“Other side,” he said. I’ve been in England since Thursday evening, and every time I’ve walked up to my friend Luke’s car, it’s been mistakenly on the driver side. Naturally, it’s understandable given I’ve come from America where our driver side is their passenger side, but it’s still comical to me. It also serves as a reminder that there is no such thing as “normal.” Despite the fact everyone here speaks English and it’s the most like where I come from out of the places I’ve recently been, I can’t help but feel like people just know I’m not from around here, even before I speak with my hard “a’s” and emphasized “-er’s.” Plus, crossing the street is always enjoyable when you look the wrong way first.
After spending at least 10 minutes with Border Patrol promising them I plan to go back to America despite not having booked a flight home, I proceeded on an hour long train/bus journey to meet my friend. It was painless and easy because the public transportation here is really incredible. I met some friendly strangers along the way, one Kiwi girl who actually shared some of her scone with me on the bus because she knew I was really hungry. There’s still good in the world…
I’ve been wanting to see London for quite some time, and timing couldn’t have been better. When I mentioned coming in passing to a really close friend of mine from here, whom I met two years ago in a hostel in Australia, he said I should definitely come and welcomed me into his home. He and his family couldn’t have been more gracious hosts. We explored the country side where he lives, went for delicious meals, and shared serious stories over drinks at the local pub. And, we took part in one of the most British pastimes – a pub quiz (of which I contributed next to nothing).
I was really taken aback by the scenery and my thoughts of how dramatically different the landscape is from what I experienced during my childhood. We literally walked through woods to get into town. Rolling hills, cows, cloudy skies, and brick houses fill the quaint neighborhood. One of my favorite parts about neighborhoods here are the flower pots hanging everywhere because they add so much color to the streets, and of course, the British accents.
Apparently, some people find it quite strange that he was hosting me, considering we only met once in person for a few days across the world two years ago, but when you meet people like that, it forges a friendship for life, and I’m really grateful for this chain of events.
Even better is that it all worked out when it did, as I was here during his 29th birthday weekend, which we celebrated in a treehouse-like pub surrounded by his close, and obviously great friends. I say obvious because I’m a firm believer that you’re the sum of the parts with whom you surround yourself.
And now, for the real kicker. During my travels in Croatia, when I was “stuck” on the island of Hvar waiting for my “new old” iPhone 5 to make its way through customs, I met a woman named Emma in the hostel bar/restaurant. We struck up a conversation when she complimented my laptop case – my laptop which was only out because of my phone being broken (see previous post about being phoneless on an island). Immediately, we began talking with another guy I had previously met (from Georgia) and got into a deep conversation about race, family, culture and more. It was clear that she and I have a lot in common and a lot to learn from one another.
We then spent the next few days together, walking around Hvar, eating and cooking, sharing stories, and going out at night with groups of new friends we made during our hostel stay. (Sidenote: If you’re ever in Hvar and need a hostel to stay at, follow the path to The White Rabbit, where it’ll feel like you’re with family).
And now, I’m here in Twickenham, London in Emma’s apartment, waiting for her to come back home from her touring some of Europe on a Bus About trip. Then, we’ll see more sights here as she’s welcomed me into her home as if it were the “normal” thing to do.
It’s funny how the world works when you stop planning and believing you have control over what’s to come. Granted, you need to make moves and take steps to accelerate, but you also have to be open to speaking to strangers who, when the timing is right, become your closest friends.