On Saturday, January 21st, I walked over 10,000 steps with approximately 100,000 people in London – millions of people when you include the entire world. Together, we marched for women’s rights (for all women’s rights), for LGBTQIA rights, for worker’s rights, for immigrant rights, for disability rights, for reproductive rights, for civil rights, for environmental justice, and for ending violence.
It was a cold but beautiful day, the sun coming out to cast light on our route. I showed up alone, but from the moment I stepped out of Oxford Circus tube station – Bond Street was already overcrowded and closed – I felt a sense of unity, of solidarity. Thousands of us walked down Oxford Street towards the American Embassy, but the streets were already so crowded that we were soon brought to a halt. We didn’t start marching for at least an hour or so, but it didn’t matter; we were all talking to one another, cheering, singing, and making new friends. I saw people of all ages, of all backgrounds, of all walks of life.
Here’s why I decided to march.
I drank again last night. A lot.
After exploring Camogli yesterday, I took the train a few stops to Nervi, which is just as devastatingly beautiful as you’d expect from a small fishing village on the Italian Riviera. It was very quiet, but I walked along the promenade, took lots of photos, and then tried to find a restaurant that was willing to serve me pizza at 4pm, an unusual time to eat in Italy. I found one that overlooked the sea, and I spent the rest of the afternoon eating four cheese pizza, drinking a lightly sparkling white wine that’s famous in Liguria, and feeling on top of the world. Honestly, I didn’t expect to fall in love with Italy as much as I have in the past three years – it’s an unusual feeling, to want to keep returning to one country instead of exploring somewhere new. I love Italy for its culture, for its food, for its brightly coloured villages that jut up from the water, for its whitewashed stone buildings that appear on mountaintops. I love that, whenever I go into a restaurant, it is filled with people laughing and greeting each other, a beautiful cacophony. I love how much the small things in life seem to be appreciated in Italy – the perfect espresso, the smell of a lemon, the double kiss on the cheek, the way the wine sounds as it pours out of the bottle.
Oh yeah, and did I ever tell you about the Italian guy?
Once again, I wake up far too late. I have no idea what’s happening or why it takes me so long to fall asleep each evening, but it’s starting to really annoy me. As soon as I’m awake, however, I pull on some clothes and leave my flat to get a coffee and go for a walk down Regent’s Canal. Weekends are so crowded on the canal that sometimes I skip this route all together if I can. With bicycles, prams, and dogs thrown into the mix, the walkway is teeming with people who all seem to have the same brilliant idea: congregate directly in the middle of the path to check their phones, oblivious to the individuals that want to pass. One guy even refuses to move out of my way after I say “Excuse me,” and for a split second I picture him pushing me into the canal (this must have happened to someone, and let me tell you… Regent’s Canal is RANK. It looks pretty, but that water is a festering cesspit of duck poop, broken bottles, old bicycles, used condoms, and, I’m not kidding, body parts. OK, once they found body parts in the canal, but still. RANK. I walk along it every day and every day I think, “Well, today’s the day I fall in, catch dysentery or some old-timey disease that’s been eradicated in the developed world, and meet a grisly end.” That being said, when it’s not as crowded, it’s one of my favourite routes to walk in London).
When I get home I do some work, make some food, and check Tinder to see how the conversation between Cute Boy and I is going.
I wake up with one of the worst hangovers I can remember having. No, wait a second, I had an equally bad hangover in the Netherlands in November, when I spent an entire evening drinking sugary cocktails and shots of bourbon. And… yeah, scratch that, because I woke up the day after Boxing Day with a splitting headache, too, a result of a night of beer pong and margaritas that were purely tequila and a few squeezes of lime. Shit.
I’m pretty sure the first step of realising you’re addicted to something is denying that you have a problem, but, despite the three stories I just told you, I am not addicted to alcohol. I don’t drink every day. I (again, despite those three stories) rarely drink to excess or to “get drunk”. There is no alcoholism in my family. I’ve never “blacked out” or not been able to remember what I’ve done while drinking. Other than my birthday last year, when I drank sparkling wine with breakfast, the thought of drinking in the morning or on an empty stomach makes me want to hurl. I’d say I drink the average amount for a 30-something in London: a couple of glasses of wine with dinner a few times a week, and maybe a night or two in the pub where I have a few beers or spirits.
But oh, how I love alcohol. I really do. So why am I giving it up for January?
If you, like me, follow a lot of travel blogs and websites, I’m sure you’ve seen it: that image of the person standing somewhere beautiful, looking free and happy and contemplative; perhaps their arms are outstretched, or they’re reaching up to hold on to their hat just so. I’m not criticising – I’m guilty of this pose, too, because of the mere fact that it adds some dynamic to your photos, and also, if you’re like me, you don’t have to worry about what to do with your face (I swear my eyes are closed in half of those taken). But sometimes – more than ever, these days – that photo is accompanied by a headline that says something like, “I quit my job to travel and am now my own boss” or “I quit my job to travel the world and am now happier than ever”, and so on, and so forth. I feel like Business Insider and Buzzfeed do some variation of this almost weekly.
But wait… did I just follow their advice and quit my job to travel, too?!
I’ve seen Cornwall and the Isle of Skye, the Causeway Coast of Northern Ireland and the major cities of Wales. I’ve partied in Leeds, watched football in Brighton, driven around the Lake District, shopped in Newcastle, and eaten delicious food in Manchester. All in all, I’ve loved my time exploring the UK… but none of what I’ve done holds a candle to what Emma Higgins of Gotta Keep Movin’ has done.
Here, then, is my review of her travel journal A Year in the UK and Ireland… with the chance to win a copy of your own!