Greetings from London! Notting Hill to be exact where my friend Marina, who I'm staying with (and soon the remarkable story will come through), works down the street at Gelato Mio, where they serve delicious gelato, and where sometimes, most of the time, I get some for free. I highly recommend the hazelnut. Mm, mm.
In London, there's a sense of familiarity in the big city feel that I don't feel like I've left Los Angeles. Then I remind myself that I'm over 5,000 miles from home, and soon to run out of pounds (UK currency, aka moolah). But like one of my dear friends Natalie says, life is not going to wait for the exchange to get better.
And it occurs to me that I'm in bloody London! Ah, It feels so great to be here, just away, out of the country and on my own. I could be anywhere really and just as happy. When Natalie told me she wouldn't be able to travel (we had planned to do a eurotrip together, I was quite bummed), but I knew I had to go and make it happen. And so I bought a roundtrip ticket -- figuring four months is a good time to explore, find some work on farms, travel, enjoy life.
Now that I'm here I feel invincible and like the world is limitless. It's the same feeling I got when my middle school friend convinced me to try out for the cross country team with her. I surprised myself by running the 3 miles and in good time, and then joining the team. She ended up sleeping in during the first week of tryouts, mind you.
Being in a place as diverse and romantic as London is like living a dream, something I only imagined from foreign indie films. Oh, the life of wandering, drinking cappuccinos and writing in cafes. It's such a privilege, and one that I am very blessed to have and take advantage of.
It's crazy to think that having graduated from uni (as they say in the UK) and working all through college, that this is what it feels like to be free. Boy, does it feel great!
It's also quite nervewracking. I can't help but feel guilty about my family working hard back home and how I could be contributing. I also dread the idea of entering the job market upon my return, and can't help but think about applying for grad school. Something in me is always planning for the future.
This Saturday I leave for Granada, Spain and will begin my first HelpX experience. HelpExchange.net is a neat program I found online; It's similar to WWOOFing (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms), but a bit more broad where you get an extensive travel/life abroad experience by working with local people in exchange for housing and food. It's sorta like a homestay except I'm no longer a student, although I certainly will be learning lots.
My first host will be a woman named Ann who lives in the village of Lanjaron. General duties will include helping with her family's fruit, olive and nut tries, gardening, landscaping and assisting with the the horse treking and mountain biking/hiking holiday service she runs. I'll be with her for a week and then for a month, I'll be helping Sarah with her horse stable. They both had terrific references and usually host a few people at a time, so it'll be nice to be working with other travelers. I'm excited about weekend trips to Granada, Barcelona, maybe Morocco and who knows where else. After that stay, I'm hoping to visit the northern coast of Spain, Portugal and then make my way over to Italy and Greece and probably will have just enough time for Paris, Normandy, Montpelier and back to England. Ideally, I'd like to squeeze in Wales and Scotland. In any case, I'll have to come back and explore Scandinavia and parts of Eastern Europe.
My next post will be more of what I've been doing here, the people I've been lucky to encounter and pictures galore! Here's a little taste:
And it's only natural for me to post photos of food.
The curry here is so good. I don't think I can get enough of it.
And the same goes for cappuccinos. I think I've had at least one every day so far, on a good day, I'll have three. And dear friends. Here I am with Will, a Cal Bear and fellow Princeton PPIAer studying at Cambridge for the summer. It's like a little bit of home with me. Together we conquer (oly here, under the British flag)!
More photos can be found at:
And so the journey begins! I hope by writing this blog you'll be able to experience a little bit of it with me.
p.s. "Please Mind the Gap" is a reference to the subway, the London Underground. :)