London, United Kingdom
Earlier this week I had many people question me as to why I would be traveling to London this weekend. In reference to the recent terrorist attacks that had been taking place just a week ago in the city.
But what legacy would we all leave if fear held us back. It is a scary situation for sure but that's the thing, we can't allow anyone or anything from scaring us off and stop us from living. Once we do so, they win and we lose that freedom that traveling brings. This force cannot stop us from traveling, stop us from exploring, stop us from attending music events that bring so much joy and most importantly stop of from finding ourselves. My inner free spirit did not let these events hinder my experience abroad.
Can you think of a moment when you were scared to do something and contemplated staying in because it sounded safer, but you took a leap of faith and had the time of your life? This is my story and my experience.
This trip to London would be my first time within a foreign airport and traveling to a different country. The young traveler in me found that regardless of the language barrier navigation signs were all the same. If you knew your gate number then you should pretty much be set. The order in which all international travel goes: check in, go through security, go through customs, then finally find your gate. First I was scared that I would be turned around and not understand my surroundings but all airports are standard and the process is the same regardless if you do not speak the native language.
Through during this whole process I was mentally freaking out trying to quickly read signs without making my self look lost. Externally remained calm and collected, but internally I was moving at a million miles per hour. I'm a firm believer that outputting a calm vibe will in return bring you some type of reward. As I boarded my flight, I decided not to check my bag earlier. With a pretty large crowd in front of me, I walked my self down to the aircraft. Once I stepped onto the aircraft I noticed every single overhead bin was full. The flight attendant walked straight behind me and told the other "that's it, after this one (points at me) we are full. Everyone now has to check their bag". After me?! Some how in some way I believe that God or the universe or whatever you want to believe was on my side and allowed me to be that lucky last passenger with bags in hand. From this moment on it was smooth sailing.
Upon arriving in London, a friend told me to take the express train that would bring me into the city. As I was flying into Londons Gatwick Airport, which was a good way out of London.
Again using my intuition, I quickly looked for signs that would lead me to the train station that I needed to meet my friends at. One thing I will say that traveling alone has taught me, would be not to fear asking questions. The English language is pretty universal, and this was not a problem since I was in the United Kingdom.
I found my train, sat down and away I went. Taking it all in, for a moment looking out the window I couldn't believe it. I made it this far.
The Gatwick Express took me straight to the Victoria train station which is a massive station connecting travelers to different parts of the country. I was greeted by two familiar faces and together we started our journey exploring the city together.
After checking into our Airbnb, I dropped my bags and set out to explore London. The best decision we made the entire trip would be to rent bicycles to explore the city. I had the absolute time of my life peddling my way around town visiting the cities staple locations such as Hyde Park finding Princess Diana's memorial, catching a glimpse of Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, passing Westminster Pier and finally taking the London Bridge in.
Biking around the city was probably the best way to experience London quickly, especially if you are only visiting for a short while like I was. By far the best place everyone needs to bike down would be the mall leading up to Buckingham Palace. There you will find rows and rows of the Union Flag mixed in with green trees lining the streets. With a gigantic grin on my face and the summer air passing by this feeling of cycling down that street is a memory that I will never forget.
Additionally, if you keep up with British news we happened to be in London the day after the election of Theresa May as Prime Minster. We quickly raced down the streets of London to try to catch a glimpse of Theresa May leaving Buckingham Palace after meeting with the Queen to confirm forming the government.
To think that this was such a big part of British history, that I, little Alli got to experience up close and personal. We stood outside of the gates of Buckingham Palace and for a brief moment watched the Prime Minister exit the Palace and create the government. Truly once in a lifetime opportunity.
Shortly after this happened, I am very fortunate to have friends in London that met up with us to catch up over drinks and explore
the cities exploding night life. I found myself smiling to myself as I took in every bit of London on that first day. I was not smiling because of someone or something, I was genuinely smiling because I felt free.
Day two in London started with catching the sunrise as the morning sky was highlighted in shades of pinks and blues. With the old white English buildings perfectly accenting the colors of the city.
That second day was filled with a belly full of a traditional English breakfast and Eggs Benedict with a few morning drinks to enjoy our last day in the city. That day we took the city by a storm and consumed as much of the day as we could, experiencing all things London. We ate, we shopped, we explored and finally ending the night with the theater.
I found myself sitting in the balcony of Prince Edwards theater waiting to watch the broadway performance of Aladdin. What other way to finish a night in London than catching a performance in the royal theater. Everything about the theater was so classy and elegant, definitely held at royal standard.
Once the show was over, the audience was left with a brief announcement from the cast of Aladdin addressing the recent terrorist attacks. One of the lead actors, playing the role of the Genie announced to the audience that they would be donating a portion of their ticket sales to the British Red Cross for the victims of the recent attacks. After the announcement you could quite literally feel a shift in the audiences' emotion. This made the world we are living in even more real for me. Yes we can visit these beautiful destinations, and not let fear take over, but the truth is the events did happen. It was amazing to be amongst thousands of people that choose love over hatred and found the way to spare a few extra pounds to give back.
As stated above, we cannot let fear take over but on that same notion we cannot afford to let down our guard. If you are traveling with friends or alone it is wise to be cautious of your settings 100% of the time. While being at some of London's iconic locations yes travelers want to be snapping the best picture of the scenery but just always be on guard of whats happening around you. You can still be free and adventurous like myself, but that doesn't mean you lose track of who is around you. Yes London has heightened their security but the city itself is radiating in love and standing hand in hand to remind strong together. Thank you London for all your love.