the so-called unattainable dream
I can’t stop thinking about my trip to London last May 2016, which led me to revisit my initial post on how London, England: Changed my Life and talk about the emotional reason why London will forever have a little piece of my heart.
I had this idea in my mind that London was too expensive and therefore an unrealistic goal to have. Flights from Toronto to London are usually around $700 which is like ¾ of my annual savings. Ever since I could remember I have put limitations on myself; there was always an excuse as to why I couldn’t achieve something. So, I decided to take a leap of faith, stretched my budget, put my fears away and made my dream come true.
fear really puts things into perspective
2016 was a rather emotional year for me as my mother was unexpectedly admitted to the hospital. To be honest, it felt like an episode of House MD as she spent the next three months there continually getting worse with each diagnosis. For three months, my schedule consisted of early morning hospital visits, work then back to the hospital until she fell asleep. I was mentally and physically exhausted but nothing in comparison to my mother.
Oddly, 2016 was also my best travel year as I was blessed enough to travel 5 times. But if you really think about it, I was just running away from my problems. I couldn’t handle the emotions I was feeling since the day my mother was admitted and all I wanted was an escape, an escape from reality. My mom told me to go out and enjoy my life, so I decided to have a drink with my girlfriend. She was giddy with excitement as her 4 week UK trip with her best friend was approaching and, naturally, I was excited and super jealous.
One day at work, I was looking through my email and saw that Air Canada was having a seat sale, so I perused the list of international destinations and my cursor stopped on London. It was only $600 return and I thought, “This seems to good to be true.” For the next 30 minutes I literally gave myself one heck of a pep talk ranging from “you deserve this” to “seats may sell out” and well, Bob’s your uncle.
“I really can’t remember the last time I felt so happy”
a plane full of tall manly cricket players
I had never been on an international flight before, so I wasn’t prepared for everything that happened. I approached my seat and saw a blanket and pillow and whispered, “thank goodness” and then everyone started to take their seats. I can’t even explain the amount of testosterone that walked into my section, well, I can…it was the entire Toronto cricket team heading to a championship in London. It’s a good thing I decided to dress like a bum that day, cause who really wants to be approached by a hunky dude anyhow? LOL
Did you know that if you pre-select a special meal while booking your ticket, that your food comes out first? Yup, I got to eat about 30 minutes before everyone else in my section and was also provided me with special snacks (that came pre-packaged with the ingredients labelled).
I found my way out of Heathrow and grabbed my handy pre-ordered Oyster Tube Pass and made my way to my Airbnb. I am so thankful to my host as she emailed me exact directions to her home and things I should be looking out for, like how some lines have more than one train route (which isn’t the case in Toronto).
It took me a few more hours than anticipated to get to my accommodation (thank you long Immigration line at Heathrow) but I couldn’t have cared less as I was in awe of everything; the Tube trains, the route maps and the people.
I decided to stay outside of the City for financial reasons and I do not regret a thing. I stayed with a wonderful and hospitable couple in White Chapel which is literally a hop, skip and a jump on the Tube to all the touristy spots and the Canary Wharf. My host was waiting for me on the street as I was later than expected and she welcomed me with a huge hug, grabbed my suitcase and showed me my new home. My room was perfect. It had a decent fully stocked fridge, a coffee maker, biscuits, towels, etc. I was even allowed to use their kitchen and eat their food if I wanted too.
I was absolutely exhausted when I settled in, so I decided to get a decent sleep, wake up super early and explore This was a great idea as I barely felt any jetlag while in London, I was so rested and eager to see what London was all about.
preparation versus anxiety
I can be a bit anal, like the type of anal that has to create spreadsheets (budget and itinerary) for all of her trips (long or short). Let me tell you, if I hadn’t created my travel binder with activities and contingency plans, I might have had a few anxiety attacks…but I didn’t, not even one. My binder included: affordable grocery stores, transit schedules, attraction maps, best pubs and all the places one can poop. It makes you wonder if your anxiety and depression truly follow you wherever you go or perhaps it is your environment that’s causing you to feel a certain way.
I have to say, choosing to grab a coffee and relax on the hop on/off bus tour (that comes with the London Pass) was a perfect decision. Many of the attractions are within walking distance of each other, so you basically hop on one route and see all that is offered and hop on another route in a different direction and see what that area has to offer. It was also a great way to take mental notes of the places I planned on seeing later in the week and familiarise myself with my surroundings.
I felt really at home while I was in London. I loved how narrow the side streets were and all of the old buildings built into any free space one could find. My favourite was the integration of new and old. Buildings weren’t merely designed and then plopped into a free space. No, the architecture was designed to fit the skyline (near or far) instead of a jumbled mess.
I didn’t even have the time to feel alone
Call me ignorant but I didn’t take into consideration how many other tourists would be there. Yes, I know London is one of the busiest tourist cities in the world but I never really thought about it. One of the things I observed while sightseeing was the diversity of the tourists and it was only when I took a cider break that I heard my first British accent. For most of the day, I was surrounded by tourists, like myself, from all over the world and knowing that put me completely at ease. Funny story about this cider break was that it was happy hour and I couldn’t find a free spot anywhere in Piccadilly Circus. I was about to give up when I spotted a Pub with a free barstool, or so I thought. There was a man standing next to it and I asked him if he was sitting here and he offered it to me. We started talking and we discovered we were both from Toronto visiting and enjoyed a couple pints together.
Did you know that you can take your booze outside the Pub and stand out front to get some air or have a smoke? I noticed people were doing this at all of the pubs I went too and then I even grabbed my umbrella and stood outside the pub with my drink…oh it was so amazing.
When I approached St. Paul’s Cathedral later that week, which was packed, by the way, I thought, “Well getting a photo of me is going to be tricky.” As you see, I am under 5 feet and my arms aren’t so long and I was too embarrassed to buy a selfie stick (I’m over that now hehe). Well, a fellow solo traveller saw me struggling (you know, with the angles) and offered to take my photo of me in front of St. Paul's and I returned the favour.
yes, I am that girl...
who absolutely cried when she tapped out for the last time and entered Heathrow Airport Terminal. It all went too fast and I while I managed to see a lot in 7 days, there was still so much more I wanted to do. I needed to hold onto my happiness for a little bit longer, I so desperately didn’t want to return to my former self, my job and my depression.
Do you suffer from depression and/or anxiety and have trouble planning vacations due to fear? I personally let my anxiety hold me back from pursuing most of my dreams and I discovered that we shouldn’t over analyze everything. Sometimes the best decision is the last minute one where you book that last minute ticket and frantically book all of your accommodation and tours because if you are doing THAT you are not focusing on your fears. And if you’re like me and your mind is full of unnecessary toxic thoughts then the best way to travel is to keep as busy as possible.
I planned almost every hour of my trip by creating a binder itinerary with tabs and pockets containing ideas on daily attractions, closest tube stations, grocery stores and pubs in the vicinity. It made it so easy to get from A to B (and C) without getting anxious or paranoid that you’re lost and don't know what else to do.
Psssst. Don't forget to check out my first ever post on London, here. xoxo