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Walk a little further to another plan

a travel blog by Brigid Jelsma


"Got to the door and again, I couldn't stop.
You don't know where and you don't know when.
But you still got your words and you got your friends.
Walk along to another day."
- Modest Mouse, The World at Large
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Hertford, United Kingdom

My nose is a rosy icicle, my feet are blistered and blue, and I’m shivering like crazy. But despite all this, I am honestly happy. After four days of being stranded in an airport, I finally made it to London.

The flight at nine did (to everyone’s euphoric surprise) actually take off. Not only that, but it was on time as well. Charlie, Benito and I got up ridiculously early, caught the shuttle back to the airport, and reserved spots at the very front of the check-in queue.

Four hours later, I stumbled to the side, gazing at the ticket with astonished eyes. Then the laughing began. Charlie told me later that I looked as though I had won the lotto, found a golden ticket, or had simply gone crazy. Apparently he was leaning towards the latter....

Nothing else seemed to matter after that. All I wanted was to see that fasten your seatbelt sign go on. That being said, it was still pretty awesome when Benito managed to get me into the SAA lounge with him and Charlie, and we could spend the last few hours in South Africa enjoying free food, wireless internet and amazing bathrooms.

I have absolutely no idea how I managed to get so lucky: Dave, Will, Jamie, Benito, Steve and, most of all, Charlie. They all looked after me so much, I felt like a free-loader. Buying me dinner, drinks, breakfast, getting me into lounges, making sure I found my luggage, stopping me from panicking, and just generally taking care of me, they are the real reason I managed to get through it all without pulling all my hair out.

The flight, as they usually are, was long, dull and dry. There were numerous free seats scattered around: something which worked in our favour as both me and Charlie had four seats, allowing us to get some long-forgone sleep. But the frustrating part was that many people had no idea a plane was taking off that morning and were left behind in Jo’burg – poor planning on the airline’s behalf.

When we finally arrived, Charlie had to dash off to try and hire a car. He still had to make the drive all the way up to his place in Wales, and he had tried to book the previous night but all the cars had been taken. All he could do was hope that there was a cancellation.

I warily made my way to the baggage terminal, dully pondering how long it would take me to find my precious luggage. Ten minutes later, I was blinking dumbly about, sure that my eyes were playing games with me. Surely that wasn’t my dad?

It was.

Then the next bit was my worrying about Charlie. If he didn’t manage to get a car, he’d probably have to spend the night at a train station or hire a taxi (ridiculously expensive).

I was still a bit in shock, but wasn’t too out of it to not notice the fact that my parents managed to get us lost on the way to my brother’s house. It felt so good not being the one getting people lost....

And finally we arrived.

The place, wonderful as it is, was not fully appreciated by me in my half-dazed state, but the view of the canal from the window was enough to get a delighted murmur.

Still worrying, I called Charlie, checking up on him and thanking him for allowing me to stalk him. He sounded exhausted, but happy, and had managed to get a car, was on his way, wished me a merry Christmas, tried to convince me he didn’t mind my trailing him around for four days, and made me promise to look after myself next year when I’m travelling.

By then it was getting later and I was more than ready to collapse. But still I was not allowed to rest! My delightful family dragged me out to a pub for dinner and I nearly face-planted in a bowl of sag (spinach, apparently).

I don’t remember much beyond that.....

permalink written by  Brigid Jelsma on December 22, 2010 from Hertford, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: Walk a little further to another plan
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Pretty in white

Ambleside, United Kingdom

Waking up early (or, rather, being WOKEN up early when my dear mother began banging around in the kitchen at six in the morning) ensured that my sleep-deprivation was not alleviated and signalled the start of an amazing day.

Later on, my dad and I wandered around the awesome little town, buying me warm winter-wear and replenishing my brother’s toilet paper supply. The town is really cool: small, but big enough, filled with charming streets and tastefully made up to resemble a Christmas greeting card.

It wasn’t long before we had to set off for the Lake District, and my mom, my dad and I all piled into the car. And, being on this side of the long-distance flight, I found it easy to appreciate the masses of snow. Everything looked stunning!!

