Working in my day job at The Prince’s Trust, I get to do some amazing things. Today was one of those days. At work I am part of our PULSE network, which is a network of LGBTQ+ staff and Allies that support the LGBTQ+ community at PT.
I am an Ally and so today I took M along and we walked for The Prince’s Trust in the parade. M said that he thought that it was a life affirming day to see so many happy and joyous people out having such a gorgeous time – couldn’t have said it better myself!
Thank GOD we live in a country where this is not only possible, but also celebrated. After all….
So in this series so far, I have talked about tackling trains and cars and so to round up my tips, I thought I would talk about how to handle being alone.
So the being alone starts for me from the second I leave the house and I usually go long distances by train. So I walk to the station, get on the trains and arrive at my hotel on my own. With my lack of natural direction, I am always grateful to find all stations, platforms and hotels without getting too lost… 🌼
But let’s talk about being on the train for a second. As a solo train traveller, it’s inevitable that you will have to sit next to strangers. Over the last 12 months or so, I have sat next to a fair amount of man-spreaders (gents, it IS possible to sit with your legs together), the odd too loud headphone wearer, the people taking calls on speaker and my personal favourite, the ‘need a shower or some big-ass deodorant’ seat-mates. All lovely 🙅.
But I find the way to deal with all of the above is distraction. I am not above a little chat with a seat-mate, but mostly I just want to have a bit of me-time, which usually involves my headphones and a podcast. I am lucky, in that I have always been comfortable with my own company and the more I do travel solo, the more I am ok with it.
Once I get to the hotel, I find that I feel more comfortable if I do things to the hotel to make it feel like mine. At home, all my stuff is in the same place and I know where everything is which is just a small part of what makes it actually feel like home. So I basically follow the following 4 steps to feel settled in:
I immediately unpack, clothes hung up and on shelves/in drawers.
I put my toothbrush and other toileteries in the bathroom.
I set up where I am going to charge my various devices
So I know that this sounds very simplistic, but most hotel rooms are a variation on a theme and so settling in to the room can really settle me, ready for whatever I am up to in a new city. It becomes my home, my safe haven, so after a busy day (usually talking to people I don’t know that well) I can come back and in relative comfort, decompress. (It takes a lot of energy to be in a new place, taking to new people for 7 hours).
I mentioned in my Trains blog, that I often download films and TV series to watch on the journey, but if there is decent WiFi in the hotel, I also make the most of Netflix and YouTube to make myself laugh and even just relax before bed.
Of course, the one thing I do every night come hell or high water is make the most of FaceTime. These days, being away from home isn’t like you are cut off from people – video chatting means that we are so connected these days, I am not sure “miss you” always applies.
But one thing is for sure, is that just a few simple steps can make a bland hotel room, certainly “homey” if not home. I have even contemplated taking a candle with me, but I too worried about it setting off the fire alarm!!
Anyway, I think it’s ok to be nervous travellers, I am one and I still travel on an almost daily basis. Hope you’ve enjoyed this mini series and I would love to hear any tips you have too.
Oh I am a lucky girl, so lucky in fact, that my best friend Karen was kind enough to send us tickets to Crich Tramway Museum. She has been volunteering there for over 20 years and is currently the Chairwoman, I am very proud of her!
So yesterday, M and I made our way to Crich, where the museum is located and after a slight mishap (I put the wrong post code into the sat nav and ended up 16 miles away from where we should have been 😂), we arrived in just over 2 hours.
I think that when people imagine museums, they perhaps envisage lots of dusty artefacts behind glass, but nothing could be further from the truth in this instance. When we arrived, Karen met us at the gate and we were delighted to be given a map and leaflet about a special models exhibition that was happened this weekend. We were also given special pennies to pay for our TRAM RIDES! The idea is, is that you get a penny at the gate and then this pays your fare for all your tram rides throughout the day. Each time you go on a tram, the conductor gives you a ticket. 👍
Penny for your fare
The museum has around 4 trams running each day which go up and down a track, which I reckon takes about 10-15 minutes to go to the end of the line and back. There isn’t a timetable as such, but we never waited for more than a few minutes every time we wanted to take a tram. But we will come back to that…..
