It would be impossible to lie. I missed travelling very much.
I missed the good kind of anxious feeling that sits on my chest after I purchase a ticket to an unfamiliar place. The planning, the packing, the piles of clothes on the floor one would refer to as ‘organised mess’, and the list of things to not forget hidden in the notes app.
It’s a great feeling to know that the mundane routine that drains one’s mind and soul would soon be broken and the days to come filled by endless roaming, expensive dining, and a wanderer’s spirit ready for the exploring.
It’s only a two-hour trip to London by train, but for me, who hadn’t stepped away from the rainy city I now call home in nearly two years, it felt like I was setting off to a foreign land. My bags were packed with things I knew I would not need, and my heart filled with excitement I had not known in some time. Why didn’t I do this sooner? Perhaps, my concerns about getting around during a global pandemic were all fair and good, or they had also just become a perfect excuse for me to stay isolated in my bubble…
My sister and I got to the station at the same time as our train and we departed soon after.
I sat by the window as always and watched the blue sky get covered gradually by a blanket of thick clouds. I stared out the moving train lost in deep thoughts while my home disappeared slowly behind me.
Time passed by pretty quickly, mainly because I slept through most of it at some point. My brother met us at St. Pancreas station and together we headed to his place in Greenwich where we stayed for a few days.
I’d been to London once before, back in the summer of 2018. The world was different back then, very different I’d say. I suppose I too was a different person back then.
Winter gives London a different type of glow, a colder yet buzzing and vibrant kind of charm. It was as beautiful as ever, adorned with Christmas lights and holiday cheer the city was certainly awake and I was glad I came.
Our days in London, unfortunately, were not all fun, games and roaming. Things rarely go as they are planned, I’ve learned, especially when looked forward to for so long. My sister was ill for some time on the trip forcing us to entertain ourselves with Netflix series and persistent food deliveries at our doorstep (not complaining about that part though!). At one point she had a nosebleed that turned my brother’s bathroom into a crime scene and right there and then the panic was real.
Eventually, she got better but even then, the mishaps were not over. We missed buses and hopped on those going the opposite directions, then we missed more buses. We couldn’t get into places and struggled once more with accessibility in a big city like London which sadly is never surprising. There were ups and downs and if I’m being truthful not much went according to plan. The lists of things we wanted to do became a mere incomplete idea and in the end, circumstances and time forced us to go with the flow a lot of the time. When we managed to cross something off the list, we enjoyed it to the fullest, and when we didn’t, we expressed our frustration and then moved on to alternatives.
Nevertheless, it was a much-needed break from reality and frankly, the highs were high enough to redeem the lows.
My sister and I were able to do things we did not get to the last time we were in London. We finally got to visit the Madame Tussauds museum which is something I couldn’t do in 2018 as there were ongoing renovations that summer which meant the lifts were out of order (keep your eyes out for my recap of the experience!). Then we explored Greenwich as much as we could in the few days we were there. We rode above Thames River on the Emirates Air Line cable car and enjoyed an accessible cruise to the London Eye.
Like we did during our trip to New York City, we tried to hop on a night bus around the city three different times. When we finally got on, it ended up being an epic failure due to mad traffic. Instead, we treated ourselves to a shopping spree as we strolled down the beautifully lit up Oxford Street.
We also explored the Christmas Markets in Leicester Square and tried a nice Korean style hot dogs and street food place called Bunsik. Fine, I’ll admit we ended up going back there a second time on our last day before catching our train home even though it meant standing in line in the cold for an unreasonable amount of time.
Roaming around an unfamiliar city reminded me how much I loved travelling. The chaos of a confused traveller is one I embrace for sure. The act of breathing in new things, the determination with which one tries to find their sense of direction restlessly is forever welcome when on the road. There are so many lessons a person can learn by travelling even the shortest distance and I missed learning new things about myself that way.
It was perhaps something I used to take for granted sometimes; how often I used to get on planes and live a different life for a few weeks or months. From cars to buses and trains to planes it was a special feeling that luckily became normal. I haven’t used my passport since two years ago when I rushed home to Italy to renew it before, well, you know what happened.
It feels good to be back in rainy Manchester. I’m relaxed and ready to take on a new year once more. The trip served as a reminder that great experiences can also be imperfect. That’s a lesson I’ll be taking into the new year.
Here’s to more memorable trips and experiences in 2022!
Your restless romantic roamer