You know those places you find on the internet – there’s one amazing, picturesque photograph of the scenery, and when you arrive there you realise that’s actually the only view in the area that is worthwhile? Well, that is exactly what the Lake District isn’t.

Around every corner lies a new postcard-worthy sight. My biggest dilemma was trying to extract the best photos from my magnitude.

A single night is this area was simply not enough.

permalink written by  Brigid Jelsma on December 23, 2010 from Ambleside, United Kingdom
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Land of fairytales and frostbite

Edinburgh, United Kingdom

permalink written by  Brigid Jelsma on December 25, 2010 from Edinburgh, United Kingdom
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York, United Kingdom

Another day of stunning routes....

It’s terrible how spoilt I’ve become. Oh, there’s another picturesque snow-capped hill in the distance. Hmmm, another rushing river disappearing between the boughs of trees silhouetted in white. Oh, not ANOTHER gorgeous castle overlooking a magnificent city.

Humour aside, the beauty never does end. Around every corner lies another aspect of this amazing country. And don’t even get me started on the Scottish accent! I think if a Scotsman proposed to me right this second I’d probably say yes (presuming he’s not wearing a kilt!!) – to get to live here would be amazing.

At the moment I am in York (I know, I know, it’s not quite in Scotland, but we only crossed the border late this afternoon, so I can still rave on about the Scots). It’s an amazing little town – fortified city walls and a massive church in the centre. Somewhat surprising, however, is the lack of night-life. At seven thirty we went off in search for a nice, cosy place to have dinner, only to find the vast selection was limited to a single pub/restaurant which was right next door to our hotel (where we started our chilly walk from).

Oh, and that reminds me: the temperature is freezing. Toes, ears and nose suffer the worst, fingers as well if (like an idiot) you forget your gloves (as I tend to do).

We left my brother in Edinburgh (he’s lame and has a job), but not before he managed to ‘discover’ that I narrate my life with little sounds (all lies, I tell you). If that is true (which it ISN’T), then it’s only because I realised early on in life that there’s no musical soundtrack to accompany me through events, so I have to make my own.

Moving swiftly on from that outrageous claim, I just realised it was Christmas yesterday and I never even made a post about it. Personally, I am not religious, but my family is, so I just go along with it. Besides, Christmas is more about being with your loved ones, and I can understand the importance of that.

The only thing missing from my Christmas was my brother and my kitten, both of which remained behind Cape Town. And then my friends, of course.

Anyway, tomorrow we’re heading back towards London, so it’ll be another boring day of amazing scenery. :)

permalink written by  Brigid Jelsma on December 26, 2010 from York, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: Walk a little further to another plan
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Being old

Hertford, United Kingdom

Well, I've been quite terrible with these updates, haven't I? But don't think it's because I haven't been doing anything interesting. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Since my last post, I've moved into my brother's flat, handed out at least 50 CVs, gone for a massive day hike (which ended with mud-caked feet and a guy offering to carry me to the nearest town), been to Notting Hill, Epping Forest, Camden Town, the National History Museum, a creepy deserted church in the middle of nowhere, and have volunteered at Oxfam Bookstore.

So, no, I haven't been lazy and I haven't died (in case you were wondering). However, I am still unemployed... which sucks. There are various places which seem interested, but nothing definite. But anyway, I've been busy buying out the Oxfam store, so it hasn't been too dull.

Hertford is smallish, but nice. There are little tiny shops which sell trinkets and there are huge supermarkets with rows of everything bad for you. The flat I'm staying in is right on a canal which runs all the way to London (if you're energetic enough to follow it that far), and I can feed the ducks from my bedroom window.

But I've discovered just how difficult it is to keep a household running - everything from washing dishes to buying groceries and doing laundry takes up so much time!

I've also begun planning my trip properly and I've actually found a few definite places to stay in Europe when I start travelling in April (with a guy in the tiny village Sens, with an ex-South African in Lagos, with a gay guy who lives next to a forest in Bordeaux and more). And (because I'm getting a bit restless after two weeks in the same spot), I'm also planning a small trip up to Wales sometime in February as a trial run for the CouchSurfing business.