As you enter the museum you head down into the village as this is the centre of everything and leads to all the main attractions. There is a pub, tea rooms, ice cream parlour, sweet shop, gift shop, exhibition hall and several tram depots. We made our way around each area, and it was just fascinating and Karen is a real tram enthusiast and as she showed us round, she gave us many insights into each and every artefact and with she had a snippet of information about each and every tram.
But the best part for both M and I was riding on the actual trams. we agreed that our favourite was “the boat”, named appropriately, because of its shape…
But we did have a few more rides and each one was so atmospheric and allowed us to really feel what travelling by trams felt like. What was just amazing though, was that the trams are driven and conducted by volunteers. Everyone we met had an obvious passion for trams and them made our rides such an immersive experience. They were happy, enthusiastic and so informative. What a credit to Karen and the museum as a whole.
Leyland Bus Badge
1st tram at Museum
Karen & I
M & I again
M & I
We such an amazing day we had, even stopping at the pub for a cup of tea and Rita’s Tea Rooms for some lunch. We had a perfect day and I if you are looking for a slightly unusual, but interesting day out – then I would definitely give this a go.
I found it such a gentle experience, which was honestly SOO relaxing, I can’t believe we waited so long to go.
Ok so continuing this weeks Nervous traveller series, I am going to share with you how I have learned to deal with being a nervous car traveller.
I think the first thing and the most important thing is that if you have to be a passenger in someone else’s car, then where possible honesty is the best policy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to be vulnerable in front of people, especially if it’s just getting a lift to someone from work, but I think it’s important to remember a few things.
I grew up in a family where just my dad could drive, which ultimately meant he was in charge in the car. He wasn’t a fan of stopping mid-journey unless either we were on a super-long trip or, of course, if he needed a comfort break. But here’s the thing, people joke before journeys “has everyone been to the loo” with the implication that cars can’t stop between A and B. But of COURSE they can stop and if you need to stop for any reason, just tell your driver. If you have to insist, do so. I think that knowing that this is OK and make the decision to do this, if you need to, can really help anxiety. If you are friends or even friendly with your driver, then it might be worth warning them beforehand, even if you do this by text, then at least everyone knows.
All of the above applies if you ever have to give someone you don’t know a lift and this also makes you nervous. Anxiety around this can happen for many reasons, my personal issue is that I worry I might need to stop and go to the loo, so I am not keen on having new passengers. But in this situation, as the driver, I need to remember that I am in control of the car and if I have to make a detour, it’s not that big of a deal. I can also refuse to take a passenger, if I am not up to it and the world will carry on turning.
In term of navigation, I would always recommend the obvious GPS device in your car. I have had one since 2005, starting off with the original TomTom and then graduating to a Nissan Note with in-built GPS. I have also recently used Waze and TomTom for the iPhone as well as the ever reliable Google Maps. My particular favourite at the moment is Waze as I like the map and it connects to Spotify.
I would also pack the requisite drink & snack for long journeys as you just never know when you might get stuck. Now reading this back, lots of these tips are obvious, but hand reminders if I ever feel my natural anxieties start to get the better of me.
Good luck and do let me know of any car travel tips you have found work for you.
p.s. have you found good travel sickness pills that work for you?
I love blogging, but I actually have a full-time job with The Prince’s Trust. As part of this role, I have to travel extensively across the UK and during the last year or so, I’ve gathered some pretty useful tips and tricks for making my travel less stressful. So I thought I would concentrate on 3 specific areas and see if we can soothe away those travel anxieties:
Travelling by Train
My first top tip for a nervous traveller is Book your Seat. If you book your train tickets online, there is usually an option to book your seat. This is GREAT for me as the service gives me the options for seat direction, near the loo, window, aisle and/or with a plug. I know that some people really don’t like travelling backwards on the train, so making sure you are facing the right way can be an instant stress relief. I personally like a window seat near the loo. Having been an IBS sufferer for over 20 years, I need to know, that if I need to go – I can. Also some trains can be quite busy, so having that reserved seat really helps me focus, so that if there is pushing and shoving, you always know your seat awaits.
I also use a couple of Apps on my phone which are INVALUABLE when travelling by train. They allow me to plan journeys and see which trains are best, they show me arrival/departure boards of all and every station as well as showing me where exactly my train is. But most importantly, the APPS I use show me the platform that I need to go to, to! The amount of times, I’ve had about 2 mins to get a connection and the app has shown me the right platform so I have been able to jump off one train and leg it to the right platform just in time! I currently use the National Rail and Trainline Apps. HIGHLY recommend.
