Given it’s a travel blog, the name Little Grey Box doesn’t make any sense. With scarcely a hint of travel in the name, I’ve had lots of people ask me why the blog is called Little Grey Box. Some people say they think it represents a laptop, a grey Macbook packed full of all our adventures. Others say they associate it with a plane, like a black box flight recorder and some say they think it has to do with luggage, boarding passes or passport stamps. The truth is, it has absolutely nothing to do with travel and everything to do with me. Here’s the story of how and why it came to be called Little Grey Box.
In 2011, Matt and I both felt restless in our lives. Have you ever felt that? It’s an uncomfortable sensation like you’ve outgrown your space. It’s physical at times, as though you’re itching for a change and need something new and exciting to happen or you’ll burst. For Matt and I, that feeling led to us moving to London with a one month stay in Bali along the way. We applied for our visas, ended our lease, notified our workplaces, packed up our lives and hopped on a plane.
On the way, after a few too many drinks in a Balinese restaurant, Matt asked me, “If you could be anything, what would you want to be? If there were no limits, you could have any job, what would it be?” It occurred to him since we were moving to a new country, we were starting from scratch and, really, anything was possible. With a clean slate, we could reinvent ourselves to be anything.
In a very important moment of honesty, I said, “I’d love to be a writer. A travel writer, for Lonely Planet or something,” and in the next breath, “But that’s not possible, I mean, that’s everyone’s dream job. It can’t happen to me,” Matt was shocked. Up until that point I had never even mentioned that I enjoyed writing. Truth be told, I had loved to read and write since I was a little kid. I’d get lost in books, savouring every word on each page then beg my mum for more, reading novels in primary school. I’d write short stories, creating fantasy worlds I could get lost in for days at a time. They were my own, secret pocket of the world.
When we’d read aloud in class I’d sit there hoping the teacher would ask me to read so I could speak the words in a way that told the story. It felt like I could hear the author’s words in my mind and feel the characters lives through the paper. I would search through my Mum’s Womens Day magazines each week, looking for the short stories so I could read and study them, dissecting what made them good or bad and cataloguing the good ideas in my mind for later. As a way of helping me calm down in stressful situations, I’d come up with a sentence in my mind and count the syllables in patterns on my fingers. For me, words were more than just sounds or black marks on white paper, they were my friends, my world and something I truly loved and enjoyed.
Back to Bali. Up until that precise moment, I had never told Matt about my love of writing. At that point, we were engaged and had been together for years but I had hidden my love of writing from him and myself. Looking back, I had no self-confidence and didn’t believe I was worthy of being able to write. I guess I didn’t have enough love and respect for myself to believe I was any good or deserved to do something I loved. At that time, I felt I was dumb and unsuccessful, that I had missed my chance to make something of my life and had wasted my potential.
When we arrived in London, Matt suggested I start a blog. At that point, I had never heard the word before and didn’t have the foggiest idea what a blog was. Having worked as a graphic designer, he knew not only what a blog was but how to start and host one. I wasn’t totally sure at first, so I mentioned it to a friend I was working with, Katie. She knew all about blogs and told me about one of her friends, who had a food blog, and was invited for free meals all the time in exchange for a write-up. Easily motivated by food, my mind started clicking over. Yes! I could do that – start a blog, go out for a free meal every now and then and write about it. Perfect.
I remember that night very clearly. Our flatmates had gone away for the weekend and Matt and I had our lovely little flat in Clapham to ourselves. It was cold outside and pitch black, it had been snowing all afternoon and into the evening, so everything was covered in a perfect layer of pristine, white snow. A little boozy and very excited, we cracked open my laptop and opened WordPress. With no prior thought given to it, other than, ‘let’s start a blog,’ we began the sign-up process.
One of the first questions asked us for the name of the blog. I had no idea what I wanted the blog to be now or in the future. I had no concept it could or would become my full-time job and dream career, that it would fulfil me in ways I didn’t know possible and bring out the best in me. There was no inkling I was in the middle of making the very best decision of my entire life. I was just starting a blog, an outlet for something I love.
Not knowing what I would even write about I couldn’t craft the blog name around a specific idea. It couldn’t be named something like, ‘Phoebe’s Food Blog,’ or Travel with Phoebe.’ I had to come up with a generic name, allowing me and it room to grow. I’d like to say that kind of deep thought was at the front of my mind but, swept up in the excitement, it was more subconscious than well planned. So, I turned to my love of words. I’ve always loved certain words, particularly shapes, textures and colours. Words that throw a vivid image into your mind, words you can feel when you say them. I love onomatopoeia, words that sound like what they are, like sizzle, pop, zap and bark.
I told Matt I wanted to use the word, ‘white,’ but couldn’t come up with a way to make it work. Slowly, the name started to form in my mind. I’ve always loved the word little and the onomatopoeia of box, throw in a colour word and I had a name I loved. Little Grey Box was created.
It wasn’t intentional at the time, but Little Grey Box has come to be more than just a name. It represents my deep love of words and captures my whole journey, from a little girl who loved to read and write but lost her way to a woman with her dream job who gets to do what she loves each and every day, surrounded by words. Little Grey Box isn’t just a name, it’s my story.
If you pick up a copy of Lonely Planet’s Solo Travel Handbook and turn to pages 144 and 145 you’ll see my words and my story on the paper. In 2011, it was something I dreamed of but knew, deep inside, was not possible. Turns out, I was wrong, it wasn’t impossible, it just wasn’t the right time. To get there, I had to go from a dark place of self-doubt and sadness to where I am now. It took 7 years of really hard work on myself and facing up to a lot of fears, but I did it and that thing I felt was truly impossible has turned out to be one amazing piece of a wonderful reality. So, whatever dream you have for yourself that feels totally unachievable, I’m here to tell you it isn’t. Trust yourself and make a start. The rest will come.