New York, London, and Italy, Oh My!
If you know me, or have ever traveled with me, you know I tend to be a pretty fast traveler. I get going, and I just can't stop! At least... until I do.
On September 13th, 2019, I boarded my flight from Seattle to New York, dressed in my infamous Scooby Doo onesie, and hugged my dad goodbye. I boarded my flight, with a multitude of feelings coursing through me. This was it!
When I landed in New York, anxiously waiting to meet my friend DJ for the first time, I was instantly hit with memories of spring break of my freshman year of high school, and how unprepared I was then (think Skechers in severely cold weather, imagine a native Texan like me facing THAT), and IMMEDIATELY told myself this trip was going to be SO MUCH BETTER. And guess what? IT WAS.
Queue me being the colorful creature I am and showing up in my Scooby, prepped and ready to meet my friend, who subsequently died laughing at me as he saw my attire (WIN), and off we went on our adventures of the weekend! Everything from bar hopping, to visiting an aquarium, to conquering NYC!
I managed to traverse Connecticut AND New York in one weekend, AND meet THREE different people in my life in that time. HOW on earth did I manage that, you might ask. Between coordinating with these amazing people and keeping myself FLEXIBLE to change, and ROLLING with the punches (there are MANY when you travel), and actually PLANNING the weekend out to the best of my abilities, made it happen.
My itinerary for the weekend started out something like this:
Friday night: Arrive in NY! Bar hopping?
Saturday: D&B meetup with girl friend for lunch and games,
Metropolitan Museum of Art/Rooftop Bar and Garden for sunset drinks and grub,
Sunday: Free morning,
Attend engagement party of friend/mentor
Plane to London!
...and ended more like this:
Friday: Arrive in NY! Check out one amazing pizza place for beer and grub and swap the best stories/catch up! (11 year friendship, finally meeting in person!)
Saturday: Late start, explore Connecticut Aquarium with DJ and his girlfriend
Reschedule meeting girl friend to following day
Barely make it to Met Museum, just in time to get a glimpse and manage to make it to rooftop bar
No Ground Zero this time
Sunday: Sleep in from crazy Saturday antics
Ideal road trip with total jam sesh headed to engagement party, stay for like an hour
Swing back around (after LOTS of rescheduling) to meet up with girl friend for like another hour.
HUSTLE back to airport to send me off to London.
(Side bar: Some of the BEST advice I can ever offer anyone wanting to make travel a frequent lifestyle is to understand that LIFE HAPPENS, and to learn to roll with the punches as absolute best you can. Try to take a chill approach, because not only is that what traveling teaches you anyway, but it honestly makes it possible to have the best experiences happen. Things aren't going to go right all the time, no matter how much you plan it out and think it should, expect that things will probably get in the way of at least SOME of your plans, and try to make the most of those situations.)
Once I successfully got to the airport, I navigated Norwegian Airlines for the first time. My silly assumption of thinking 2 hours early was enough time was quickly corrected once I saw the MASSIVE BLOB of people all in line to check in and get baggage checked. When I thought I knew what I was doing (I had opted to check in a bag this time), and check in at the counter, I was navigated through 2 different lines FOUR FREAKING TIMES before finally getting situated in the ORIGINAL line I was in. I get up to check in my bag, and my favorite watch given to me by mom SNAPS as I'm getting my backpack on the belt, ready to embark (yes, that meant RIGHT BEFORE I WENT ABROAD, I LOST MY WATCH). I am not one to make a big deal of things when I need to get other shit accomplished, so I put on my best face and continued on.
Aaaaand cue the massive security line to follow. Things were clearly not going according to plan, and I knew for a fact I would not make it through security in time to make it to my flight. So I did what any desperate person would do in that situation. I begged. I walked up to three different people, desperation plastered on my face and determination set in my mind, and talked to three different people working there, none of whom seemed to be able to point me in the right direction, until I came across the fast lane security guy (that I didn't pay for), and pleaded with him to let me through to get to my flight. It worked. I was in.
The flight itself was quite lovely. I must say, I am officially a fan of Norwegian Airlines. Yes, it is a budget airline, but apart from paying for snacks and drinks (if you so choose to do so), there's free entertainment, and space to get up and walk around and stretch (a major perk). I opted for relaxing with an in flight movie (Cheaper By the Dozen), and started to zone out. If you know me, I tend to be amazing at falling asleep in moving vehicles, EXCEPT PLANES. It's a mystery to me. However, after a healthy dose of melatonin, I was off.
