How Travel Changed MeEngland, Traveling Solo & Together — By Mary on December 22, 2011 at 8:15 am
And my passport did say male even though I was so very clearly: not male. All I could think was I knew this trip was too good to be true. After a few frantic and costly (they charge 20 dollars a minute to talk to a real person) hours on the phone, we finally got through to someone in US Immigration. “Oh don’t worry about it,” the expensive lady on the line said, “it happens all the time.” Comforting, I thought, but at least I was still going to be able to go.
The trip was a whirlwind of events and, as I reflect back, the days all seem to blur together. We walked through caves and castles, I drank my first beer, and we took pictures next to buildings that were older than the US. On one of our last days we took the train up to London.
The day didn’t go exactly as planned. When we woke up that morning the weather forecast called for rain. No big deal, we thought, ‘we had dealt with rain before.’ We decided to go ahead and take the trip anyway. We spent the rest of the day with our heads hidden under hoods trying to shield our faces from the freezing rain. We were soaked and it was unbearably cold. But I remember exactly where I was in Hyde Park, dodging raindrops and praying that I didn’t lose my feet to frostbite, when I fell in love with the city. I knew then that it wouldn’t be my only trip to the UK and I vowed to come back. Two years later, I graduated from college and moved to London, by myself.
Since that first trip I’ve lived in the UK twice, moved myself across the Atlantic four times. And made that transatlantic crossing more times than I can remember. As I sit writing this, I am in a crowded restaurant, alone. I’ve seen movies, alone. I’ve gone on trips, rented flats, hailed cabs, been mistaken for a local and given directions, all by my myself.
But, on the other hand, I’ve made countless friends. Some I will never see again and others that will be in my life until I’m old and gray and finally get to board the plane first because I will need extra assistance. I’ve spent nights in pubs listening to strangers tell me their life stories. And I’ve learned that I can trust people. Not all people obviously, but there are genuinely good people out in the world who give hope to humanity.
Of course travel changed me. Doesn’t it change everyone? Doesn’t seeing the world affect, in some way, the way you view your own life? I suppose I could write a list. But who would want to read that? Surely, you would want to know some dramatic change that happened inside me? But I can’t choose one. Because, honestly, I can’t pinpoint exactly how travel changed me. I just know it has.
The other day, a friend said to me “You seem different.” Oh, really? I asked. How’s that? “I don’t know,” she responded. “You just…are.”