If you didn’t read that title in a British accent – preferably Russel Brand’s, then fail.
Before I left for London I came across a condition called post-travel depression in several travel books. Initially I laughed, mentally placing post-travel depression alongside ADD and other disorders that primarily exist to line the pockets of pharmaceutical company executives. No more.
17 days into my 80-day-trip, I’m addicted. I can see how post-travel depression could set in. Sitting in parks at night, walking on cobblestone bridges, clinking pints with new friends and learning all kinds of interesting history – it’s just too much fun. When the clock ticks down and the time comes for Europe to show me the door, I’m going to get down on my knees, beg for an extra month, and promise to be good – no more sleeping on beaches and streets ( haven’t slept on a street yet, but it’s practically inevitable).
London, however, didn’t start off so great. I arrived extremely jetlagged courtesy of a baby crying in my ears for like eight hours. Since I just graduated college, quit a long-time job and recently experienced other big changes I don’t care to mention, a chorus of “what-ifs” were also ringing through my head. What if I can’t find work when I get back? What if I didn’t pick the right major? What if British people are still angry about the revolutionary war and choose to get revenge by capping my yankee-ass? Sounded bloody likely to me.
Those first few days, my mood reflected London’s weather – sunny and confident one moment, cloudy, dark and unsure about pretty much everything the next. With all the fluctuations, I felt like a pregnant woman at times. Even wanted to verbally berate every male in sight and consume large amounts of ice cream. Matters weren’t helped by the fact that the British seem hellbent on making their food as unappealing as possible. In my experience, warm beer dominates pubs and dishes are overpriced as well as overcooked.
Difficult to pinpoint when I exactly found my footing and my outlook improved for the better. It was a slow, subtle process encouraged by several factors including positive self-talk and meeting some really great people. Of the individuals I came across, a group of crazy locals who invited me to watch a rugby match with them stand out – which is sort of odd because the combination of their thick British accents and a steady stream of alcohol made it pretty much impossible to understand them. I was basically nodding my head for three hours to feign comprehension. Only the occasional word like “wanker” or “bloody” were recognizable.
One of the guys David asked me what I was doing in London by myself. Told him I quit my job to travel. Between his accent, alcohol and the noise associated with a close rugby match, it’s a miracle I managed to grasp his response: “mate, good for you – screw all them wankers who think you should just keep doing something you hate – you’re traveling, enjoy the hell out of it right now!”
Maybe I internalized his eloquent words – some of the few I understood that night. Or maybe it was hearing tales about Winston Churchill – a man who embodied what the British call “the stiff upper lip” – the idea that one should always make the best of whatever wrongs or uncertainties in life. For Churchill, virtue was proudly wearing angst as a battle scar and continuing to fight the good fight. Maybe it was a combination.
Regardless, things definitely got better from there.
On the upswing, the next day I went to several museums and something unexpected happened: I gained an appreciation for art. Well not so much the paintings from the 1400’s to the 1800’s – I mean how many portraits of rich people and religious figures can one person look at? I like how more modern painters turned to the common man and nature for inspiration. Favorites include the truly weird, dream-like paintings from famous impressionists.
Other highlights include a pub crawl in Soho, learning the true meaning of “being drawn and quartered,” taking obligatory pictures of Big Ben and visiting the Tower of London – where royalty and the jailed used to share a home.
Ah, but there’s so much to say about my next stop: Paris.