The Great Pivot, UK 2009

Top Travel Tip:
Find a compatible friend or family member to adventure with!

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I just wanted to take a moment to share with you one of my all-time favorite things to do – travel with good friends. Finding compatible travel companions can make or break a trip. One of my favorite people to travel with is the avid travel photographer and my co-author Alisha Westerfeld.  We’ve had many adventures visiting cities, museums, gardens,  around the world. an, but we had one particularly challenging trip in December of 2009.

We were invited to attend the wedding of a good friend in York Minster, the largest and most spectacular Gothic Cathedral in the UK.  During that trip, we were plagued by a variety of problems from injury and illness, to a bought of viciously cold weather, a massive trip-stopping storm, and having lodgings for a leg of the trip fall-through.  We found ourselves shivering and scrambling together, limping and sneezing as our trip transformed.  Our mantra for that particular trip:

Bad travel experience create great travel stories!

During this trip, we found a rhythm and flow, a pace that suited us both equally, and common interests that allowed us to adapt when needed.  Not to say that we didn’t gripe! but when we did, we were griping together.

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After a pleasantly cool, but wet, start in Cambridge, we traveled north by car to York.  It was there that we were hit by the “Storm of the Century.”  The day of the wedding brought freezing sleet followed by a smothering blanket of snow. Fortunately, weather couldn’t dampen the spirits of the attendees.  The wedding was beautiful despite the snow, and because all travel was at a standstill, we were able to extend our trip by a day and really explore this amazing city.

Travel Tip: Enjoy the experience, roll with the punches, and take lots of photos, even if you’re feeling cranky. 

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The massive storm lead to travel chaos all over the UK. Roads were blocked, trains were delayed, and flights were grounded. So when it came time to leave, instead of traveling north to Scotland to visit friends, the northern loop of our trip was cut. Our friends canceled due to illness, and that day, the northbound trains were canceled due to weather.  It was a double-whammy cancellation!

So, Alisha and I pivoted. We replanned the next four days of our trip and left York for London. While it would have been great to see Edinburgh, we were happy to spend a few stormy days visiting department stores and exploring the British Museum.

Travel Tip: Have some backup itineraries in your mind for those pivot moments.   It can simply be a vague concept like “Go to a museum,”  or a detailed plan, “Walk down Regent Street, London” 

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Above: Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon in Greece.
Below: Terracotta Figurine of a dancing girl

The unexpected trip change allowed us to really take our time, look, discover, and enjoy the museum in ways I’ve couldn’t during past visits.  Time is the ultimate luxury.  The British Museum is vast, and their collection of ancient art and objects is rare and wonderful and this was a unique opportunity to slow down and explore.

I was on the hunt for ancient finger cymbals, Tanagra figurines of dancers, and other ancient references to dance.  I was so happy to find the figurine below, that I took a lot of photos trying to eliminate the glare of the glass case.  Because I was traveling with a friend who enjoys museums as much as I do, I didn’t feel any pressure to rush and move on.  My hunt paid off!

For more information on the British Museum, visit their website

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Exploring London in December turned out to be wonderful fun!   The holiday decorations and strings of fairy lights, make it glow at night.  Thanks to the short or non-existent lines to visit major monuments you can see more sites in a shorter amount of time.  Perhaps the best part are the holiday sales at every store!

So with infectious seasonal cheer and lots of hot chocolate to fortify us against the bitter weather, we had a fantastic time exploring the city.  In addition to the British Museum, we took the time to walk down Regent’s Street and visit some major department stores such as Liberty, Fortnum and Masons, and Harrods.  The holiday windows at Harrods were simply breathtaking!

Travel Tip: Portion control your travel budget so you have funds at the end in case your travel plans change unexpectedly. 

And, the best part of traveling with a friend?  We have two sets of travel photos to enjoy.  Below:  Liberty of London on a cloudy day before Christmas, 2009 by Alisha Westerfeld.  While this might not be the most compelling image, I love it for capturing the moment!  My photo taken from a similar angle was dark and blurry.  So though I didn’t take this photo, it does document our trip and triggers all the memories of the sights, sounds, and scents of Christmas in London.

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