However, something less awesome happened to me the other day on my day hike. I went alone, which was a mistake. About 7 hours of alone-time with me and my thoughts. Everything began to sink in.

I'm not going home for a while. A long while.

I miss my friends, my kitten, my other brother and my parents (yes, you too).

permalink written by  Brigid Jelsma on January 17, 2011 from Hertford, United Kingdom
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Always look on the bright side of life (or is that too lame?)

Hertford, United Kingdom

After the slightly miserable end to my last post, things have gotten much, much better. To quote Eric Idle, "When life seems jolly rotten, there's something you've forgotten, and that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing."

Now minus the dancing and singing bit, I haven't had enough drinks for that.

But, yes, after that ridiculous start to this post, I will proceed to tell you just why things are looking up. (Don't you hate inane statements like that one?)

Firstly, the sun has been shining! For me this has never been a thing to gape in awe at, but the UK has stripped me of the ability to be nonchalant about such wonders. Secondly, I have a job. An actual, paying, slaving away for scraps and having to smile sweetly at annoying customers when really all you want to do is throw soup in their face and start a food fight, job.

Yeah... so maybe waitressing isn't really the best job for me... but anyway, I'll see how it goes. Tomorrow is my first day - a bit of a trial run to see how I work - so I will be on my best behaviour and I will refrain from throwing food around.

It'll be tough....

Oooh, and another awesome thing that's happened in my awesome life: I've actually met some people. Amazing, huh? Real people.

Two handsome young guys... Paul and Neil were their names. Too bad they turned out to be complete psychos.

They were terrible! I hated every second of it. I just laughed to pretend I was having a good time while actually I was trying to think up excuses to escape. :D

Honestly though, it was really cool. We met up at the Old Barge, a local pub just around the corner from where I'm staying, and we had a few drinks. Paul is an experienced CouchSurfer, so he gave me some tips and, in exchange, I made him envious of my planned travels. It was quite a fair trade, in my opinion. And, seriously, those two guys better meet up with me again, if only to mock me about my hat.

So, a very successful day indeed. I just hope this 'bright side of life' will linger on at least until the end of my shift tomorrow night. As a newbie waitress I need all the luck I can get!

permalink written by  Brigid Jelsma on January 19, 2011 from Hertford, United Kingdom
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The dullest update yet!

Hertford, United Kingdom

'Thank you for calling Domino's Pizza, my name's Brigid, how can I help you?' Wow, the number of times I've said that line!

What happened to the upperclass Lussmanns job? Well... let's just say the accumulation of stress, training period (without pay, I'll have you know) and posh customers kind of put me off it. [I think my exact words to Joe were: 'just want to curl up into a ball and hide away from the world for a while'. Okay, so maybe I am a bit of a wuss.

But still, the two weeks training without pay is enough of a legitimate reason to get away with it.

So, yes. Domino's Pizza Hertford has a new pizza girl. And a few incorrect orders here and there... well, mistakes happen. There are some pretty cool people there as well.

However, tonight I was unfortunate enough to be working at the desk (with a blasted nametag) when a bunch of drunken guys came in to order pizza.... It ended up with them calling my name every five seconds and, when they finally left, one of the idiots WINKED and said, "You have my number, don't you, darling?" *SIGH* But Matt assures me that drunks only really come in over weekends. Great. I only work weekends....

Apart from that, not much has happened. My social life is still pretty much non-existant, but I do have plans to meet a few Couch Surfers this week: one guy who's staying in London and another girl who is living near Hertford.

Ooooh, and last night (I just realised the reason for my exhaustion) was Malcolm's belated surprise birthday party. That was quite awesome. His boyfriend, Blue, organised it all, and it was even more awesome because a lot of my favourite people were there.

At the moment I have the place to myself. Joe and Andy are off on a romantic weekend away (or something sappy like that), and will only be back on Monday, so, yup, the house is currently a perfect imitation of my room and I'm sleeping on the couch tonight.

