Unless you watched my video, where I showed you what I’d packed, you might have been unaware that I spent a couple of days in Bristol.
My parents had been telling me how nice Bristol is since they visited in their caravan (see where I get my love of road trips from?) and they did a lot of cycling in the area so I decided to book myself a night away from London and see what all the fuss was about.
Minus the bike. I don’t have a bike.
What I do have, however, is a knack for booking ridiculously early trains without taking into account the fact that I don’t, in fact, live next to the train station. And that’s why I was at Paddington station at 7:30am on a Sunday, downing a coffee with an extra shot of coffee, waiting for my train to Bristol.
The early morning wake-up call wasn’t great, especially on a Sunday. Who arrives ANYWHERE at 7:30am on a Sunday?? But what it did mean was that, because I could only really afford one night in a hotel instead of two, I had two pretty-much full days in Bristol.
High five, self!
I love using Instagram. It’s fast becoming my favourite social network. Not because it sends a huge amount of traffic to my blog because it doesn’t, it can’t really, but because the travel-lovers I follow fill my feed with the kind of photos that make me want to explore every corner of the globe, the bookworms I follow give me a never-ending list of books I want to read , and the fashion-forward ladies I follow encourage me to think about maybe wearing something a bit fancier than jeans and a t-shirt once in a while.
Insta feed = instant inspiration.
So normally I’d relish the chance to Instagram my way around a new city. I did it in York, and Leeds, and more recently, Porto. I’ve Instagrammed my way around Basilicata, Amsterdam, Auckland, Seattle, and even when I’m home in London, I’m constantly finding new street art or pretty streets or quirky coffee shops to photograph.
But as soon as I got to my hotel in Bristol, put my bag down, and sunk into the comfy armchair I realised how relieved I felt to just be…away.
I hadn’t gotten my hotel comped, like I sometimes do, so I had no obligations to promote where I was staying. Sometimes, as a travel blogger, a city break can feel less like a break and more like a stamina-test. You’re taking photos constantly, you’re writing notes, you’re walking miles, racing between one attraction and the next, uploading photos to your social channels, AND attempting to be present. To actually see this new place with your eyes, rather than through a screen.
It can be too much.
Sometimes, even on a city break where there’s often so much to see, so much cool stuff you WANT to share with your followers, keeping it to yourself, resisting the urge to document your every thought on social media, is good for the soul.
And it’s exactly what I needed.
I needed to wander without purpose, take photos without automatically thinking up an Instagram caption, eat in a restaurant without ‘checking in’. Visiting a new city is supposed to be fun, relaxing even, but so often I spend my city breaks wearing myself out trying to cover every aspect of the place I’m visiting, replying to comments, checking to see how many people have liked my photos. Trying to be a ‘good blogger’.
Not this time.
And I’ll let you into a little secret: it was brilliant.
I walked miles around Bristol with my camera in my hand, not my iPhone.
I went out for an early dinner and came back to my hotel, made myself a cup of tea and watched an entire film.
I had a bath, something I’d never normally do because I’d feel guilty about taking that time out for myself when I could’ve been out taking photographs and finding cool things to write about.
I had breakfast next to the harbour with the sun sparkling on the water and didn’t share it with anyone, despite it bringing a smile to my face.
I visited the pretty suburb of Clifton and walked across its huge suspension bridge. I sat in a cafe with my Kindle, not my iPhone, for company.
And it turns out that when you take a step back, when your mind is free to wander without constantly having to come up with Instagram one liners, the ideas just come to you.
Just for the sake of clarity; I’m not one of those people with their head constantly bowed towards their phone. You won’t find me out for dinner with my friends attempting to hold a conversation with them in person and someone else online. I’m not so attached to social media that I can’t take a break from it sometimes.
But as a blogger, and a travel blogger especially, it can feel like you’re not doing your ‘job’ properly if you’re not sharing amazing pictures of the places you’re travelling. And that’s why most of the time, when I travel, you’ll find me using Instagram a lot. It’s fun to inspire other people to travel and as a solo traveller it’s rewarding to be able to tag my Instagram photos with a few hashtags in the hope that some girl, somewhere, sees those photos and the photos that all the other awesome solo travellers upload, and finds the courage to travel on her own.
But on this trip I needed to just…be. To take advantage of having a hotel room that felt like the size of the three-bedroom apartment I share in London. To take a bath when I NEVER take a bath at my flat for fear of hogging the bathroom when someone else needs it.
I needed to just walk and think of nothing but walking. To eat and think of nothing but eating. To breath and to accept that I don’t always have to be sharing my life. Sometimes it can just be for me.