This story originally appeared in the May/June 2019 issue of Inspired Home magazine.
This spring, I indulged in the most audacious, spontaneous experience of my life. My friend, Ellen, who lives in Washington, DC, wrote to me on Facebook with a post about taking afternoon tea on a restored 1930s Belmond train through the English countryside hosted by none other than The Great British Baking Show’s Mary Berry.
Something in me snapped—in a good way. I looked at the images of the train and of smiling Mary Berry, and I thought, “Why not? Why can’t I do something like this?”
Then I looked at the dates, which were exactly three weeks away. That felt fast. Surely our calendars wouldn’t be free—my weeks are jam packed, and it’s not like we could just go there for a day or two. It is England after all—you should go for a week to justify the expense and the time change.
But somehow, my schedule was open enough that I could switch some things around and be available for six days.
I talked to my husband, who said, “You should go.” I called Ellen, and amazingly her schedule was flexible as well. So we booked the train, the flights and the hotel, and we went.
And it was glorious.
And the whole time I was there, I kept thinking about my younger self—the girl who lived in income-based housing with her young son. The one who served afternoon teas from her tiny galley kitchen, dreaming of England while she made scones and thumbprint shortbread cookies and cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches.
I took this trip as much for my former self as I did for my present self. That girl had great big dreams in spite of her challenging reality. In the face of economic struggle, she taught her young son to enjoy the simple act of afternoon tea and other little joys. She wouldn’t have believed she could ever even seriously contemplate a trip like this.
But she worked hard and continued to dream, and eventually, she stepped out of income-based housing and got married and started a real job, and her son grew up and graduated from college and is on his own path to success.
On this trip, I marveled at the sights, reveled in the walks down the Mall and through Hyde Park and was besotted with the Art Deco train and the entire experience of afternoon tea with Mary Berry.
But it was actually the sheer fact that I could say yes to the trip at all that was most powerful for me. It gave me the opportunity to consider the path I’ve been on and to be grateful for the journey. And it encouraged me to keep dreaming because the path is stretching out ahead of me and the journey continues.