sardina. Its fixed shutter speed and aperture just didn’t work for the majority of the photos I wanted to use it for, and the one control I could have in exposure – the “bulb” mode – failed most of the time. Meaning it didn’t stay open for timed exposures like it was supposed to. I have half-blank rolls of film that should have been wonderful photos of Brighton and London as a result of the bulb failure. Taking the Polaroid 680 was a nice idea but it too was unnecessary for what I was trying to accomplish, and I ended up breaking it while I was there. SO much regret! If my fellow photo nerds would like to know this info: with the cameras I owned at the time, I would have taken only my Nikon EM (+ its two lenses,) my Ricoh FF-1, and then either my Holga or the Yashica TLR.
I went overboard. I can admit it now. I did the math, and the weight for all this – excluding the mini tripod and digital camera and not taking into account the rolls of film I took along – weighed over 8 lbs! I did not carry ALL of these around each day. I did even more math, and figured out that, most days, the configuration of equipment I carried with me was 4.5 to 5 lbs. That doesn’t sound so bad, but honestly, it was not so awesome – it was a lot of “stuff” to fool with. I usually had: Nikon EM + its two lenses = 2.14 lbs; Ricoh FF-1 = a little over .5 lb; Diana F+ & La Sardina combined weights = .7 lb; Olympus XA = .5 lb; Slik mini tripod = about .7 lb. Having the Polaroid 680 and Yashica TLR in my luggage most of the time wasn’t that cool, because those two cameras alone weighed over 4 lbs. and did not see much use compared to other cameras I’d brought. When you take into account the fact that I ended up wheeling my luggage around London with me WAY too often, I totally regret those cameras being a part of my arsenal in England. As I already mentioned, I broke my Polaroid 680 on a London pavement (sidewalk) and my Yashica rolled off a bench in the Natural History Museum, and now I need to re-affix one of the corners of the waist level viewfinder’s focusing hood
I now secretly want to go to England again, with just these two: My recently-purchased medium format Bronica ETRSi+75mm lens+2 film backs, and the “lowly” Ricoh FF-1. The Bronica is hefty, but my Bronica gear and Ricoh combined weigh about 5.5lbs. Sounds heavy, but it’s soooooo much less to deal with than all that mess you see above.
Okay. Maybe I’d try to take THREE cameras next time…an instant camera might be nice
- While it’s not my fault that this was a factor, but next time I wouldn’t severely burn both of my hands in separate cooking mishaps the week before leaving the country. One of the burns was on the part of my hand that I had to use to pull my luggage. I cannot even tell you how awful this made my first days in the country. I tried various ways of bandaging it, but nothing worked well. I was miserable. I also had a severe allergy attack hit me while I was on the plane from Philly to London, and I battled that the first several days after I landed. I will pack anti-histamines next time…
- Ugh. I took the the WRONG bag to use as my purse/camera bag. It was horrid, and it made me miserable. It was all flouncy and unstructured and I kept losing things in its voluminous fabric and it was just a nightmare to deal with. Thank goodness for Kayla kindly bringing me something much better to use for my last several days in England!
- I was really indecisive about my meals for the most part. I couldn’t settle on what to eat, ended up waiting too long to eat or being disappointed in the food I’d chosen. Things get really bad for me when my blood sugar drops! I did not have a good head on my shoulders when it came to making sure I stayed properly nourished.
- I should have made SOME itineraries before I left. I didn’t have to the first time I went to England because everything was new and nothing felt like a waste of time. This time, I thought I could fly by the seat of my pants. I couldn’t. I should have planned new things to do in London, as well as a day trip or two out of London. My failure to do this majorly contributed to my emotional weirdness during my trip. Thank God for Kayla. She and her hospitality seriously did so much to make things better for me.
So that’s it for the epilogue. Hope it is of some help to someone who runs across it – if nothing else, I hope it’s a help to me for any travelling I do in the future!