By Sarah Webb
It feels like a lifetime since my first overseas trip to London, England. Around this time, last year, I was on my way home from Sydney Airport after just having landed back in Australia. Upon touch down, I remember a certain relief had washed over me, and any hint of homesickness had vanished.
My long and unforgettable journey had come to an end and yet, somehow, even looking and feeling as tired as I did, a sadness crept in as I realised that I would miss the experience all too soon. I would do the 24-hour journey back to Heathrow all over again, just to relive the most amazing experience of my life so far; as if there were some kind of universal ‘rewind’.
But, for now, I relay my story of London to you. In the hopes that you will laugh, wonder, want to wander and somehow envision your future-self perhaps doing the same things I did, to prove that you can too undertake in such a blissfully independent journey to everybody, including yourself. That you can, too, take on the world one city at a time.
So, ready yourself for the honest recount ahead. You might just learn a thing or two about travel and be inspired to go pack your bags and say ‘so long!’ as you practically skip outside the front door, passport in hand.
It’ so easy to get lost in the memories of travel. But the best are always at the forefront of my mind. Truth be told, I’ve never experienced a city quite like London.
I lived in student accommodation in Marylebone while I studied Multimedia Journalism at Westminster University. This was for my short-term program ‘July in London’ that is still being offered by CISaustralia, and I’d recommend it to anyone who thrives of a challenge and loves meeting new people. If this sounds like you already, go take a stroll to the Global Office on Callaghan campus and get some great advice, like I did.
The course definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone and, for that, I am grateful. In fact, if I can handle interviewing complete strangers on the streets of London, carrying heavy (and expensive) university equipment throughout the Underground, and also manage to navigate my way around an unfamiliar city, I’m sure I could take on anything life throws at me now.
That being said, London was beyond any preconceived notions or prior expectations that I had of the city. It was beautifully chaotic – a city that hosts many multicultural experiences in its dining and art, and surrounds itself with some of England’s richest history and culture, embedded in its architecture. There was nothing boring about it.
Across the road from where I lived was Madame Tussauds, the Sherlock Holmes Museum and the Underground on Baker Street. Around the corner was a quaint park where I once ate cookies and read an Agatha Christie novel with pigeons and perfect strangers. Further down the road was a back alley bar where I had once had dinner with some of the greatest people I’ve ever met on exchange – all of whom I still keep in contact with. And I was within walking distance to many amazing places: Oxford Street, Soho, Regent Park, the BBC, and more.
Not to mention, the luxury of living less than one minute to the Underground definitely had its perks. There were many expensive trips to South Bank with classmates and close friends; countless rides to Piccadilly and Trafalgar Square where I visited the National Gallery on my second day, with a lovely American girl I had just met and ate French roast with that morning; a random outing to Brick Lane after a Jack the Ripper night tour, where I first met my two best travel friends and ate curry and drank wine; the list goes on.
But possibly the best times were also experienced outside of London. The social program that Westminster University offer allows its students to escape the hustle and bustle of city life to explore beyond its borders, and experience the natural beauty of England’s countryside.
A weekend trip to York proved that there is as much to enjoy outside of London as there is inside. If you love taking in the sights and visiting historic sites, then my advice to you would be to visit the Bess of Hardwick manor, Fountains Abbey ruins and the tearooms at the Cotswolds; they honestly do have the best tea and cake out there. Hands down.
But what all of these experiences have in common are the people I got to share them with. Despite the amazing and beautiful locations I both lived in and visited, it all would not have had the same effect on me if I hadn’t spent it with people I didn’t cherish and form close bonds with.
You will always remember the sights you saw, the things you did, the places you’ve been, but you’ll never once forget or try to conjure the memory of those you did it all with. So, my advice is to do what I did: go to London (or anywhere you want to) and make it all worthwhile.
My month in London wasn’t just a checkbox to tick off when I got home that freezing, winter morning at Sydney Airport. To me, it was so much more than I could have hoped for.