Sigh No More Ladies

The bard himself (the incomparable Shakespeare) once said, “We know what we are, but know not what we might be.” What can I say? We all knew this was coming; I am an English teacher after all. So I am unapologetically formulating a blog post about one of the most influential writers in history. In Hamlet, Ophelia says these words half in madness and half in brilliance. While as human beings we can only see the present, we hope toward what might be though we know not what it will be. This is the state of mind I traveled to England with. I was excited to embrace every moment of the present and be surprised about what would be.

It’s not going to come as any surprise to you then that one of the trips that I wanted in my what “might be” future was an excursion to Stratford-upon-Avon (the birthplace of an aforementioned bard). I spoke with Ken George (BookBag Tour’s modern day troubadour), and he assured me that my trip was completely customizable. Instead of spending an extra day in London with the rest of the group, I would travel to Stratford on a solo expedition and explore the literary Mecca on my own time. On the third night we were in England, KG (as I lovingly call him) handed me a stack of train tickets and told me to enjoy the next day. My host mother, Judith, helped me sort through the train tickets, pulled up train schedules, and mapped out where I needed to go. The next morning with my backside planted on a prickly dark blue train seat I traveled through the English countryside at an alarmingly quick pace. I caught all of my trains, and I eventually found myself standing at the Stratford train station with nothing but my bag filled with tourist essentials and the promise that I would return to catch my train at 7:00 pm.

My solo adventure was exciting, exhausting, and exhilarating. I traveled to Shakespeare’s birthplace, his adult home, and his grave. I geeked out around displays that drew together quotes from his plays and experiences from his life. I met several actors in the courtyard of his house, who could perform almost any Shakespearean monologue upon request. I even huddled under an umbrella with staff members and discussed my heritage. Coincidently, one of the staff members, originally from Warwickshire County, England, was able to place my accent as the derivative of living in the Carolinas. She had a friend who was from South Carolina that she claimed sounded just like me.

I went wherever I wanted, visited a fancy restaurant alone, consumed a brownie for dinner, traveled down several wrong streets, and felt invigorated by a sense of autonomy and independence that permeated the entire day trip. As I planted myself back on my return train and reminisced about my journey and the unnecessary Shakespeare merchandise I had purchased, I reflected on the legacy of a man who wrote such moving and enduring words. I wondered if he could have ever anticipated the impact his words and life would have on a 20 year-old, North Carolinian over 400 years later. I came to the conclusion that he probably didn’t. After all, we only “know what we are” but not “what we might be.” I didn’t anticipate the opportunity to travel to Stratford at all, but I went. I explored; I ate; I wandered. Where would you like to explore, try new foods, and just wander? You know where you are now, but where might you be this summer or next summer?

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