Even staring at that number right now feels weird.
I’m not 26.. wasn’t I just turning 21 a second ago??
Thinking back to what I thought my life would be at 26 is almost comical now. It looks so completely different and yet is so completely good and better than I could have planned for myself. I sure am glad the 13, 18 and 22 year old versions of Kelsey didn’t get her way cause I’ve got a feeling this version is my favourite yet.
Case in point: 22 year old me would have had this post done and ready the day I turned 26 instead of 2ish months later..
What better way is there to celebrate a birthday than a train ride through the English countryside to a new city? I headed to Paddington early on a sunny Sunday in May, grabbed a coffee and croissant at Pret and was on my way for the first (solo) leg of the journey. Thanks to the cows that were blocking the tracks somewhere near the Cotswolds (ah, England) I arrived late into Bristol but right in time to meet Alba who was joining me there straight from shooting a wedding in Gloucestershire.
Yes, she’s just that cool.
We found the cutest little restaurant/bicycle shop, Mud Dock Cafe, right on the River Avon and settled in for brunch on the patio.
Our normal routine (post food of course) is usually then a wander through the city, finding gorgeous buildings, cafes and historical sights. But Bristol.. well.. didn’t have any. We’d heard it was one of the most modern/hip cities in England and it lived up to that. Unfortunately modern isn’t that exciting when your country is only 200-something years old.
After walking for about 40 minutes we stumbled upon an area further up the river near the marina filled with restaurants, organic shops and breweries that looked like a scene from Portland or Nashville. On a beautiful Sunday it was packed but Albs managed to snag two patio chairs at a brewery and we settled in…
…for about 3 hours.
(No judgment allowed on birthday weekends)
Honestly? It was exactly what we both didn’t even realize we needed. We got some solid girl talk in, people watched and just enjoyed the day. We were just still, and I’m hoping for a lot more of that this year.
We grabbed an earlier train to Bath and breathed a collective ‘ahhh’ – here’s the England we love. Georgian architecture, map shops run by adorable old men, a lazy river running through the center, a cathedral in the square, the UK at its best.
We filled that evening and the next day (despite the rain!) with rambles all over the little town, pub and gelato stops and a morning drinking coffee and exploring the Roman Baths.
It wouldn’t be a good travel story without some stressful adventure, though. Thanks to it being a Bank Holiday weekend every Londoner and their Mom was trying to head back to the city that night. Trains were all messed up and we ended up standing in the connector between carriages for the first half of the journey and sitting on the floor in the aisle for the rest.
Those moments are such a great reminder that it doesn’t matter where you are, but all the more who you’re with. Despite dead phones, a dirty floor and a dinner of Pret sandwiches we rolled into London feeling like it was a quick trip well spent.
This really has been the theme of my time in the UK. The buildings are beautiful and the sights are amazing, but the people have made it. They’ve made this entire experience so incredible.
On Sunday, our pastor spoke on how the disciples and the early church had such a dynamic, life-giving community that they were ruined for anything less moving forward. They had experienced commitment and friendship at such a deep level that they were willing to make sacrifices to maintain and grow those relationships. They just loved really, really well and that’s what I hope for this next year.
The communities I’m a part of right now will change and some friendships will grow while others ease away, that’s just life.
But I want to be ruined for anything less in the future.
I got to spend the next day (my actual birthday!) with some of my favourite people on a rooftop pub garden with a bottle of prosecco.
So yeah, 26 started off just fine.