London was not my original destination for my first solo trip, but I ended up traveling there because I was caught behind the door of fear and I was tired of waiting on my friends. Although I was ready to travel solo, I was still not ready to explore a new country alone. Since this was my third time visiting I knew I would be fine, but I still wanted to go outside my comfort zone. Being a city girl, I knew a day trip to the countryside would be the perfect adventure for me. I decided to visit the Birling Gap because I wanted a break from the fast pace life accompanied by the city. I wanted to explore and feel the vulnerability that first time visitors feel. Sometimes I feel so comfortable in London, that I kind of forget I’m not in New York anymore. I knew a day trip to the cliffs would give me the adventure I have been craving for.
Once my train took off, that was the moment I realized that I didn’t know if I would make it back to London. This was my first solo trip and I was freaking out for every moment of it. My destination was the Birling Gap and I was determined to complete the two and half hour journey to Eastbourne. Everything was going great, until the train conductor came and asked for my ticket. Silly me to think that the Oyster Card would work outside of London. (I really thought it would, which is why I topped up with £60.) The conductor told me my oyster only covers part of the trip therefore, I would need to buy a ticket and pay a penalty. I was ready to cry. I just realized that my morning rush caused me to forget to add money to my wallet. I wasn’t sure if I would have enough money for the rest of my trip. Thankfully he only charged me £24 and I was never charged the penalty. (I honestly don’t know how I got this to happen, but I am very thankful!)
Pro Tip #1: Buy a round trip Southern Rail ticket to Eastbourne before you board the train. When buying London tickets, remember you can use it to leave from London Victoria or London Bridge. The price is the same.
After I arrived at Eastbourne I had to take the bus to the Birling Gap. Just my luck, I missed my bus and it wasn’t coming for another 30 minutes. I decided to take a taxi and contemplated asking the driver to pick me up when I was finished at the cliffs because there was no bus stop in sight. I attempted to Google Map the bus stop, but the cell phone service is not so strong along the cliffs. Thankfully, he asked me if I needed a ride back so that solved my problem of potentially being stranded on the cliffs.
Pro Tip #2: From Eastbourne station you will need to take a bus or a taxi. I recommend the taxi because it’s quicker. The drive is 10 minutes and it cost about £12 for a one-way ride. Before you get out the taxi ask the driver if a return ride later is possible, the answer will probably be yes. Make sure to get the driver’s number or business card before you are dropped off!
Once I stepped out the taxi, I was in awe. The air was fresh, the atmosphere was peaceful and an amazing view surrounded me. There weren’t many people there so I was able to take it all in. I felt like I was in a place unfamiliar to this earth. I honestly thought is this how heaven is. As I walked along the cliffs the sounds of the world surrounded me. The wind was blowing and the water was moving to the rhythm of the breeze.
Pro Tip #3: When planning this trip, try to complete it on a weekday, in the morning, with clear weather. When I arrived, the cliffs were empty, but as the day progressed more visitors came and the experience didn’t feel as special. On a good day you can see France from your view.
Regardless of where you’re from, this is a needed day trip from London. Of course this trip is not one filled with activities, instead it’s a break from it all. That’s what makes it so unique and enjoyable. Having a break from the fast-paced life while the beautiful world surrounds you. Embrace the moment, as your thoughts clear and you look over the cliffs. The Birling Gap gave me an opportunity to relax and be at peace with myself. Feeling so tiny against the cliffs gave me the feeling of empowerment. Realizing that my dreams are reachable and any problem is fixable. For all who do plan a trip to the cliffs, I hope you have an opportunity to experience what I felt.
Melissa is a human resource professional and a full-time student who always makes time to travel. Her life changed when she studied abroad in London and visited 8 other countries. She currently uses her travel blog to show others how convenient traveling can be, regardless of work and school. You can find Melissa on Instagram at @LissTheTravelist and read more about her travels at LissAbroad.com.