brighton1.jpgTwo weeks ago, I was ready to strangle the kids and burn down my house. Last night I slept like a teenager and woke up utterly refreshed and peaceful. What happened? Travel happened. Specifically, traveling without the kids to Brighton, England.

Ever since I was a child I have been – what felt like at times – dragged along on trips all over the world. While I would describe my upbringing as humble, we always had money for travel. Always. When my grandmother died, my 14 aunts and uncles divvied up the family fortune and we ended up with some random appliances and a chunk of cash.

With visions of giant dollhouses and pink tap shoes dancing in my head, I couldn’t wait to find out what the money was for. “Travel,” I was told. “Travel? As in we’re traveling to the world’s largest shopping mall for a week long spree?” I questioned. “Travel. As in we’re flying to Europe for a month and we’ll see what unfolds,” came the response. “Um, OK, could be (and was immensely) interesting.”

Traveling for Sanity

Over and over again this lesson was presented to me; travel is important and deserves to be a priority. It somehow took me ages to work out that money for therapy could be funneled into a gym membership instead of private practice, with the same psychological results and a much better body. But the whole travel for sanity connection has been there as long as I can remember.

Money has been tight this last year. Yet, when the walls begin to close in around me and I begin to lose patience and perspective, I know exactly what needs to happen: www.lastminutetravel.com

I lived in the UK three times over the last 15 years. My middle son, Logan, was born in London, and I have loads of friends there. So often, when I’m looking for a change of scenery that’s still familiar enough not to cause more problems than it solves, I head off to Brighton, England.

Brighton, England

Several years ago I stumbled upon www.brightonselfcatering.com They have a one bedroom flat on the seafront right in Brighton’s town center for about $75/night, that I keep going back to. Brighton, England is a 40 minute train ride directly south, out of Victoria Station. Think San Francisco crossed with Santa Monica, only much smaller and with a fine example of a pebbly beach.

There’s something very satisfying about being able to invite friends over for a meal when you’re the one on vacation. With a gourmet grocery store mere steps away from the flat, I find browsing in the produce aisle almost as interesting as the vintage clothing shops in the North Laines.

Since I was last there, the owner has put in cable TV, which was worth at least a few hours of amusement. Sadly, there’s more American programming than ever, but I thoroughly enjoyed the dialog and the irony of Jamie Oliver’s cooking roadtrip across America show.

Traveling Heals All Wounds

To me there is almost nothing more precious than an uninterrupted perusal of the Sunday paper with a cuppa and some jazz in the background. So, relaxing on the comfy cushions in my window seat last week, gazing at the gentle waves and sipping red bush tea while reading the London Times was a complete life-centering moment for me.

With clarity, restored peace (and a bit of a hangover,) I reluctantly boarded American Airlines flight 107 home. Reluctant, because I much prefer British Airways. But in these tough economic times, one must make sacrifices. Just don’t, whatever you do, cut out the travel altogether. It’s as vital as the air you breathe.

If You Go

Expect strong sea breezes, so bring hair clips or a tight-fitting hat so you can stroll along the water and see the amazing view. Don’t forget comfortable walking shoes so you can explore the vintage clothing and jewelry shops all day.

Laurel Meath lives in Greenwich, Connecticut, with her three kids and husband Brian. She’s just signed up for a triathlon in the French Alps next July.