I think I’ve always been destined to travel and travel has to start somewhere, right?
I have this memory of the way I sometimes used to feel. There were times in my teens when I would look out of a window in my house and focus on the horizon. I would picture the houses in the distance that I could not see and think about what was beyond them: a motorway, a river, rolling green fields. All unknowable, uncharted, unexplored.
It was simply a feeling.
A feeling that, as I gazed towards the horizon, the world outside the one I knew… existed. What was out there?
It’s All Got To Start Somewhere
Perhaps I read too many books set in far away places, or watched too many movies filmed in foreign countries. Whatever the root cause, faced with the decision of choosing a university course at the age of seventeen, I plumped for American Literature with Creative Writing and the University of East Anglia in Norwich.
Eyebrows were raised at my decision and I was asked – as I am still to this day – “Why on Earth do you want to study that?” My answer will always remain the same: “because I get to study in an American university on a year’s exchange programme.”
Flicking trough the glossy university prospectus I read the course description for English Literature, then my eyes fell on the summary for its counterpart American course.
A year abroad in America: the Big Apple, baseball, Thanksgiving and those iconic yellow taxis. It was a world away from the suburban street of my childhood and the times I stared out the window.
I was sold.
My First Solo Adventure
Fast forward to me at twenty, nervously putting the finishing touches to my packing, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you with certainty that it was such a good idea. I was enjoying uni life in Norwich; had a great group of new mates and a boyfriend, all of whom I’d be leaving behind in my third year to jet off alone to study in Los Angeles in a small college called Occidental.
Let’s just let that sink in for a second.
I was only twenty years old, flying by myself to the other side of the world, to study for a year in a college I had never seen.
I was scared. Actually, I was absolutely terrified.
But at the same time I was excited. Something within me kept me surging forward; applying for visas and booking flights. The lure of that foreign city kept me going. I knew nothing about LA, I had never been to the USA, but that was it, the attraction. I was about to explore that unknown horizon.
My parents kissed and hugged me tightly at the airport, their faces tight with worry, their eyes barely concealing their concern. If they thought that their little girl was crazy for flying off into the unknown they never said it, and simply stood at my side as supportive pillars of trust and love.
On the plane I was sat in-between two older ladies who, as it turned out, were part of the American Women’s Bowls team and were making their way back home after a competition in Europe. They inquired into why I was travelling to the USA alone and I explained that I was going to study in college in LA. It was good to talk to them and I found my nerves were calmed as they nodded and clucked.
One of the women, whose face was as tanned and lined as an old pair of moccasins, looked me up and down. After taking in my jeans, trainers and T-shirt she made her assessment. “You’ll be fine,” she told me, “because you look just like all the American teenagers.”
So there you have it. I was going to be ok. And do you know what? I was.
My intuition was spot on; I loved studying abroad, living in a new country, learning about another culture and making connections with new people from completely different backgrounds.
I now credit my year in Los Angeles as my true awakening to travelling. I feel I left the UK as a shy girl still clinging to her teenage insecurities and returned a young woman who was looking at the world with a newly opened pair of eyes.
This was a new chapter in my life that was to be continued…
Have you ever wanted to travel? Where did you gain your inspiration and have you been fortunate to act upon it?
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