“It is impossible for you to go on as you were before, so you must go on as you never have.” – Cheryl Strayed
Leaving London was like leaving home. I fell in love with the city before I even saw it, and it welcomed me into its embrace like an old friend. But it was a temporary home, and I knew that from the beginning. I could feel myself growing restless near the end of the term, not necessarily to return but to move on to my next adventure.
Little did I know that just trying to get back to the States would be an adventure on its own.
My flight to Portland went through Vancouver BC, but the night before I was to leave, I found out that my flight was delayed by three hours, which meant I was going to miss my connecting flight. Once my mom called up the airline and was able to get me on a later flight to Portland, the delay was less of an irritation. But then the flight was delayed even more, which meant I would have about twenty minutes once the plane landed in Vancouver to get off the plane and get to the gate for my connecting flight. There was nothing I could do at that point except wait for the plane to land, and after Tyler and Gina, my traveling buddies, told me that enough people needed to catch the plane to Portland for us to have a better chance of getting to it than if we were on our own, I let myself relax.
I had started reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail last summer and brought it with me to London thinking I’d have time to finish it there. But free time was not easily had over the last four months, so I was determined to finish it on the plane ride back. For those of you who don’t know what Wild is about, it’s the autobiography of Cheryl Strayed who hiked the PCT on her own. She started in California and ended at the Bridge of the Gods in Portland. Not only did this book make me want to sell off everything I own and live on the trails for three months, but it occurred to me as I was on the plane that, as I was reading about Cheryl hiking to Portland, I myself was trying to find my way to the same location. Cheryl had come so far since the beginning of her hike. She was a different person and she had to fight her old self to make it there. It was then I realized that, no matter what it took, I was going to make it to Portland. Even if I missed the connecting flight and had to spend the night in the airport, I was going to find my way to where I needed to go, just like Cheryl.
Of course, the rather rude pilot announced with a laugh that “those of us looking to get to the States tonight weren’t going to make it to the States tonight,” because the border control at the airport was already closed. The airline gave me a hotel room for the night with a food voucher (which only worked at the hotel restaurant, and of course the restaurant was closed by the time I arrived and didn’t open until after I left). It sounds like a rather simple process, even if it was inconvenient. But every single person that worked for the airline that I had to interact with during this experience made everything so difficult and was so rude, I felt like falling apart by the time I got to the hotel. I was supposed to be back in Washington by now, but instead, I was spending the night in a town that broke into my friend’s car and stole all of my stuff the last time I was there. This whole fiasco did not help to improve my opinion of Vancouver BC. I went out to a different restaurant, treated myself to a couple of rum and cokes, had a long shower, repacked my suitcase, and caught four hours of sleep before boarding the shuttle back to the airport. Things went smoothly from there, with both security and customs going quickly and efficiently. Then I finally found a nice Air Canada employee – the flight attendant on the last leg of my journey. By the time I landed in Portland, I was hungry and exhausted.
But I made it.
Recouping from my journey was a distraction from what I left behind – a new family and a new home with memories that are a permanent part of my heart. It was time for me to leave London, I think, even though I know I’ll find my way back someday. But it will never be the same. London will always be London, but it was the people that made this trip for me. And even when I return to my temporary home, it will be an entirely different experience. I may never see these people again, which I’ve recognized in previous posts, but I am so thankful to everyone who made these past four months what they were. We will go to so many new places in this world and make countless new memories, but no matter what happens, we will always have London.