So, today I got my rail tickets, which completes the (admittedly straightforward) travel picture for my little expedition. My surprise has been how easy the whole thing was. Alastair Humphreys, round the world cyclist and microadventurer, advises in this lovely post, that when planning an expedition, do the difficult things which will commit you to the expedition first. Expensive stuff like travel tickets. Then there’s no way out. But a couple of mouse-clicks and a trip down to the folks at Chester-le-Street Station and I’m there already.
A word about Chester-le-Track (as they like to be called) There are no direct trains for me from there any more, I just cycle to Durham these days, but I always go there for advance tickets and complex journeys. They are real experts at getting the best fares and unpublished connections. I’ve even had First Class from Bristol cheaper than a standard ticket. So for Portsmouth, with a bike, for the most important journey of my life, there was nowhere else I’d go. And their improbably titled website, nationalrail.com should be a World Heritage Site, if only for the animated map showing Chester-le-Street as the centre of the railway universe.
As I’m returning to no full-time work, this trip has to come cheap. I’m challenging myself to live as simply as possible. I’ve spent all I’m going to on travel, and Newcastle to St. Malo and back from Santander has cost me less than a return to King’s Cross for tomorrow morning. If I spend roughly the same while I’m out there, I’ll still be solvent enough to look for a job when I get back, but I’d have done something wonderful in the meantime.
The hard part about beginning this journey has been deciding to go. For me, when I’d told my loved ones I was doing it, it was to be done. Pipedream to pipeline in one conversation. And now it’s real. The proof is there on my kitchen table. Wish me luck.
P.S. I was chatting to the guy in the ticket office about my trip. “Don’t get lost.” he warned. My response was the pithiest summation of the trip I’ve yet to come up with.
“If I head South till they start speaking Spanish, then turn right, how can I get lost?”