I’ll never forget my trip to London and the events leading up to it. Even before I stepped foot on the plane, I was being forced to grow up. I had never been to Europe before, but I jumped at the chance to try something new with my literature teacher and a few peers. Though I would have to work hard to earn the money, I was willing to do whatever it took to travel. As the trip drew closer and payments were due, my co-travelers cancelled, one by one. Three months until departure date, I was the only student still going to London. I considered dropping out too, but Ms. Kitchens was determined to go and encouraged me to continue doing odd jobs around the community to earn the trip.
Finally, the big day arrived. I said goodbye to my family and boarded the puddle-jumper to Chicago. I had only been in a plane once before, and the amount of turbulence was quite alarming. As the small plane pitched to and fro, I again questioned my decision to go ahead with this trip. I did eventually arrive in Chicago unharmed. I made my last phone calls to my friends, leaving specific instructions in case I didn’t make it back home. Then, Ms. Kitchens and I hopped on a much larger plane for the trans-Atlantic flight. This leg of the journey was much more enjoyable with better ventilation and movies to watch. And, in spite of what I had been told, the food wasn’t all that bad.
When our plane landed, I immediately wanted to flag down a red double-decker bus and go sight-seeing. Instead, Ms. Kitchens and I spent the next few hours trying to figure out how to operate a public phone booth and call home. I then learned that my roommates were three older girls from California. This was also the first time I had to live with complete strangers, so I was a little nervous and unsure of what to expect. Though they were into 80s garb and thought my southern accent was “adorable”, we quickly became friends.
After introductions had been made, our guide led us on several strenuous walking tours. I quickly noticed that the English definition of walking distance was different from that of my fellow American tourists. When Miriam would say, “We’re almost there,” it meant that an hour later, we’d still be walking. Even though the going was tough, I was able to really see what it was like to live in London.
There was something new to discover wherever I looked. Street performers were stationed on every corner and I must have heard at least ten different languages being spoken. I actually felt like my eyes and ears weren’t big enough. I wanted to experience everything London had to offer, not just the famous historical sites like Westminster Abbey and Tower of London.
Even though I missed my family terribly, I was reluctant to leave my new friends and London. Being from a small town in Georgia with only one red light in the entire county, I had rarely ventured outside of the southeastern United States, much less the western hemisphere! However, there’s a whole world out there for me to explore, and I can’t grow unless I spend some time outside of my comfort zone. The London trip taught me that I shouldn’t be afraid of growing up and heading out on my own. In spite of several little bumps and missteps along the way, all in all it was an eye-opening experience and one I will never forget.
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