Project Happy Trails
Project Happy Trails
It all started with a business trip that meant I had to take in Yeovil, Torbay and Bristol. Inoffensive enough places, but taken together they meant a 600-mile round trip and I had to break into a Sunday evening if I was to have any chance of keeping to my schedule.
When the sky is dark and the weather inclement these are the ‘heart sink’ moments when you wonder why you have a job that involves so much travel. I’m sure it’s a feeling that daily commuters experience quite often. Sales reps and business people, van drivers and mums and dads have all felt that ‘heart sink’ moment when you just want to curl up under the covers and do anything other than hit that lonely road.
Yet when we are asked about the things that we love, how often it is that people put ‘travel’ near to or at the top of their list? Travel is an adventure; it can be exciting; it can open up all sorts of possibilities. It should be an absolute pleasure and yet so often we look upon it with dread. In truth, it can only make us feel dull and despondent if we allow it to.
Project Happy Trails is about finding fifty-two moments (that’s one a week in old money) that can lift our day-to-day travel experience. Moments that can make the road to Macclesfield feel a bit more like the road to Marrakech.
So wherever you are going for whatever reason why not adopt a Happy Trails mentality? What have you got to lose?
Here’s a piece of music to start you off, you might like to play it whilst you prepare for Moment One.
Moment One: The day I gave up the Ginsters
Ginsters. The stock-in-trade of every self-respecting motorway service station. These factory produced savoury pastries have been my travel comfort food for years. Everything about them is wrong. With a nutritional content bordering on zero, a fat content that could support the average family for a few days and to top it all its delivered in an envelope of carbohydrate.
Yet they’ve kept body and soul together on many a long, arduous sortie through Spaghetti Junction and beyond. I’d look forward to stopping to get one whether it was a Peppered Steak Slice, ‘Traditional’ Cornish Pasty or one of the new fangled Indian type flavours. I’d enjoy the two and half minute consumption of a chilled pastry, which in itself is in defiance of the laws of nature. Nobody should enjoy consuming a chilled pastry, its unnatural. Yet tedious long journeys and British winters do that to you. They mess with your head.
I don’t know what you call the driving equivalent of stir-crazy, but a few years back it hit me. I had a long drive ahead to a place I’d never heard of before, Crewekerne in Somerset, and I just couldn’t face it. A friend of mine has a chauffeur and I managed to persuade him to take me to Crewekerne. It was great to sit in the back of the car catching up on a bit of work. Even better when he kept opening and closing doors for me. But the thing that really did it for me was so simple. He had in the boot a wicker picnic basket. It had real crockery, crisp white napkins, a flask of home-made soup. He had prepared my favourite sandwiches on really special bread and it made the refuelling process an absolute delight.
You may not have access to a chauffeur (though you would be surprised how many friends want to do a bit of driving), but the process of putting together a picnic basket; the anticipation; and the slow enjoyment of your culinary delights can really lift the most depressing of journeys. So, why not ditch the Ginsters?
Moment 2: The moment they reinvented the B&B
Bill Bryson in his book Notes from a Small Island recounted his horror stories of the traditional British B&B. These included being terrorised by a landlady for daring to flush the toilet after 10pm, in strict contravention of of the rules that she had stuck to the cistern. He was promptly fined.
I had my own Bryson moment a few years back in Woking. There seemed to be only one room left in the town so I booked it through the information office. I knew the moment I walked in that I had made a mistake. The proprietors were sitting in the kitchen watching a large pot, which from the smell seemed to be boiling a large batch of onions mixed with baby’s nappies. The smell came through the floorboards and engulfed my room, which was really a time capsule circa 1972. I spent the night on a wooden chair watching a black & white TV not much bigger than an iphone with my feet raised off the floor so as not to touch the carpet, which squelched deliciously with every step as if planting a kiss on the souls of my feet. A kind of onion-like dirty nappy smelling kiss.
Praise the Lord. B&B’s are no longer mini prison camps dedicated to 1970′s council house chic (well some are not anyway). I find Sawdays a brilliant place for finding top quality B&B’s that make you proud to be British like The Masons Arms.
Whilst trying to book a place on the South Coast I inadvertently had TV’s Four in a Bed on in the background. For those not familiar with this programme it is not what it sounds. Four B&B owners go and sleep at each others establishments. Separate beds of course. When one of the owners said he “doesn’t sell rooms, he sells memories” I was as cynical as you are now. It was in Bournemouth so I thought I’d put his theory to the test. My verdict. Don’t be cynical Urban Beach is absolutely brilliant and brings the British B&B into the 21st century. Try it. They will even lend you a pair of psychodelic wellies and you can flush the toilet any time you like.