And, another boring, yet necessary update: I'm going to Amsterdam on the 4th of February to meet up with my mom (I'm barely away from home for a month and already she's making up conferences in random European countries), flying from Amsterdam to Manchester on the 7th, catching a train to Llanfairpwll (try pronouncing that!) in Wales and Couch Surfing with a guy there for two nights, then moving on to stay with a woman in Bangor for one night, and then heading back to Hertford on the 10th.

Wow, okay, now if anyone is still awake after this ridiculously dull update, I just wanted to say that despite how wonderful everyone here is, Cape Town is still often on my mind. I can't help but think how amazing it would be to have my best friends here and to be able to explore London and the rest of the UK with them.

Finally, I'll end this off with something slightly more entertaining:

permalink written by  Brigid Jelsma on January 22, 2011 from Hertford, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: Walk a little further to another plan
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Once upon a time in my life

Hertford, United Kingdom

What are these Brits doing to me?

'Let's go to the pub!' 'Do you want a drink?' 'Ooh, try this one.'

I've even had beer. BEER. (Although it wasn't quite as awful as I expected.) But anyway, things have been really fun.

Couch Surfing is now my religion. I am half-tempted to build a shrine and start worshiping the creator. Honestly, I've gone out pretty much every single day this week thanks to Couch Surfing.

This is what I've done (i.e. stop reading because these are just updates so my future self can remember what I did with my youth).

On Monday I met up with Zohaib, a really sweet guy who's staying in London, and we went to Tate Modern. It was so fun trying to figure out the artworks and getting to know each other, and afterwards we went for coffee. We found out that we're both in similar situations, being new in the UK and being away from friends and family. I'm hoping to see him next week.

Tuesday, I met up with Beth, a Couch Surfer who lives near Hertford. She was wonderful, and it was great to meet someone who has actually been to South Africa. I loved chatting to her while having coffee and apple tart. Next week we're going to watch the King's Speech, and I'm really looking forward to it.

Then Tuesday evening I headed over to Broxbourne to meet up with Paul and a bunch of his friends for a few drinks. They were all pretty awesome (in crazy ways), and I loved meeting them. But I must remember to take my ID everywhere to prevent future annoying bartenders from taking away my drink. Joe actually joined us for a short while towards the end (big brother checking out the strange men I'm hanging out with, luckily he hasn't killed any of them - yet).

Wednesday, I met up with Rob for drinks at the Barge, and ended up chatting for over six hours (taking a short interval to grab some supper) about the most random topics. Most of the time was spent with him making fun of me, while I called him a Brit and made him speak in a Scottish accent. It was really fun and we have so much in common, it has to be the Leo thing (his birthday is two days after mine). But he is so distracting to my train of thought, it's terrible!

Thursday (yesterday), I spent the afternoon at Paul's place watching Flight of the Concords on his awesome projector screen. He has quite a few movies/series and all of the ones I recognised are ones I love, so he's got pretty good taste! Then we met up with Andy who lifted me back in time for my shift at Domino's, and then (as if I hadn't seen enough of them) after my shift they picked me up and we went to Andy's place to watch movies on his massive 3D TV. I've already asked and I'll be moving in there soon. Me, the couch, the stack of DVDs, what more do I need? Anyway, I eventually got a call from Joe at 3 in the morning: 'Where are you? Are you okay? Can you get me ear buds?' Yes, my brother really did ask me to ask a guy I'd just met for ear buds at 3 in the morning.

And today, I've done absolutely nothing. I went through the whole trying to open a bank account thing again, but the proof of address I had wasn't proof enough. But one good thing did happen, the national insurance people (people who basically steal your money as 'tax') called, and I have a meeting with them on Monday, so hopefully I'll get everything sorted and I'll actually be able to get paid!

permalink written by  Brigid Jelsma on January 28, 2011 from Hertford, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: Walk a little further to another plan
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Why I should not be allowed access to my laptop after bedtime

Hertford, United Kingdom

Please ignore this post. It is simply a dull ramble about the petty concerns that keep me up at night.