National Rail App
My next top tip is around Entertainment on a long trip. I think that once you are comfy in your seat and have finally breathed out, if you have a long trip I think you have to have strategy around how to fill the time. I am, at home, a fairly good sleeper, but for whatever reason, I can’t sleep on trains – maybe my brain is too worried about missing my stop!
So what I do is take my iPad mini with me and set it all up so I am prepared with things to listen to and watch. I’ve just realised that this makes me sound like a child, but honestly the principle (for me) is the same 😜. I have found that this trick to all this, is to have things downloaded BEFOREHAND. Often train companies boast about on-board wifi, but I have found that firstly, they need basically ALL YOUR PERSONAL DATA, before you can get access and once connected the signal is RUBBISH or it doesn’t work at all. I wouldn’t bother.
I use a mix of 3 media apps to pass the time for things to watch, which are the BBC iPlayer, Netflix and iTunes. All 3 of these platforms allow you to download films and TV programmes in advance, so regardless of connectivity you can watch away. Love it.
Now you might have noticed the BEAM app on there, which is exclusively used on Virgin Trains in the UK and it’s the exception to the rule. You WILL have to download the app before you get on a Virgin Train, but once you are on there and have created your account (natch) you will then have access to approximately 20 movies, 10 TV programmes and various games and other mini Virgin related videos. As far as I can tell, the movies are updated once a month and there is usually a good mix of stuff to watch. BONUS – all free!! I can only assume the movies are stored on the train’s computer somewhere, as once you connect to the trains wifi – you can start watching the film with buffering or any connectivity issues. Great service.
My final source of Entertainment is things to listen to and for this I take with me various Audio Books, podcasts and music. My apps of choice for these are Audible, the native Apple Podcasts app and Spotify. All 3 of these apps allow you to download content in advance of your journey.
Podcasts on native Apple Podcasts App
Also, one final thing about listening to and/or watching things on my iPad; I was lucky enough Christmas 2017 to get some Apple Airpods for Christmas. They are wireless headphones and a GAME CHANGER. No wires, small and don’t fall out. Also, if you take one out to speak to the train conductor, they PAUSE WHAT YOU ARE WATCHING!!!!
OK so once you’ve arrived at your destination, you then have to find where you are going, whether it be a meeting point, hotel or business. Now, I get lost VERY easily as I was born with literally no sense of direction – so I thank god every day for Google Maps! So apart from the obvious tips to use google for directions to your destination, my top tip for finding buildings is to use a google image search. I recently had to go to Deloittes in Leeds for a meeting, and whilst I had a fair idea in which direction I was going, I wasn’t totally sure of the exact building. Roll up Google Images:
Then of course you can use Google Street view to give you lots more information about other landmarks on the street to help guide you.
All these things help me regain a little bit of control around getting from A to B in strange places. I get lost easily and so if I have an idea in advance what the building or place looks like that I am trying to find, then I feel better. If I have a long journey, then I know if I have something to listen to, then it will more than likely go quickly and I will actually enjoy the travel. But mostly, booking my seat helps me feel like, even though there is sometimes a scrum to get on a busy train (I am looking at you the Leeds>Manchester Train) then fights on one side, I know I have seat waiting for me. Also, as an IBS sufferer, then a seat near to the loo is a relief I cannot describe. Speaking of which, why not check out my story time blog in which I describe a journey from hell!!!
Ok that it! I would love to hear if you have any special tips for nervous travellers, I am open to anything!