Landing in London could be best described as a delirious, jet-lagged, excited chipmunk. I don't think I could paint a more vivd picture than that. I had made my way off the plane, juggling all the emotions as I attempted to make my way to the SIM card lady (no customs, I was pleasantly relieved), only to find out that I couldn't get a working SIM card yet because my phone had yet to be unlocked! Soooo I opted for a simple Oyster card instead (the best way to travel London. Refillable whenever, and perfect for the traveler) for only 20 euros, and wifi-enabled cellular device, and made my way to my hostel.
I'm someone who generally finds hostels near transportation zones to make life easier for myself. London was no different. A mere 15 minute trek and i found my adorable hostel. By the way, London is GORGEOUS but confusing if you've never been. The streets and traffic work very differently from the states, so bear that in mind as you plan your trips. It's totally doable, and I tend to try not to stick out like a sore thumb doing so, but it's worth noting.
Once I made it to my hostel, I was more than ready to find my bed and chill tf out. Despite planning my adventures to minimize the jet lag, it was somewhat inevitable. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I planned it the way I did, but I was certainly not at my best arriving at my room.
However, hostel prices for everything tend to be phenomenal and cheap (hello, made for travelers on a budget, looking to mingle), so mixed with my intense and overwhelming exhaustion, I also had the stirring excitement that wouldn't allow me to rest (totally). So I did what any sensible, exhausted chipmunk would do, I stowed my things and ventured downstairs for a beer. 2 for the price of 1 is a pretty stellar deal, especially when you meet a new friend to share it with. So my new friend and I sat out in the little alley way and chatted about ourselves and life, over a fresh and cold Corona bottle each. This, ladies and gentlemen, is one of my favorite parts of traveling. Meeting people along the way.
Now, for those of you wondering, I opted out of venturing too far out of the hostel for exploration purposes for a few safety reasons.
1. I was seriously jet lagged. Seriously.
2. I was in an unfamiliar setting, without anything more than a wifi-accessible phone for the time being.
3. It was getting closer and closer to dark, and I just didn't feel comfortable exploring London at night in my state of mind.
4. Hello. I'm alone. And thanks to years of training in martial arts and all self defense purposes, I decided it was best NOT to put myself in a compromising situation that I would not be fully apt to handle.
Thus, my first day was spent walking around the neighboring (busy) streets of London, without straying too far from my temporary dwelling. The following day, however, was the real excitement. A free walking tour!
If you're ever traveling (solo or otherwise), I highly recommend walking tours. You can find free ones (where tipping your guide is generally a courtesy), that allow you to be as touristy as you want and get allll the pictures. And if you're anything like me, that's about the only time you choose to stick out like a sore thumb in all of your touristy glory. It's the perfect excuse, and you get not only the best sights but also the history behind it all. And if you love your guide, tip them. They only make their living off your tips. It's part of the industry.
Leaving London was as much of an adventure as getting there was (of course). Being on wifi only meant I had to make sure I could reach my hostel to pick up my other backpack before heading to the train to catch my next flight. I hadn't initially realized my tour wouldn't end in the same place as it began, so it essentially doubled my walking time to get back. Crap. I only had 3 hours to make my flight, and was attempting to plan for extra time. So, here I am, going from shop to shop to try to access wifi. Made it into a McDonald's, and after essentially signing my life away to gain access for all of 5 seconds (seriously, the blood of a virgin?? TMI), I made like a bandit and ZOOMED on my 30 minute "walk" back to St. Christopher's Inn. Made it with only one wrong turn (and plenty of sights to see along the way), COMPLETELY breathless and sweaty, grabbed my next bag, and hustled out of there.
I MADE IT JUST IN TIME. And thankfully, despite a really hard lesson in London security involving practically ALL of my liquids (FYI, London security is stingier about how much you can carry than the US. You get one small bag to store it all, so pack accordingly), and then the airline that decided to check in my bag after all, I MADE IT AND CRASHED. Hard. Best first sleep of my life was landing in Italy and CRASHING after Clementine picked me up.
And oh, ITALIA!!! Making it there was like a dream come true. Happy ending to this long-winded beginning of my journey, was the long-awaited reunion between my BFF and I. All of it was worth it. All of it. It had been a long 3 years of waiting, saving, and planning, with MANY hiccups and setbacks along the way. But it didn't matter because I had finally made it. VIVERE per L'Italia.
Until my next update!! Ciao!
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