Goodbyes are not easy. Hell, they might be the hardest moments I have had to experience in my life. Actually, that was calculus, but still. When moving from good ole Texas to Pennsylvania, I had to say goodbye to home, my friends, my family, and, most difficult, my dog. But, as I packed my bags for the 7-hour plane ride to London, I realized I would have to add a few more to that list. Most significantly, my country.
I was expecting a flood of tears, homesickness, culture shock, and maybe a few growing pains as I readjusted everything I knew to fit my life to London. Well, it is currently Day 5 of living in not-America, and the only tears I have shed so far were from watching “Billy Elliot” (it’s a musical, a great one).
Leading up to the move, I had plenty of fears. What if I hated London? It’s not like I could just drive home, unless my car had ocean-crossing technology that I didn’t know about because I never read the manual. What if I got lost and something terrible happened? I knew I would be using public transportation and coming from a town that had 1 bus stop. What if I ran out of money and starved to death? I like food, a lot, and I was pretty sure that there weren’t any Whataburgers in London.
I had a 3-hour plane ride from Dallas to Philadelphia, a 7-hour wait at my departing gate, and a 7-hour plane ride to London to contemplate the plethora of things that could go wrong. When I landed, though, that list went out the window (but not literally because that is called littering). Before I knew it, I was stepping into my room, which was significantly larger than the dorms at Arcadia, so there was no complaining here.
I unloaded my bag and headed downstairs to meet my new housemates and the resident life assistant, Philip, who said words like “marvelous” and “lovely” a lot, and my favorite — when asked if having 4 godchildren and 3 grandchildren was expensive, he answered “ruinously.” We then were given time to nap, which I appreciated since it had been 27 hours since I had last slept.
Fast-forward a few days and I had mastered the tube, which is the same as the subway back in the States, only it’s more fun to call it “the tube.” I had learned, the hard way, that you have to wave down a bus for it to stop and that pedestrians do not have the right of way here. I had explored Camden Lock, shopped at Chapel Market, hit the tourist areas like the London Eye, London Bridge, Big Ben, and Buckingham Palace.
I had met Harriet Jones, former Prime Minister (aka the actress Penelope Wilton) in person when she checked out behind me at Boots, the equivalent to CVS back home. I had added a few more paintings to the list of Van Goghs I have seen in person at the National Gallery. I had discussed war protest after a visit to the British Imperial War Museum. I had made an absolute fool of myself trying to pay for food and mistaking the 2 pence coin as the 2 pound coin. That was awkward. I had watched the sun setting over London with the group of amazing people I had met during orientation.
Most importantly, I realized that, although leaving home and flying across the planet can be a bit nerve-wracking, it is so very worth it in the end.