I’m writing to you on my bottom bunk, baggy-eyed, runny-nosed, and sore-throated. To top it all off, I’m rocking a pretty mean five o’clock shadow (eleven o’clock shadow Greenwich Mean Time). Though I can’t completely recognize my reflection, I wouldn’t trade any of my battle scars for all the sleep in the world. I can’t believe it’s only been two weeks, and if I were to rattle off every single thing I’ve done, you wouldn’t either. If brevity is the soul of wit, then I’m going to have to spare you from most of the specifics.
Going back to the beginning, getting through check-in and security at O’Hare seems like ages ago. Saying goodbye to my parents wasn’t exactly the same, old song-and-dance as whenever I’ve gone back to school in the past. Admittedly, this farewell had to reflect a little more sentimentality, seeing as I would be attending school four thousand miles away rather than the eleven from our Highland Park, IL home to the Northwestern-Evanston campus. There would be no drive-by laundry offerings in London.
Upon boarding, I had been messaging one of my best friends from home who is currently studying in Paris. Now, I’m not one to complain about air travel, even the long red-eyes, and this flight was no exception. When I told my friend that I had to leave and put my phone on airplane mode, he asked what seat I had been assigned. 22 B, I typed back. No wait, he responded. Go to 27 D. You’ll get the whole row to yourself. He had gone on the United Airlines seating chart for my flight to scout out empty seats! I remember chuckling uncontrollably as I casually unwound across my three seats. Not building a fort out of my row is probably my only regret of this trip so far.
I watched Rogen and Efron absolutely kill it in Neighbors, a fantastic film, and then I passed out mid-Captain Phillips. No knock to Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi, but my exhaustion simply outweighed the suspense of their Oscar-worthy performances. Not so oddly, I dreamt of Somali pirates taking over a frat house.
After landing at Heathrow, I made a bolt for customs. I had been jacked up on coffee from the end of the flight. On the bus ride to my Camden residence, I just kept bouncing up and down like a five-year-old going to Disney World for the first time.
Let me tell you, Camden is simply an all-day party, loaded with international food markets, pubs, souvenir vendors, and restaurants. Located in north-central London, it’s the fourth largest tourist attraction in the city, bringing in over one hundred thousand visitors each weekend. The streets are jam-packed everyday from about ten in the morning until late-night. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to spend these three months.
Throughout my first week in London, I essentially knocked off all of the must-see tourist sites: Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, the London Eye, the bridges, etc. Some friends and I went to see The 39 Steps, a hilarious four-person play at Piccadilly Theatre about a World War II spy mystery.
What I’ve learned so far from traveling on my own is that it’s not the attractions and sites that make the trip, which is why I’m not going into detail about how big the London Eye was or how beautiful Buckingham Palace looked. Instead, the human experiences and interactions are what I remember most, like being invited to join in on an impromptu football game with some college kids at Regents Park, getting lost with my new friends outside a nightclub miles from my residence, or forcing the slightest of smiles out of a Buckingham Palace guard with a well-timed selfie.
Like I said, I could go on and on about these last two weeks, but frankly, I’m about to pass out on my keyboard. Stay tuned for a trip to Paris and more...