I learned pretty quickly that people have one of two reactions when you tell them you’re traveling to a foreign country alone as a female. It’s either “You’re so brave. I could never do that!” or the ever popular “Okay but have you ever seen Hostel?” There was also a combination of the two. In fact I got the whole “hostel” response so often that I stopped telling people I was going. It is a pretty big deal to travel across the world alone and the last thing I needed was people talking about how scary it could be. To be fair, I did have one different reaction from one of my mom’s best friends who was so dead set on the fact that I was going to meet my Prince Charming while I was over there. Now that was the kind of encouragement I was looking for as I set off on my European adventure. (Hey, it was still Europe at the time!)
I’ve had a life long obsession with England and everything that comes with it that I have to thank the Royal Family (I even went as Princess Diana for Halloween when I was in third grade) and the Spice Girls for. My love for all things British only continued to grow more and more as I got older and I realized the other day that quite a lot of the entertainment I consume comes from the Brits. It’s truly been a life long love affair and I have been itching to actually get there for the longest time. I actually had the chance to go for my 18th birthday but my anxiety got the best of me and I didn’t end up going and I have kicked myself in the ass every day since.
In hindsight though maybe I wasn’t supposed to go then and maybe I was supposed to experience London for the first time the way that I did. I started thinking about going last year when it was announced that Richard Madden was going to be Romeo in Kenneth Branagh’s Romeo and Juliet. I adore Richard and knew that would be an absolute dream to see him live on stage. I figured it would be a long shot though but it was still in the back of my head. Then in January it was announced that Kit Harington was also going to be returning to the stage and then that’s when I became convinced that there would never be a more perfect time for me to finally go.
The issue became finding someone to go with me though and I pretty much knew from the start that chances of that were slim because it was going to be a bit short notice. So then it became I either go by myself or I don’t go at all and I knew if I missed this chance to go to London AND see two of my favorite actors live and in person on the west end I was going to regret it forever. There were a few logistics that weren’t quite going to work out when I first started planning so I thought maybe it wasn’t going to happen and then suddenly everything fell into perfect place. It was all so beyond perfect and then I found a flat to rent that was right next door to both theatres and that’s when I knew that this was going to happen.
The thing about me is that I’m quite comfortable being alone. I don’t ever mind do anything by myself and I’ve traveled alone before. Granted never to another country but I just knew it was something that I could and needed to do. So that was it. I was determined and I made it happen.
Looking back it was the best decision I’ve made and I don’t regret for a second that I decided to go alone. I’ve talked about this before but traveling alone really makes you realize a lot about yourself. You’re put to the test of how well you can just rely on yourself and how comfortable you are being your on company. The other thing about it is that you meet amazing people that you generally wouldn’t meet if you were with other people. I met a lady from Ohio, made a new friend from Atlanta, became BFFs with the sweetest lady from Cornwall, had a really great chat with a guy from Wales and a lady from Boston, and had a great conversation with a guy who was from Pakistan and studying in London. I used airbnb to rent the flat I stayed in and my host was from Portugal so it was nice to talk to him about what he loved about London now that he lives there. It was amazing getting to cross paths with people from all over the world that I may not have otherwise interacted with. Now of course with that said you obviously do have to be careful and aware of what you’re saying and who you’re talking to but having a friendly chat with a new person from a completely different part of the world is always interesting.
I also got to experience something that I’ve never really experienced before and that’s live theatre. Let me tell you, having your first true and proper theatre experience being on the west end in London is one of the most special things ever. I saw Kit Harington in Doctor Faustus twice and he absolutely blew me away. The play he was in was bat shit bonkers but it was really incredible. I got to meet Kit and that was honestly more amazing than I could have said. It was all a bit rushed and chaotic but it was so worth it. Then I got to experience Romeo and Juliet on stage with Richard Madden and Lily James, which was fantastic. It also happened to be Richard’s 30th birthday so we got to sing to him afterwards as an audience and then I got to meet him afterwards and tell him Happy Birthday to his face! I may not have met my Prince Charming like my mom’s friend suggested but Richard has played Prince Charming so I guess I’ll consider that a win anyway. He and Kit have now also both played/are playing a King so it was a double win all around.
Then there was just the city itself. Like I said London was a placed I had long dreamed about visiting and to actually be there was just more than I could really describe. To be able to visit a place that my soul feels so connected to was something truly special. I had a lot of anxieties (shocking I know) leading up to the trip mainly to do with health issues and I was worried about how I was going to feel. I mean you’re talking about a girl who gets anxiety going to the grocery store at times and here I was jetting off to London. I had no idea how I was going to do it. I managed to deal with my anxieties the best I could while I was there thank god but the one I can’t control is my heart arrhythmia. So I was a bit inhibited and couldn’t walk around nearly as much as I would have liked but the thing about London is that there’s something around every little corner to see or experience. It’s just endless and exciting no matter if you’re sitting in a park or if you’re standing along the River Thames looking at amazing landmarks.
I had so many pinch me moments and none more so than my first night there when I walked over to Trafalgar Square and just happened to look up and see Big Ben (Elizabeth Tower if we’re getting technical) in the distance. It was just one of those “I’m actually here. In London.” moments that I will never forget. It was incredible to experience all of these things that I had witnessed through a screen of some sort in person. It’s like taking images in your head and being able to bring them clearly into focus. I had all these thoughts and ideas of what London was like but until you get to go and put it all together for yourself it’s all just a bit blurry. I got to see the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, and Trafalgar Square. I went and spent a Sunday morning in Hyde Park doing nothing but relaxing and enjoying the scenery. My flat was just across the street from Leicester Square and a few blocks away from Piccadilly Circus so I got to explore around there a bit. They had something called West End Live happening in Trafalgar square over the weekend and while you had to queue up to get in you could just hang around and hear the performances and see some of them on the big screens they had. The things to do and places to see were just endless and there was no way I was going to see even ¼ of all of the things I wanted to in one trip but it was fun to get quite a few of the major touristy places in during this trip.
I was so worried about little things leading up to my trip and how it would be once I was actually there but as usual with anxiety it was all for naught. Well for the most part, I did end up feeling pretty crappy towards the end of my trip but it’s true what they say. A bad day in London is better than a good day anywhere else. I had the adventure of a lifetime and I will never ever forget the. I know it’s not something that everyone could do and so I feel like I get to pat myself on the back a little bit for saying I went to London solo and had the time of my life. I stepped out of my comfort zone in the biggest possible way and pushed myself to do something that I couldn’t do 10 years ago and I did it alone.
The only problem with going to London though is that as soon as you leave you’re ready to go back. I’m not kidding when I say I found myself looking for places to stay on AirBnB the other day. I wasn’t even sure how I was actually going to leave when I did but all I know now is I absolutely can not wait to go back.