Traveling is one of the most terrifying things I have ever done…and I have only been away from home for 27 hours. My sense of time is a little off at the moment, probably because I have traveled across several time zones and have slept very little in the last day or so…but it feels like I have been away from home for forever. Getting on the plane to leave was not super difficult. Sleeping on the plane was uncomfortable, but not impossible. The landscape outside the window of the plane as we approached England seemed semi-familiar. There were trees, grass, buildings, cars, all things I had seen before. Getting off the plane in London was surreal. Going through customs really solidified the fact that I was thousands of miles from home, surrounded by people I did not know, other than my best friend of course. My parents are currently in London as well, so my mom met us at the airport. Seeing her face in a crowd of strangers was so comforting. Something familiar in this strange new place.
After meeting my mom, we got on the tube and rode to Chelsea, the area of London in which we booked a hostel. Hostels are odd. It’s a building. The bottom floor looks like a cafe/pub/restaurant. There is a small staircase that leads to the upper floors. There seems to be far too many doors to open and close to get to our room, several of which require typing in a password. Our dorm room houses 6 bunk beds and 8 lockers. The mattresses are fairly thin, the bedding feels more like sandpaper than like bed sheets. The comforter has suspicious stains. There are wood floors that seem fairly clean. But this is my home, for the next few days at least…and after returning from a day walking around the city, laying on the top bunk with all my belongings, I felt safe.
The highlight of the trip thus far has been the people we have encountered on our way from Seattle to London. While we were waiting at the gate to board our first plane a man sitting next to me struck up a conversation. He was an older man with some sort of European accent, not one I could pin down. After some discussion I learned quite a bit about his life. He came to the US from Germany when he was young. He joined the US Army in attempt to avoid deportation, served for two years and changed career paths. He became a teacher and now owns an early learning center in Spokane where he and his wife live. At one point during our conversation, he excused himself to buy a soda for his wife. Upon his return he apologized for being gone for so long. Apparently a woman had cut him in line. Instead of calling the woman out and making a scene, he let her remain in front of him in line. His response to the situation, “if she wanted to be rude I was going to let her be rude. Her problem, not mine.” I had just met this guy, but already admired the person he was.
Jim. Quite possibly the sweetest old man I have ever met. He had an infectious smile and was obviously a very warm and loving individual. Thank you, Jim for keeping us in your prayers.
The next character in our story, a 47 year old woman named Kathy. She was absolutely hysterical. I am not sure I can adequately describe her, so I will just say that she asked us to think good thoughts for her as she is attempting to find a wealthy Scottish husband. She has never been married, but she said she’d like to try it someday. Kathy, I’m thinking about you, and I wish you the best of luck in your husband-search.
While walking through the Minneapolis airport, Mariah and I walked past a woman playing the piano in the middle of the walk way. The song sounded familiar, so I asked her what she was playing. The name of the song is escaping me at the moment, but I know that it is featured in Sleepless in Seattle. I asked her if she could play Claire De Lune, my absolute favorite song on piano. She replied, “Well, I played it in my eighth grade recital. I think I only know the first page.” She played parts of the song she knew for me, and I appreciated it more than she could imagine. Mariah and I sat with her for a little while and she played us a handful of songs. Everything from Eric Clapton to Beauty and the Beast to Hymns. I don’t think I mentioned it earlier, but her name was Mary. When we told her where we were from she mentioned that she and her husband had lived in Tacoma for a year at one point during their marriage. Mary’s husband, Gary, also volunteers at the airport. He stopped by while we were there to “offer her a ride home.” They were precious, and obviously so in love. Thank you Mary for the music.
Our first day in London did not feel like real life. I saw things that I have only ever seen on tv and in movies. We spent a solid 5 hours walking around the city. We saw the English Parliament buildings, the Westminster Abbey, the Westminster Cathedral, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, pubs, restaurants, shops, vending machines with unfamiliar snack items, English women clad in the classiest outfits I have ever seen, handsome British men in suits, non-carbonated beer, money with the Queen on it. So many new things.
The newness of it all is both exciting and extremely intimidating. I am from Washington. Everything and everyone I know, for the most part, is there. I have never been so uncomfortable in my life, but I’m ok with it. Traveling, I have decided, is not for the faint of heart. It is scary. It is challenging. It is terrifying. It is wonderful. It is invigorating. It is freeing…and I’ve only been gone for one day. I miss my friends and family back home already, but I cannot wait to share my adventures and stories with them when I return.
I challenge you to try something, right now, later today, later this week, or at the very least at one point in your life that is outside of your comfort zone. Being comfortable is safe, but you can’t grow as a person in comfortable place. Personal growth occurs when you face adversity. It happens when you do something you’re afraid of doing. So, make yourself uncomfortable…and grow a little.
I don’t think this does my first day in London justice…but I am jet lagged and very sleepy. None the less, I hope you at least got a glimpse of the adventure that was today.