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Eight Years

When I was 16, I ran away from home, and a short while later, dropped out of high school and went to England to horseback ride. Specifically, I ended up in Epsom and spent my time there riding all over the countryside around Epsom, grooming and working, getting shitfaced with my older co-workers and taking the train into London on my days off to bum around Camden with Israeli punks, blue mohawked holdovers from the ’70’s and women who resembled Vivienne Westwood on a good day. I remember sitting on the pavement outside Plastik Fantastik with the Doc Martens punks eating bacon sammies from the sandwich stall adjacent, but I also remember speeding up Chalk Lane sitting in the open trunk of an Audi with some racing lads, feet hanging perilously close to the pavement. It was a strange mixture of punk, partying and catering to a wealthy upper class of horse owner. I left at the end of 2008, with few options available to renew my visa and stay on longer as a young person with little money. I had a driving urge to go back to school, but I ended up back on a horse farm in Ontario, continuing to ride and groom.

Riding and horses are intrinsically a huge part of my self identity. I can and will sit on pretty much anything (when I’m riding fit and confident and haven’t had four years off!) You will find me on anything from a 3 year old track broke Thoroughbred in a racing saddle to bareback on a 13 hand pony with an attitude problem. I love riding. I hate the class separation between people like myself, who work in the industry and can barely afford to participate in it, and the people who often comprise the client base of barns- wealthy, or who have everything paid for by mommy and daddy. While, if your skill level is adequate, horses can be obtained for free and looked upon as projects, respectable saddles start in the $1200 range, blankets, farriers, dentists, chiropractors, boots, breeches, bridles, halters and the like quickly add up and eat my meager budget. Owning a horse or running a farm doesn’t allow for freedom to travel, or even take a weekend off, either. But I digress.

I’m packing now, last minute as always, for a return. I sacrificed a lot of travel over the past years because of relationships- a mistake I will never, ever, ever make again. YOUNG PEOPLE OF THE WORLD- travel travel travel, don’t let men or women or anybody else you love stop you. If they don’t come with you, ask them to wait. If they won’t wait, dump them. Go while you can and don’t lose momentum. I’m 25 now and I wish I had kept going from 16 on and not stalled and gotten so miserable and nitpicky and anxious and mean because of sacrificing my love of travel. Depression does funny things, like convincing you that travel us unattainable or not worthwhile. Depression lies and if you stay, regretfully and resentfully, those relationships are going to die anyway.

Cheap travel- I’m flying WOWair which is an Icelandic budget airline. After the whole ‘volcano’ thing a few years ago, Icelandic tourism needed a boost. WOW offers free stopovers in Iceland with a pretty decent selection of European flight destinations, so I’m flying over to London, visiting some old friends in the area, taking the train up to Chester, visiting another friend, then we are taking the train baaaaaaaaack to Euston, and flying out from Gatwick to Reykjavik for a few days layover.

I realize I might not be the most efficient of backpackers when I review my packing and see one pair of socks to five colors of lipstick, approximately twelve pounds of books, miniature sheets of origami paper and one decidedly UNversatile pair of shoes. I have since reevaluated but have chosen, instead, to write a rambling, incoherent blog to procrastinate even more before repacking.

My travel style doesn’t involve an itinerary, it involves a vague wandering about while stumbling upon goings-on in the process. Although this time I have somewhat more concrete plans to visit the Ness Botanical Gardens and the Chester Zoo, as well as a speak-easy where one can allegedly get an ass-kicking Black Forest Cocktail that tastes just like the cake. Allegedly, there’s a secret bar in Liverpool where you get in via a code entered in a phone booth. Mostly, I just want to rush to the closest Asda, get a valu pack of custard creams and a few large bottles of Cobra lager and then catch up on eight years of Hollyoaks. I want to make my rounds to my old pub hangouts, The Amato (the best Sunday roast in all of Surrey, I swear to God). The White Horse, who tolerated my banging away on the ancient piano. The Queen’s Head, where I lost a good many games of pool. The Albion, where Snowy, a white haired, deaf, perpetually drunk WWII veteran and his surprisingly spry cohorts once dragged my friend and I from the pub at a dead run to climb over a hedge and run through a pony-populated field to watch fireworks, the occasion of which we never found out.

I suspect I’ve become more of a Covent Garden hipster than a Camden punk over the past years, but still look forward to spending a few hours (or several) in the Stables Market, trying not to blow my budget on vintage furs, tutus, leggings, vests, antique kitchen oddities and finger puppets.

While I know I won’t be galloping, laughing, on a Spanish pony across Epsom Downs this time, or embarrassingly drunk on the Tube trying to get another Canadian friend back to Paddington Station, and most likely not getting lost between Epsom and the yard on Headley Road, wandering along bridlepaths all the way into Ashtead and stopping exhausted for lager and chips and curry at The Curry House, I look forward to whatever mischief I can find to rustle up. And hopefully, being inspired to sit down and write a bit.

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