I'm an anxious person. Thus traveling, with all of its possible missed flights, delayed trains, and uncanny circumstances can turn me into a ball of worry real fast. This week is my program's official 'winter break' and I knew I wanted to make the most out of it by traveling outside of France. So, I made the decision to visit a middle school friend who studies in Coventry, England for a few days. We hadn't seen each other in over 6+ years and decided to #yolo by spending Valentine's Day exploring London. However, the UNIVERSE decided to hit us with a couple of painful right hooks by messing up some of our travel plans. Here's a snapshot without going into the full details.
Things I learned (survived through?!) by the end of this trip:
- Standing for an hour and a half on an extremely crowded Virgin Train from Coventry to London
- Outrunning 50+ people to queue up at a 11PM shuttle from a city named Rugby (?) to Coventry
- Sprinting from terminal 2F to terminal 2E in the CDG-Paris airport
- Making a 50 minute (actually 25 minute) connection in said airport
- Best of all: Seeing all the major attractions of London without spending more that 50 pounds
I could make that list even longer, but every time I look at it my stomach twinges a little bit and I remember how stressed I felt while doing it. Once it was over I realized I'd have an interesting story to tell but in the moment you don't have the foresight to think of those things. My experience getting from Nantes to England and back again pushed me -maybe shoved me- out of my comfort zone. It forced me to accept the fact that triple checking the time of my next flight was not going to make my current flight land any faster. But after I've accomplished something difficult (ahem, all that sprinting) I feel like I can do anything. At least for the 30 minute period that my adrenaline is still rushing.
Now, on to more important things like London! I LOVED London, it was diverse, full of people, and there were a bunch of things to see. Sitting in the red double-decker buses was surreal, and while in the suburbs with my friend everything looked Harry Potter-esque (I should tell you all now I am a huge Harry Potter nerd). I saw Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus, the London Eye and had the quintessential fish and chips. I still haven't felt any of the 'culture shock,' but I wasn't expecting to in England. At this point whenever I go somewhere new I've stopped expecting to 'feel' a certain way, but instead let the experience happen.
However, I did notice that I missed speaking French. More than a few times I had to stop myself from replying to someone with d'accord or ouais when answering a question or ordering food. Being in England reminded me how much of a privilege it is that my and my parent's first language is English, and that I have had the option not the necessity of learning another language. Traveling is strange. But I won't let this strangeness stop me from randomly deciding to visit somewhere new.