It was June of 1978. I had just graduated University. Like so many of my friends and new graduates , I was uncertain of my future and what pursuits I might follow. My best friend and I had casually fooled around with the idea of taking several weeks immediately after graduation to travel The United Kingdom by foot with only knapsacks.
Needless to say, because neither of us had landed our dream jobs we decided that was what we needed to do. To the surprise of our parents, and not with their blessing, we immediately put the wheels in progress to go through with this impromptu adventure.We made our flight arrangements to land in Heathrow Airport in London ,England. Purchased a BRITISH RAIL pass that would allow us unlimited train travel within the United Kingdom. Since neither of us were old enough to rent a car ,the train system would serve as main mode of transportation plus learning to navigate the London subway system.
Our exact destination(s) were unknown! We had no idea what lodging would be available to us to each night. But oddly enough, at age twenty, we didn’t seem to be concerned. There was much talk about how wonderful the youth hostels were throughout Europe at the time. It was quite common in the late seventies for students to travel abroad and frequent these hostels. Now in my late fifties and thinking back on the whole ordeal, I think I must have had a brief period of insanity!
Nonetheless, we boarded the plane, knapsacks on our backs, no cell phones then, and with limited money for the six week adventure. As memory serves, the flight to London, England from Halifax, Nova Scotia was a pleasant one. I remember however, as we crossed over the Atlantic Ocean and our homeland became a dot in our past, the reality of what we had just done, hit me hard and my anxiety level went sky high !Fitting, since we were high in the sky at that moment!By the time we landed I was covered in hives! Amazing what your nerves can do!
We took the a cab from the airport to the downtown area of London and found our first hostel and LAST hostel.Let’s just say, we didn’t feel the comfort and cleanliness of home there. I remember as we crawled into our handmade sleep sheets that we had brought with us, we both looked at each other and thought, “What were we thinking?”
But as always, with a new day comes new hope. We were up early and on the streets. Our number one mission , was to find more agreeable lodging. Thankfully, we came across some folks who told us about Mrs. Rees on Argyle Street and her warm and welcoming Bed and Breakfast.We knew that we would not last six weeks in hostels and feared we might have to go home early. And you know, we did not want to hear our parents say “We told you so!” We persevered ,mastered the London subway system and triumphantly found dear Mrs. Rees.
She was everything the folks had told us and her establishment became our temporary home. Mrs. Rees was very accommodating and explained the subway system. She told us all about the Theater District and how to get to all the tourist attractions we had on our list.More importantly, she warned us of areas that we might want to stay away from. She became our concerned , watchful parent, which ironically we welcomed.
We spent seven wonderful days with her and got to meet many other young travelers like ourselves. We shared stories and became friends. Armed with a wealth of information from Mrs. Rees we proceeded to make good use of out British Rail train pass that we had purchased and we bravely and confidently hopped from one country and city to the next. Going from England to Whales to Scotland. Living the experience the way we had envisioned it would be.
All Thanks to Mrs. Rees because she had taught us the art of locating prime Bed and Breakfast establishments along our path. Each one proved to be a warm and wonderful experience.Many of them were owned and operated by retirees who enjoyed the company of travelers and learning about their travels and the towns and countries of their origin.
The most prominent memory of my European Bed and Breakfast experience is the sense of security my friend and I felt and the warm and welcoming environment that surrounded us after each long day of backpacking and exploring.We enjoyed the story telling each night with our new friends and we eagerly awaited the yummy breakfast delights that were waiting for us when we arose each morning.With each new train stop destination we looked forward to what we began calling, “Our Home away from home.”
Now as my husband and I greet the many guests that have found their way to Spongie Acres Bed and Breakfast I can’t help but wonder, if in someway, all those greats bed and breakfasts experiences of my younger days somehow subliminally pushed me in the direction of actually owning our own B &B. After our guests have said their farewells and we sit and read the comment cards we see a common denominator, “Our home away from home”. And I smile as I think back on what my friend Kathy and I felt each time we referred to our evening’s accommodations as “Our home away from home” .
I am in awe as I realize how the things we do in the past have a way of shaping our future. “Little did I know…”