A first time for everything
It was near the end of June 2013. A few months prior, I had been invited by a London-based girls’ blog to come and speak at their very first conference. Naturally, I was thrilled! Beyond thrilled, in fact, as this would be my very first trip overseas by myself. London will forever hold a very special place in my heart because it was the first of so many ‘firsts’ in my life.
After a seven-hour, red-eye flight, I had made to the jolly ol’ England only to discover that my ride which was supposed to take me straight to the conference where I was scheduled to speak in a matter of hours was no longer able to make it. And so, the adventure began.
I purchased a train ticket to get me to central London; sleep-deprived and groggy-voiced, I managed to find myself in a booth seat with a table. A girl sat down opposite me in the booth, apologizing for banging the table as I struggled to steady my hand to apply my mascara. Luckily, our little exchange led to a lovely conversation throughout the duration of my ride into London, and my new friend offered to help me navigate my way on The Tube and get myself to Baker Street.
The Tube, in all it’s glory
I was struck by how narrow the Tube trains of were. How did anyone manage to fit with their shopping bags, luggage, or anything else other than the clothes on their backs. As you can imagine, I felt like quite the bother to everyone as I hauled my 50-lb suitcase on and off several trains before finally arriving to my destination.
The conference was absolutely wonderful. I met so many amazing, talented, and fun young girls that were hungry to learn and grow as women. I lead them in a session about women chasing after their entrepreneurial and career goals.
Roaming London with a broken heart
My time in London, although beautiful, was masked with a cloud of sadness. About six weeks before my trip, my boyfriend and I had broken up, and I was having a really difficult time dealing with the aftermath of it all. As much as I was trying to make the most of my first solo trip and the amazing opportunity I had to speak at my first conference, I couldn’t help but shake the feeling of heartbreak and sadness. But, the good thing about nursing a broken heart is that it forces you to stop and re-evaluate your life. Being in London for such a time was the perfect way to re-set. My way of processing everything was to write, write, write! My journal is chalk full of some truly heartfelt, vulnerable, and impactful entries that I wrote from spots all over the city.
Fit for a Queen
One instance in particular stands out in my mind. I was mindlessly roaming the streets of central London, and somehow managed to find myself at Buckingham Palace. The sun was setting, and it appeared that the mass of tourists surrounding the closed gates had started to trickle down. This was the perfect opportunity to park myself on the steps across from the palace and write. I remember loving the intricate designs of the black iron gates with their brushed gold details. But, I also recall thinking the palace was a lot smaller than I imagined it to be. Perhaps TV and movies make it look much more grand than it actually is.
I was also struck by the beauty and vibrance of Oxford Street. I loved the architecture of all the buildings. The city was celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, which meant that the streets were decorated in the full pomp fit for a British royal celebration. I frequently visited Covent Garden. Something about the cobble-stoned streets, quaint shops, and amazing restaurants made me feel so happy. I remember thinking that it must be so beautiful there at Christmas time.
Embracing the quiet moments
It was, however, the quiet moments alone that stick out most in my memory. Laying on the grass near the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park, sitting at a bench overlooking the Thames River, and standing at the doors of Westminster Abbey. Even now, as I think back to those particular moments. I still remember the brightness of the setting sun, the cool of the grass beneath me, and the feeling of complete peace as I fully embraced the moment.
London was a special time because I let myself fully embrace the pain that I was carrying around in my heart. I cried everywhere I went; wrote everywhere I went; talked to God as I walked through museums, bustling streets, quiet churches, and ate alone at restaurants. My time in London gave me the space, time, and solitude that I wouldn’t have gotten were I still at home in Toronto. London set the tone for how I wanted all my travels to be – a time to reflect, learn, grow, and fully embrace whatever I was experiencing.
I truly fell in love with this beautiful city, rich in culture, history, and grandeur. This city help my heart to heal. It helped me see that there is so much more to life than just my problems; that I had so much more to live for – to see, experience, and do! Thank you, London. I am forever indebted to you.