New town, new school, old relations.
Warwick Castle. Warwick, Warwickshire, England. October 2014.
The last month and a half have flown by faster than I ever could have guessed they would as is a common case when you are moving and settling into a new place. Between juggling the responsibilities of your day to day—new and old friends, school, work, and finances (to name a few)—and getting to know your new home is a lot to work with. When you throw in the added predicament of friends and/or family coming in from home to see you, it can feel nice to be surrounded by the familiar as well as test your already taxed time management skills.
This past week and a half, my mom and older sister were in town as my first set of visitors and, while they understood my responsibilities here and could easily do things without me, finding as much time as I could to run about exploring with them and introducing them to my world felt like it should be a priority—within measure.
The great thing about having people (especially family) visit you when you are living abroad is the chance to do more than you would otherwise make time for—and if this is a parent, it can make these adventures much cheaper. One thing to remember to save everyone some cash, however: if you are planning to do a lot of things with your guest who are traveling with travel deals like the London Pass, think about getting yourself one as well. Not only will this save money on attractions but can come with a travel card for a bit extra.
In the way of travel, you’ll probably find yourself burning through your funds faster than you normally would while people are in town due to farther and more frequent trips on public transportation. I ended up using over twice as much money for bus and tube fare in 10 day than I had in the month prior because my travel companions weren’t used to the long walks from place to place and were more worried about the ache in their feet than the funds in their purses. If visitors aren’t helping out with the travel funding, these expenditures are something to keep a close eye on.
What I loved, however, was the chance to go out and explore more freely than I had been able to in the weeks prior. While I had been one convenient excuse to jump the pond, if you will, the real reason my family came to visit when they did was the reenactment of the Battle of Hastings. Not only had I never been to (or even really thought of visiting) Hastings, I had no idea the reenactment was taking place until my mother announced the visit. For anyone who hasn’t been to a reenactment of this sort, part of its appeal is not only the historic battle you get to witness, but an engagement with a way of life long passed—it’s like visiting a historic literary fair, renaissance fair, a battle reenactment and a tourist destination in a picturesque location all at once.
In the span of 10 days (including making trips back to school), we visited Hastings, Canterbury, Hampton Court, Windsor and Warwick Castle, and Kensington Palace, not to mention other various spots around London Town. Another thing to note if you believe you’ll have other visitors coming though out the year is that some places (such as Windsor Castle) have deals where is you buy a ticket on location and get it stamped, you’ll have free admission for the whole year if you bring the ticket and your ID with you on any other visit in the time allotted.
But don’t spend the whole of your visitors’ trip going from tourist spot to tourist spot. If you are having visitors, you are probably staying for a while and therefore probably have your own version of the town than the average tour book will. Let your family and friends experience that with you! Show them your version of that world that they’re there to get a glimpse of. Take them to the tea house you’ve found with the really cool timer or the tasting bar you stumbled upon when you were lost with a schoolmate or even something mundane like the school building you sit in for hours at a time when the sun is actually out (sigh).
Let them see your world but don’t worry about not knowing everything about it yet. It’s okay to tell your mother that, yes, you have lived here for a month but you don’t know how to get from school to that castle or which bus will get you to that train station off the top of your head. It’s okay to be new and figuring it out. Let them figure it out with you.
The thing you have to remember while planning and going on these adventures, however, is that when you are living abroad, it probably isn’t just for the hell of it or a long vacation; you probably have responsibilities. Whether this is work or school or both, just because you have visitors doesn’t mean that those responsibilities go away.
For me, this was school and the huge stacks of reading that comes with a master’s degree. And while I had tons of fun running about and exploring while I had an excuse to do so, I have to accept the consequence of spending the rest of the week in the library catching up on any neglected work (and the essay due at the end of it!). It’s finding a balance and knowing what you will need to get done before your guests come, when they are present, and after they leave and leaving enough time to actually do it.
The last major help that comes with having visitors is they can bring you things you left at home and/or haven’t had time to shop for local replacements (thanks for the sweaters, coats and boots, mom!). Not only does this help bolster your winter clothing options without spending money you may not have, it grantees they have the space in their suitcases for any souvenirs they pick up during their visit.
So bring on the guests but be ready for the juggling act!
Until next time,
I’m Leave on the Wind, Helping you soar.