This journey was supposed to involve 2 x trains; Newton-le-Willows to Manchester Piccadilly (25 mins) and Manchester Piccadilly to Newcastle (2.5 hours). It actually took 3 x trains and over 5 hours. Let me explain…
I arrived at my local station to find my train into Manchester was 36 minutes delayed (something about me likes how precise rail network are about these things). “OK” I thought, Airpods in, podcasts on, no big deal. I arrived in Manchester after the delay and managed to get my booked train to Newcastle as I had actually left in plenty of time. Still no drama. It was a very hot day and once I found my seat, I realised my train was hot and as the train pulled out of the station I was searching furiously for a window to open. Cue a train announcement:
🔔🔔 ‘”Hello this is your train manager, the thing is…” (not a good start) “The thing is, is that this is not a direct train to Newcastle as we are going to terminate at York” groan ” because we have no working toilets and 2 out of 3 carriages have got no air conditioning”
Ok great, I thought, I needed a wee before we left, thought I could go on the train, but I guess that’s not happening now. OK, coping strategy……I have downloaded Hidden Figures onto my iPad, I will just watch that and it will distract me from now my INSTANT need to go to the loo. I will be Fiiiiiiinnnneeee 😫. Nope. At the next stop, someone I vaguely know from work gets on, (who is lovely I might add) and I now have to politely chat to him all the way to York. All the time my brain is having a battle with my bladder. Going well so far…
We arrive in York after a 2 hour SLOOWWW train journey, everyone is hot and bothered and busting for the loo. Another train arrived fairly quickly and we pile on. It’s standing room only, but by some minor miracle, I get a seat at a table with a family of 2 small kids and a mum. As I sit down, the mum points at the little boy, who I notice is in the fetal position in the seat beside me, “Just so you know, he’s just been sick on the platform, so you might have to move if it happens again” – then to the little boy “actually, if you do feel sick, just be sick on mummy’s cardigan” – which he is cradling. OMFG – I am SOO phobic about vomit and so I am now having the quietist of panic attacks on a very packed train. HR 180 bpm.
We finally arrive in Newcastle and after over 5 hours travelling, I haul my suitcase and tired/sweaty self from the station up to my hotel. But as as I try to check in, the hotel initially have no record of my booking 😡. I don’t know how I held it together, but after some perseverance and a slightly gritted teeth style conversation, they found my booking – only to discover, they didn’t have payment from my employer. OMG. I handed my credit card over in silence and when I eventually arrived in my room I think this is fair representation of how I looked and felt:
Nope this is not click bait. Yes, I HAVE been invited to a party at Buckingham Palace, in fact I have been invited to a Garden Party to celebrate HRH The Prince of Wales 70th Birthday. The party I am going to is on the 22nd May 2018 and is just 3 days after the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Yes, I KNOW.
I know what you are thinking, “How does one get invited to a Royal birthday party?”. Well as you might know by now, I work for The Prince’s Trust, which is a charity that was started by HRH in 1976. He is the president and often pops up at important functions and things. All the staff were told earlier this year that HRH was having a celebratory garden party as part of his birthday celebrations (his actual birthday is in November) and that the Trust had been allocated 200 invitations. Staff had nominate people, including any one of the 1,000 people that work for the trust, also including any of the hundreds of delivery partner staff and 1,000s of volunteers. Basically, I had no chance.
But, as it turns out, someone DID nominate me and a few of my colleagues and we all got an email about a month ago to invite us along. I. AM. THRILLED.
I have to be honest though, this isn’t my first Royal Garden Party, as I went to one in 2016 which celebrated The Prince’s Trust’s 40th Anniversary. It was an amazing day as I was surrounded by celebrities and my head was constantly on a swivel. Glorious.
What is going to be cool is that I am going down the day before and staying at the Hub at Covent Garden which is a Premier Inn and not very far from both London Euston Station and Buckingham Palace. It’s not exorbitantly expensive for London at £140 and it was a little pressie to myself after my PPI payout. 🙂
I am also really pleased as a little gang of us are going from the Team I was working with at the beginning of the year. They all work for The Trust and live and work all around the UK. They are the loveliest bunch of smashers you could ever meet and I am SO looking forward to seeing them all again. I feel so honoured to have been invited – twice in 2 years, what a lucky girl I am!
So I need an outfit (obviously) and a hat or fascinator. I think I can see a little shopping trip in my near future!!! Happy days.
So on Saturday we travelled to a little town just outside Wrexham in North Wales to celebrate the 80th birthday of on of our lovely family friends. She’s had a tough couple of years with one thing and another and so to turn up to find her enjoying a lovely party with an Afternoon Tea theme was a joy.
What was most unexpected was the surprise performance that her daughters had booked for her and I have to say I was blown away! They were called A Handbag of Harmonies:
They were led by the wonderful Matt Baker and after their heart exploding rendition of Shine by Take That (Swipe left on the above Insta to hear)… I was just blown away. They were incredible and if you are looking for something different for your next event, and you just want to smile for 20 minutes… then look no further. Loved every single minute!