Sites visited: British Library, Victoria and Albert Museum, Big Ben, River Thames, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, various pubs in London, and the London Museum
Things I miss after being in London for a week: driving my truck (on the RIGHT side of the road) and being in close proximity to a forest of some kind
Last weekend, a group of the students in the program decided to go out to a pub. We were told that the Junction was “where the young people go,” so that became our destination. This was the first pub I’d been to since being in London. After everything I had heard about the bar-like atmosphere here, I was concealing my excitement rather poorly. But the Junction lived up to the standard I had given it in my mind (at first – I became less pleased when a different bartender refused to sell us drinks later on because we didn’t have British licenses or our passports). When we got there, we passed some friends who were already sitting outside, chatting away with three or four Brits. I ordered a Coke and whiskey and the group of us joined them at the long table outside of the pub.
These Brits were the first young English people my age I had any sort of interaction with. One girl, with a black leather jacket and a nose ring, was telling us about how she loved traveling to Ireland and recommended cities to visit if we’re ever there for a weekend. (Dublin and Galway for night life, Killarney for scenery.) The guy next to her asked us all how old we were, and I got a good look at his face for the first time. That’s when I noticed it.
He is the English doppelganger of someone I know in America.
I’m not saying they just shared similar qualities. No. His body movements, his expressions, even the way he held himself were so exact. His English accent was the only thing that kept me from doubting my whereabouts.
This means nothing to you, reader, but after being away from everyone I know for over a week, seeing a face that familiar in a place so new to me came as a huge shock. But more than that, I could feel myself being pulled away from the doppelganger. I didn’t need to bask in what might have been a comfort zone for me. I had plunged myself into this adventure without a safety net, and seeing a reminder of what I left behind almost made me angry. I miss my family, my friends, and the only culture I’ve ever known. But this was my time. This was my fresh start.
Of course, this reaction was me embodying my entire life in this one stranger who I will never see again. I had to remind myself that he had nothing to do with what was going on in my head. Poor innocent Brit, a bystander to my internal struggles.
A while ago, I had thought that this trip would provide me with answers to all of the questions about my life that have arisen in the past year. But even planning on experiencing “self-discovery” and all that is as useless as trying to reverse a river’s flow. I think that’s what I’ve learned so far. Travel can only be planned so much before life takes over. In the end, you can’t manipulate it or guide it to a specific ending, and you can’t build yourself a different reality while you’re away. Traveling is about releasing yourself to the flow of the river. If you’ve jumped into the right river, it’ll take you to where you need to go.