There’s an attraction on TripAdvisor called the Bude Tunnel. At the time of writing, it has 1401 reviews, and mine is pending to become 1402.

The Bude Tunnel is a dull plastic tunnel that connects a Sainsbury’s car park to the actual building, to stop people getting rained on. (Sainsbury’s is a supermarket chain the UK.) It happens to be in a popular seaside/surfer town called Bude in Cornwall.

The Bude Tunnel

In all it's glory

If you read the reviews, you’ll find out that people really, really like this tunnel.

“The Bude Tunnel transcended not only my expectations of this pretty Cornish town, but of all future tunnels I may have the privilege to pass through for the rest of my days.”

“When travelling through The Tunnel one is hit with the unmistakable, yet ineffable, feeling of fulfilment and serenity that I have yet to have experienced in my 22 years on this planet.”

“The 8th wonder of the world?”

It’s hilarious. My partner and I discovered the tunnel years ago, and for the better part of our relationship, we have on disparate rainy evenings loaded up the reviews and laughed together. (Sometimes this devolves into laughing at the names of Cornish towns, about 60% of which are funny just to say.)

Last week though, we went on a trip together through that part of England. The tunnel was not the driving force of the trip. We had plenty of places that “deserved” to be seen on the itinerary: Stonehenge, the Eden Project, the Minack Theatre. And those places were not especially close to Bude. But when we’ve laughed at the thing for years, how could we not?

And that’s a bit weird, isn’t it? If we’d discovered the tunnel while researching the trip, the idea of visiting would’ve been just as funny, but we wouldn’t have gone out of our way to visit. Something about the long period of time knowing about the tunnel turned it into something we had to see. Our shared experience, and the whimsy of the internet, made an event from nothing.

And the point I’m building to is that it was an event. Reaching the Bude Tunnel, after knowing about it for so long, felt like the end a pilgrimage. To reach for a metaphor only some people will be able to get (sorry): when you first find yourself among Americans, and they’re talking like all human beings do, with false starts and all at once and no laugh tracks, it can feel weird. A thing that’s lived pressed and varnished in your mind suddenly comes flailing into the real, 3D world, full of experiences. It’s in you peripheral vision, and it’s under your feet.

The Bude Tunnel was just a silly internet joke, but my mind made it into an experience with value. For someone privileged enough for existential problems about meaning and purpose and achievement to be among my primary concerns, that was… kinda shocking. And nice.

Life really is what you make it. Go make some experiences.