All on my own in London.
16 March 2014
For the umpteenth time, I catch their eyes shifting between the airport departure board and their watches.
"Time to go! Remember to call!"
My parents were anxious. For the first time in my 24 years of existence, I'll be so far away from home. Thinking I'd avoid the compromises and limitations that come with group travel, I chose to go alone for my Graduation Trip to London. Their constant worrying had me second-guess my decision, but I found myself leaving every last bit of reservation at the departure gates. I suppose the overhead cabins had no place for emotional baggage.
Knowing that you are free to make the day's plans and having the liberty to change them without having anyone complain is a perk that comes with rolling solo. I threw much of my elaborate itinerary out of the hostel window. After all, London, like the stately rotation of the spectacular London Eye, had a surprise for me at every turn.
I might not have leaped off gorges or mountains, but I took a leap of faith when I made merry at Covent Garden with like-minded folks I had barely known. Wielding daggers with Macbeth and tapping along to Billy Elliot on West End turned out be no less exhilarating than the most ambitious of treks. I explored the unknown, not on dusty, ancient trails, but on London buses with no destination in mind. I got lost, but I found beauty in Hyde Park and tranquility in Kensington.
I did not fend off ferocious lions, but I mustered the same courage conversing with strangers to gain new worldviews. Neither did I conquer any land, but hey, I conquered my fears. In breaking out of my comfort zone, there was a sweet sense of accomplishment. The kind you know you'd relish forever.
In the same spirit that explorers traverse thousand year-old caverns, I relied, for the most part, on gut feeling over good sense, compasses or maps. It was liberating.
A writer once said - "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life."
You know what? He's right.
An electrifying buzz continually emanates across this city. Whether it's that lone busker on the street displaying his eclectic set of talents, or the lighted billboards crawling around Piccadilly, there was always something to see, and something to experience.
So in place of treacherous river rapids, I flowed gently down the River Thames. Travelling alone meant that I did not have pesky friends asking me to pose for photos for uploading on Facebook. Pictures may be worth a thousand words, but the memories having experienced the moments, are worth so much more. Illuminated in a warm, orange glow, the Big Ben towers over me to close the gap between what it was like in my imagination, and the grandeur of what it actually is. I'd not only uncovered new sights, but more significantly, I discovered myself.. all on this adventure that I call my own, all on my own.