I recently stumbled across these photos from my first trip to England- my first trip outside of North America.
It was the summer of 2002, I had just finished my graduate work at NYU and had six weeks to kill before I was set to begin my first job. My friend Robin was in London studying at the University of Westminster and invited me to stay with her during my six weeks of freedom.
I jumped at the opportunity. I had always liked the idea of travel. I had always wanted to see the world. I just hadn't gotten around to it between my conservatory style undergrad training that bled directly into fast paced and all-consuming grad school. There seemed to be a million distractions and traveling was simply a dream deferred.
Then I took the leap.
Something happened to me during those six weeks in London. The once deferred dream, was a dream realized and the dream was turning into somewhat of an obsession.
I tasted every new thing I could. I drank pints even though I wasn't a beer drinker, just because that was what was done. I visited the countryside, stared, mouth agape at the crowned jewels and the latest exhibits at the Tate. I went shopping at Harrods, Top Shop and Hadleys. I drank tea and indulged in scones and crumpets with clotted cream. I stood at the gates of Buckingham and Kensington Palace. I walked the banks of the River Thames and marveled at Westminster Abby and the Tower Bridge. I cheered at football matches, rode double-decker buses, splashed through puddles, and gave silver pounds to the street performers at Piccadilly Circus. I ate curry and shepherds pies, I tried marmalade and digestive biscuits. I sat in pubs, cafes and gardens and wrote for hours.
It was the summer I contracted the travel bug. The summer I stepped outside and into myself. It was perfect and it was imperfect.
It was the summer I got lost trying to navigate my way from central London to the outer zone of Dulwich (long before google maps had been invented to save us from ourselves). It was the summer my credit card was stolen at a pub while I sat working on a story enjoying some fish and chips. It was the summer I saw how Americans were sometimes perceived negatively abroad. It was the summer I saw the frustrations of many of England's immigrants living and striving to achieve the "English Dream" (if you will) in Outer London.
It was the summer of a powerful awakening.
Though the photos are somewhat blurry as they were taken on a fun-saver camera, long before my DSLR would become the standard and though many of the photos are missing, I still feel the hope and optimism of that summer.
Throughout my last decade of international travel, I haven't spent much time in Europe (barring brief trips to Paris and Amsterdam).
As I pack my bags, I'm excited to return, if only for a little while, to England before I move on to explore Portugal. It has been a little over a decade. So much has happened. There is so much more yet to come!
Do you have a favorite European destination?