“You’re going alone?” From the moment my ticket was purchased, I was met with that question.
Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand why. A woman traveling alone, eating alone, running alone is a worrying thought for some. A woman traveling to a foreign country, alone? Well, that just turns people’s minds upside down!
Again, I get it. And I love everyone for their concern. But I wasn’t worried. I was excited and ready for this adventure!
Well, it certainly was an exciting adventure. From beginning to end, I was kept on my toes.
RAIN, RAIN, GLORIOUS RAIN
How did it begin?
It began with me waking to the sound of thunder. I was excited, because I LOVE thunderstorms! Being from Arizona, I grew up believing that rain is a good thing, it is a blessing. So, my first thought that morning was “perfect!”
Not once, that morning, did it cross my mind that thunderstorms can cause flight delays. Four hours before my 6:35PM flight, I received a text notifying me that my flight was going to be delayed a few minutes.
“Okay,” I thought, “I can still make my connection.”
Then it was pushed to 8:05PM. Now, that was too close for comfort, as my flight to London was to leave around 10PM! So, I got the bright idea of switching to a flight that would take me to La Guardia and then I would take a cab to JFK, but that flight also got delayed, so I switched back to my original flight.
In the end, my delayed flight left Rochester at 10:31PM. My connecting flight to London had left as scheduled, at 10PM. I landed at JFK just after midnight. Exhausted, I rested on the concrete floor of JFK, waiting for the airlines to reopen so that I could be rebooked.
THANK GOD for my MAMA! Three time zones behind, she managed to stay awake to comfort me. Together, we declared that all would work out. After standing in line (and silently praying) for 2.5 hours, at 5:30AM, I was rebooked for the next flight to London, leaving at 10AM!
I didn’t relax until after the plane was in the air.
I landed in London at 10PM, 12 hours later than originally scheduled. This resulted in me missing out on my first day’s itinerary. I didn’t let that bother me, I was too busy being thankful that I made it to London!
AN UNEXPECTED GIFT
In my tired state, I somehow managed to navigate myself to my AirBNB, without cell service. I arrived shortly after midnight. The ABnB was set up like a hostel. I don’t recall how I came to selecting it. I think it was centrally located, had okay reviews, and was budget friendly. Mostly, I thought, it might be a great way to meet other travelers.
I safely arrived to my destination, and did my best to not wake the flatmate, who was already sleeping. After putting clean jammies on, I was out!
I didn’t sleep long. I woke up by 6:30 am, and started to get ready. I had already missed out on Day 1, I was not going to spend too much time in bed.
After showering, I found my flat mate awake, and we introduced ourselves. He, a student from Louisiana, was studying abroad, but had decided to arrive a week early to explore. Only, he didn’t have an itinerary, and not idea where to start. But I did! I shared the details of my itinerary and all that I hoped to see, and he asked if he could join. I said “sure!”
And, thanks to my trip delay, I now had an extra day pass that he could have. I wasn’t about to take money from a college student, so I allowed him to buy me a hot dog outside Westminster Abbey and we called it even.
For the next five days, I had a travel buddy, an unexpected friend. I had been prepared to navigate the city on my own. I had even brought a selfie stick. It wasn’t needed. He happily obliged to take my photo and I returned the favor.
That first day, we talked a lot. I asked him about his family, his interests, and being that he was a college student, I asked about his dreams for his future. From our talks, we found that we had quite a bit in common. It turns out we were both from small rural communities. Communities where traveling is a privilege, one that many don’t get to experience. We also bonded over country music, like the George Strait and Reba days. Together we walked miles, visited popular landmarks, and tried new things.
When I was sitting in the airport, I had decided that this trip would work out the way it was suppose to. If I made it to London, without having to pay an extra $2k (that’s what I was told on the phone), that would be GREAT and I’d be so happy. But, if I had to return to Rochester, I would’ve been disappointed, but I would not let it steal my joy.
The biggest lesson I learned while traveling is to not push for a certain outcome. If it is meant to be, it will be. The only thing I have control over are my thoughts and feelings. At some point, while leaning against my suitcase, trying to stay awake, I came to the conclusion that no matter the outcome, I was going to be okay.
And I was more than okay. I had the best time in London. I saw everything I had dreamt of seeing. As a little girl, visiting London was always a hope and a dream. This trip was more than anything I could have hoped for. Part of that had to do with how my trip began. I was even more grateful to be there and the little hiccup allowed me to meet Darrell and share this adventure with him. Sometimes, you just need to be still and have faith that there is always a plan. If not for the thunderstorms, my trip would have been much different.
When people ask about my trip, none of my stories are, “I saw this. I did this.” My stories are “We saw this. We did that,” and I think that is so cool!
Before leaving, I had joked that I planned on “Winning London” just like the Olsen twins. Growing up, I repeatedly watched Mary-Kate and Ashley movies, movies that took them to London, Paris, Italy, etc. But I was always skeptical about them. For one, “people just don’t meet strangers and explore a new city with them. That’s crazy!”
Well, ladies and gents, I had my own MK&A-esque adventure. I wasn’t alone. I may be a little crazy. I totally won London.