For myself as a freelancer and, frankly, a general worrier on a daily basis, the occasional getaway is an absolute must. Even though I took my degree in travel and tourism business, which had a lot of emphasis on travel management on an international scale, I’ve always been a firm supporter of taking traditional domestic holidays.
When my sister and I were younger, our parents tried hard to take us on yearly camping trips, lodge breaks or stays in a coastal B&B. Occasionally, we spent Christmas in a rural rental house with our extended family, but many were held at my grandparents’ house on the Exe estuary in Devon.
Until this trip I hadn’t been back down to the south west of England for years, so it was long over due. Being asked on the trip by my best friend was so exciting - we used to go on geography field trips with school together and have fond memories of them all. After three years of university spent apart but both studying geography related degrees, it was time we went back to the seaside for an imperfectly perfect, slow weekend away.
We stayed with Parkdean Resorts at Warmwell Holiday Park, near Weymouth. If you love a restful short break, you’ll probably agree that accommodation is pretty high on the priority list, right?
Our lodge was the perfect rendition of Scandinavian-style, cosy and easy living, but had an English charm in its warm carpets, simple decor and that dodgy boiler that took us quite some time to understand. Besides having to press the boiler reset button whenever we needed to warm the place up, we definitely had the chance to hit our own reset buttons too.
The beauty of a quiet staycation is that there’s little pressure to be active all the time. In true geography field trip spirit, we got up early and completed most of our excursion activities before 2pm, so that we could spend the rest of the afternoon winding down in the woods.
On our first full day we meandered round country back lanes to reach West Lulworth, a little village famous for its deep cove. I made my first walk to Durdle Door when I was in my early or mid-teens on one of those camping trips to Bournemouth but, admittedly, I had totally forgotten just how steep the hike would be to reach the arch synonymous with the British coastline.
I learned that my recent trips to the gym had been paying off, but still I managed to return with stiff and painful calf muscles that troubled me for three days afterwards! In true English staycation style, we also started the walk when it was bright and pleasant, reached Durdle Door with a great cloud looming and got very wet for most of the walk back down the cliff. Unsurprisingly, we were ‘graced’ with perfectly blue skies when we turned to look back up the hill in retrospect.
The warmth and dryness of our lodge proved to be heaven-sent when we returned and so it continued to be throughout the endlessly dramatic shifts in weather. We came relatively well prepared, but nothing says November like consistent rainfall hammering on the roof at three in the morning.
During a brief spell of no rain in the afternoon, we walked around the holiday park while the sun sank. We were both pretty convinced it would be our luck not to see any deer during our stay but we were quickly proven wrong. In all my years of love for autumn walks, I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen so many shades of orange. In some instances, I turned around to take a picture and actually imagined a mountain growing out of the clouds.
On our second day we managed to get lost in Weymouth, determining it the worst place to drive around we’d both ever been to, with its one way systems, narrow marina streets and multiple traffic light junctions.
Our dithering might have appeared to frustrate a few local motorists, but the morning spent in Weymouth was worth the trouble to find the car park. We made it in time to witness Weymouth’s Remembrance Sunday parade, holding the silence at the sound of cannons firing into the distance. Hearing the cannon’s power echoing off the rocks and buildings as it travelled out to sea, followed by the ringing silence as everybody and their dogs walking on the beach paused to remember, was a significant and emotional moment we both agreed we would surely hold with us for a long time to come.
After the parade ended we found Chips Ahoy! a pleasantly decorated seaside fish and chip shop with a simple and smart presentation of chips in a strong cardboard, lidded box, which I got way too much satisfaction from. It must surely be a crime, though, not to invest in some classically British seagull bait while at the beach. I had my portion of chips dowsed in cheese; a total guilty pleasure, but it managed to keep the gulls off and kept me satisfied until late into the day.
Our evenings were spent tucked up on the sofa with the TV humming in the background while we gave ourselves sore throats from all the laughter. Apart from the night we were almost washed off the road in another heavy downpour on our way back from dinner in Dorchester, we heated up meals in the microwave and lazed about with chocolate and chewy sweets until we got too tired to talk anymore.
While engrossed in conversation on our final night, we lost track of time and went to bed not long before 12am, despite our decision to sleep well before tackling tomorrow’s journey home… I’m usually in bed or snoozing on the settee at this point, but on this occasion I didn’t have time to fret.
Upon returning to normal this week and in writing this blog post, I realised how easy-going the trip was and - more importantly - just how much I needed it. I’m so keen to introduce more of those slow and ‘perfectly imperfect’ experiences into my life.
As I mentioned briefly in my podcast episode with Be The Bees, I’m always going to want to keep active by continuing to explore and to do my best at accepting change. I think that doing so provides us with valuable learning experiences and memories but, sometimes, when there’s no pressure to see all the sights and nothing to go to bed early for, those slow and simple experiences can do us just as much good.
I’m sharing plenty of photos of my trip to Dorset on Instagram at the moment, so head over there if you would like to see more. I’ve also written a very simple and digestible post about the five reasons we should take staycations - that will be going up later this week, so keep up with me on social media to read it when it’s ready!