What is Your Travel Stake?

stakeI am about to embark on a wonderful holiday in Denmark and England. Even though the logistics of the trip are mostly planned out–I have all of my hotel rooms, but not all of my train trips and ferries sorted–I am getting clear on my travel stake before I pack my bag.

In my leadership training with CTI I learned to be very clear about my stake, that is what my goal is for myself or for the organization or group I’m leading. I have found this concept helpful in planning a travel adventure–especially with others, and even when solo. When I haven’t thought about my stake I tend to get overwhelmed by all of the competing agendas of other travelers and my trip experience is diminished.

For example, for this upcoming trip, my stake is about reconnecting with old friends and keeping space open for meeting new people. My intention for this adventure is mostly about relationships. If I look back on my time in Denmark and England from Heathrow airport lounge, I will be very happy if I had plenty of time for long talks with Susie and then UK Sarah, and if I had a few memories of conversations with new friends I made along the way. Sure, there are things I want to do (bike rides) and places I want to see (Winchester Cathedral), but they can make way for people if that is what is needed in the moment.

Being clear about your stake is even more important when traveling with others. I often ask the question of my travel companions: What is your highest priority for this trip? Or what would you regret not doing on this adventure? I share mine, and then we are clear and we each do our utmost to make sure that everyone is able to experience at least this one thing. It may be eating at a fantastic restaurant, or having time to hike a certain trail, or time every morning to sit in a cafe with a flat white and read a book. Or maybe it really is spending time with the person you love and the rest is just background.

I have a tough time traveling with medium size groups. There are so many competing stakes and I get swamped by the friction. You would think that the trip itinerary is everyone’s stake, but each arrives with another sometimes secret agenda: gelato from the famous place in Siena, cycling around Lucca, or tasting as much wine as possible in 7 days. A good tour guide or group leader discovers what those things are for their guests and works to make it happen. I now accept that my travel style is either solo, with one other friend, or in a small family group, or maybe in such a large group that I can still carve out my own stake. Medium size groups are not for me.

Of course a wise travel planner also leaves room in the schedule for the unexpected invitation to join a birthday party for an 80 year old woman who does an awesome Tina Turner impersonation. But that is an Irish tale for another day.

Touring Buckingham Palace State Rooms

 

 

Outside Buckingham Palace

About a month before my departure for the Tour de France I read a tweet from VisitBritain about the state rooms at Buckingham Palace opening for visitors from July 26 to September 28. On previous visits to London I toured the fascinating Mews (stables) at Buckingham Palace so I clicked through and bought tickets.

Did not give it much more thought until I was in France and looking at my itinerary for the end of my trip: ticket on Chunnel to London, check; hotel reservation at The Ampersand, check; tickets to War Horse at Theater and Buckingham Palace state rooms, check and check. Leaving myself a little time left over to go book shopping.  My flight from Heathrow was not scheduled on Air New Zealand until 4:00 p.m., so I had time to take the tube to the airport. I was all set to make the most of my 24 hours in London.

London is an easy city to navigate with the underground, taxis and footpaths through parks. My hotel’s location was perfect: a half block from the South Kensington station on the Piccadilly (red) Line. The Ampersand did not exaggerate its charms in the Booking.com email advertising its special rate. It is beautifully decorated and the service was superb.

Buckingham Palace

I already blogged about the thrill of seeing The War Horse on stage. So let us fast forward to the next morning and Buckingham Palace. A quick trip on the Tube and soon I was walking past the Queen Victoria Memorial and looking at the gorgeous Buckingham Palace gates.

I was just here on Tour de France Stage 3 and so I reveled for a moment in happy memories. When bike guide Daniel asked me the highlight of my trip while we were in the Pyrenees, I said riding the race course into the heart of London, turning the corner at Big Ben and seeing Buckingham Palace and then the finish line. I felt like a rock star. I reserved the possibility that Paris might top it, but it did not. So it was great to be back to the best spot of my Tour adventure so soon.

The Royal CafeIt took a few minutes to find the visitors entrance on Buckingham Gate Road, and then a couple of minutes to change my computer print out for actual tickets. I arrived just in time to the correct waiting area to be able to get through security and enter the state rooms a few minutes past my appointed time. 

Wow, the Queen must feel like she is slumming it when she visits the White House.  During the week, she lives above the store, so to speak, and what a store! Beautiful works of art, mostly portraits of family, fill the rooms where official drawing rooms and ballroom. In addition, there was a very interesting collection called “Royal Childhood.”

Buckingham PalaceI decided to forgo the free headphones and enjoy the rooms and the overall ambiance. After the walking through all of the rooms, I enjoyed a snack at the café and a browse at the gift shop.

The exit takes visitors through the garden. I wondered if the Queen or any of the royal family gets to enjoy the garden on their own or only on official occasions. Not that I feel sorry for them. This is one of their many stately homes and most of the others offer much more privacy. Still, what must it be like to grow up seeing art masterpieces hanging on the drawing room walls?

Garden at Buckingham PalaceAfter a quick trip back to the hotel, I hopped on the Tube to head to Heathrow Airport with about 10 pounds of new books. Air New Zealand docks in the hinterlands so I got plenty of exercise before the 10.5 hour plane ride home.

South Kensington Tube station

Spending time in Yorkshire and London reminded me why I have returned again and again to England and Ireland. Looking forward to the next opportunity.