How on earth does anyone know what they want to do for the rest of their life? Honestly, I don't even have a clue what I want to do next week. I don't even know what I want to do tomorrow either!

Many of my friends are starting their university courses now. I admire them so much for it. Making decisions has never been one of my strong points (just ask Paul, I nearly missed a train because I was standing in Tesco trying to decide what to get us), and making a decision that would lay out the path for the rest of my life is just ridiculous.

I'm young; I don't know enough about the world; I don't know enough, period. These are things I am not afraid to admit, because they are true. I love animals; I love people; I love time on my own occasionally; I love writing; I love helping; I love being challenged; I love debating; I love learning more about random things; I love being lazy and watching movies; I love seeing the world and travelling. All of these things define me. And, yet, none of them do.

I love so many things and there are so many things I haven't experienced yet.

Medicine? Psychology? English? Which major will I choose? Which minors? Do I want to choose a set course and come out of it with a defined career, or do I want to mix and match everything I'm interested in and end up with a jumble of random qualifications?

Do I go for money and the security that a stable life would bring? Do I go for the fun, exciting, interesting route? Is it possible to have both?

Do I actually want to go into these courses or am I just doing it out of the loyalty I have to my parents and the life they want me to lead?

Are these courses the ones I really want to do or are they just the few that seem to best suit what I'm supposed to be looking for?

I honestly do not know. Does anyone know or do they just end up getting caught in the whiptide until one day they wake up to find that they're stuck in a long-houred job doing something they have no interest in, but can't quit because there's rent that needs to be paid and the milk's run out again?

i don't want to grow up. I know that I'm too innocent and naive for my own damn good, but I'd rather be like this than be a cynical, pessimistic person who hates her life but does nothing to change it.

Maybe I'm talking rubbish. I probably am, it's half past midnight.

Anyway, after that random train of thought, back to choosing courses when you're eighteen. I admire my friends so much for being brave enough to choose what they want to do. I'm too scared of making a mistake. I'm just hoping that during this year I'll be exposed to enough of what is out there to actually make a decision.

permalink written by  Brigid Jelsma on January 29, 2011 from Hertford, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: Walk a little further to another plan
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Hertford, United Kingdom

And as explorers we set forth into the Wilderness: Joe, armed with his rectangular gadget of magic and wonder, and me, clad in my husky hat and with pockets filled with essential necessities for a night in the wild (cellphone, wallet, camera and torch).

Sacrificing a night of leisure and films, we were determined. Failure was not an option.

It was a bitterly cold and cruel night, the wind howled and the trees towered menacingly overhead, but fearlessly we toiled on!

And, on the wondrous gadget, our red dot slowly crept closer to the blue dot - the treasure trove! Victory awaited, we could feel it as surely as we could the icy cold. And as we rounded the final corner, excitement raced through us. Our blood pumped and adrenaline raced, and we knew, yes, we knew that this was what we were born to do. This, this seemingly insignificant event, it would determine the fate of mankind.

'1 metre', the gadget said. We took that final step and came to a standstill.

Three trees. One ditch. One torch. One prize.

The treasure was so close, so very close. Just beyond our grasp. Just out of eyesight. Just a few too many bugs.

Our hearts sank.

How could this be? To come all this way and return as failures? Never!

I held the torch. Joe dug. I took photos. Joe rooted around the foliage. I made up excuses to deter passers by ('What time did she say she'd meet us?'). Joe scrounged through the patches of litter. I gave helpful advice. Joe uprooted twigs. I pointed at likely spots. Joe checked the likely spots.

Our team effort was golden!

Finally!! A grin spread across Joe's lips. His hand raised triumphantly. At last, the treasure was ours!

Proudly we added our names to the list of brave explorers. Proudly we returned the cache to its hiding spot. Proudly we hoisted our pants up and headed for the road. Proudly we bumped fists.

And so concluded our Geo-caching adventure (proudly).


permalink written by  Brigid Jelsma on February 1, 2011 from Hertford, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: Walk a little further to another plan
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