The first time I visited London, I was a junior in college on a plane with a group of kids, that I did not know, and I would spend the next four months living, studying and partying with said kids. To start: four months, that’s a long ass time to be anywhere. Now imagine you are the only person of color t in your group and now on an entirely new continent you’ve never been to.
I don’t think I understood the implications of my study abroad until I woke the morning after landing. The first thing I did? Cry. I couldn’t help it. I was suddenly so overwhelmed with my last minute decision to leave my perfectly great black girlfriends behind to ‘experience the world’ or whatever bullshit I told myself.
So here I was in London, one of the most expensive and supposedly culturally diverse places in the world. My time in London was…rough, for many reasons. I don’t think I ever got accustomed to being the only black person I knew. It is said to be a culturally diverse city and when it came to food and people which wasn’t a lie. I got to experience some of the most amazing Indian, Chinese and British foods. But the people? That was harder. What we all forget when traveling is that meeting people and making friends is just as hard as at home. Just because you’re some place new doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly be more social or less awkward. You are always going to be you no matter where you go. It wasn’t all terrible. There was a weekend we took a trip to Whitby, this tiny coastal village in the North, and I feel like I was more myself than I had been on my whole trip. We hiked through miles of hills, cows to our left, rocky cliffs and raging water to our right and the silence and nature were just what my soul needed.
When I first got back, everyone wanted me to tell them how amazing my trip was, how much I missed London and wanted to go back. But the truth was, I was so damn happy to be home. London was so different from what I imagined it would be. And for that I am glad. I learned to make my own space in a place I felt virtually invisible. I don’t want to bash London because I didn’t hate it there, but I will say traveling when you are young and broke just ain’t it. There is only so much budgeting and so much you can do on say 70 pounds a week. Especially when everyone else you’re with is spending like a new rapper with his first million. I would call it an in-between time only because my emotions were always so mixed. I wanted to enjoy myself, but struggled to keep up with the money I was spending or the amount I was partying, which was insane, or wanting to do my own thing but being forced to go with the group.
This last thing is really what taught me about myself and how I like to travel. Towards the end of my trip I got the courage to simply do the things on my own. It might sound like nothing but as a group, we were so accustomed to being attached at the hip, everything was done in a group of some sort. For me to simply go out on my own was such a huge step. I would never doing anything crazy, I just loved to wander the streets, keep taking lefts until I saw something I recognized and make my way home, stopping in all the stores that peaked my interest. As travelers we often plan our trips before we even get to a place. I had everything I wanted to do on my pinterest list. But the more time I spent simply walking blindly around London, the more I was able to see and appreciate. It never hurts to take the less beaten path or whatever Thoreau said.
By: Jazz Guillet