Ok, ok…well maybe my immediate next stop is the UK, but we’re just talking semantics here.
As many of you know (or may NOT know, since I didn’t have my 132nd going away party this time), on May 8th 2013 I left the comforts of warm, sunny Miami Florida for the secrets of the unknown world. This trip is something I’ve dreamt about my entire life; something I’ve been saving up for, for a very long time.
As a kid, the treasures and wonders of the world beckoned me, as I’m sure they do most children. Although I wish I could say I was different, I did the same thing most children do when they grow up, I pushed away that instinct because of adulthood responsibilities and my perceived reality.
Reality? What does that even mean? To some, maybe reality equates to a steady job with a spouse and 2.5 children. To me? My reality of a budding career in corporate America was constantly at war with my buried, tucked-away dreams. The ‘what-if’s’ persistently pounded on that wall of possibility and wouldn’t go away. Until one day, my dreams just gave in…and won. I let go and allowed myself to be guided by non-financially secure ideas and choices of uncertainty. Scary as it was, it was absolutely and perfectly terrifying – in as positive a way as it can be.
So off I went…and here I am. At the beginning of one of the most important years of my life.
My first stop: the mighty United Kingdom!
Oh, the UK. I have an ongoing love/hate relationship with this place. I love the culture in London, the style, the way there’s always a new place to see, the super organized way people line up for the tube, my wonderful friends and boyfriend…but the weather. The god-awful weather. That I could do without.
Maybe it was because I was in an office most days while I was living here back in 2009, being a wide-eyed tourist in a new city, or the fact that I had a suitcase full of warm clothes, but I definitely don’t remember cursing the weather as much as I did this time around. When I packed for this ‘world trip’, my (very naïve) thought was that it was summer in Europe and my backpack wouldn’t need more than a few sundresses and flip-flops. Not one, single pair of close-toed shoes. Big mistake. Huge. (Name that movie)
While it’s not unbearable, it’s pretty difficult to wear t-shirts and open-toed shoes in 40-50 degree weather. For those of you who have been unlucky enough to see me in the UK wearing the same thing every day, I apologize. I’ve been breaking out my creative abilities (which are, at best, quite limited) and trying to mix and match my existing wardrobe in an effort to remain moderately warm. In more cases than not, I fail miserably; either because I look completely ridiculous, or because my teeth are still chattering from the cold.
And now, it’s as if the weather gods are really just picking on me. Just before I arrived, it was warm and sunny. Now that I’m leaving today for Spain, the sun is shining and birds are chirping. Curse you, weather gods. Curse you.
Other than the weather, I have very few complaints. My path has crossed some incredibly wonderful people, both new and old, during my times in London. Though it probably shouldn’t, it always surprises me when I catch up with old friends and it’s just like it was 10, 5, or even 3 years ago. We laugh until our stomachs hurt, and they always make the effort to spend time together – despite most of them being uber successful, master-of-the-universe types. That’s what makes me happy. I’ve somehow found the balance between friends who are genuine and true, yet intelligent and stimulating. Boy, did I hit the jackpot.
Friends are like stars. You don’t always see them, but they are always there.
And now, something so important that it warrants it’s own paragraph in my blog. Let me take a minute to talk to you about Burger and Lobster. Only the most incredible feast I have had the pleasure of dining on in the UK. Picture this: a massive and sweet succulent WHOLE lobster (maybe 2 pounds in weight). A large tin of perfectly salted French fries. A side salad glazed with the most exquisite salad dressing. And finally, Garlic Drawn Butter. This little platter fit for the heavens for the bargain price of 20 pounds! TWENTY POUNDS STERLING! A most incredible deal. Kudos to Bertha for finding this little gem and making the sun shine a little brighter in my world that glorious day.
Fast forward to the long weekend. I spent Memorial Day weekend in Northern Ireland – one day in Belfast and the rest of the time in the Moy, a small village in Tyrone. In Belfast, we toured the area where the Titanic was built and we saw the Titanic Studios. Here’s a little known factoid: who knew that (A) the Titanic Studio was owned by Tom Hanks, and (B) Game of Thrones is filmed there? We also learned about the troubles between the North and South, passed far too many bombed and abandoned buildings, and saw loads of the giant street murals reminiscent of Wynwood, except with significantly more purpose. But I have to say, shamefully, my favorite part of Belfast had the be the tents set up in front of something that looked like City Hall; tents filled with food stalls from Germany, France, Spain, Poland…you name it. The incredible smells of fresh delicacies were enough to cause an aroma overload. I broke down, practically drooling, and happily handed over my money for the most amazing coconut macaroons. I think they were Belgian.
Now I know why everything related to the Irish is always green – the country is overflowing with rolling green hills and scenery like a Sound of Music movie set. Cows, horses and sheep were just hanging around in the pasture’s next to Jonathan’s mom’s house. Castles hidden by cherry blossom trees. I HIGHLY recommend a visit to Northern Ireland if you want a tranquil break from the city life. It doesn’t get any more relaxing.
We also had a mini-Busan/Edinburgh reunion when 3 of Jonathan’s friends came up from Ireland. It was great for everyone to get together again, and we had a lot of laughs! The weather was uncommonly warm, and we spent an entire afternoon at an outside bar, having a few drinks, catching up, and the guys reminiscing about old times. It was lovely to see Jono in his element and having such a great time with his best friends…(even if we never did get around to play that round of Trivial Pursuit).
In rather breaking news in my world, this past Saturday was an EPIC day. I’m talking pee-your-pants-with-excitement EPIC. Wait for it….wait for it…..WE WENT TO THE HARRY POTTER WARNER BROTHERS STUDIO TOUR!!!! As if we weren’t lucky enough to be going, THIS PAST WEEKEND the set animals made a guest appearance! I made sure to give ole Hedwig and Fang a squeeze from you guys.
And now, at this very moment, I’m on the airplane to one of the world’s most beloved cities: Barcelona! I’ve secured a hostel that looks more like a boutique hotel, for the bargain price of $25 a night. And I’ve been fortunate enough to meet a few people over the course of the last few days who gave me some great suggestions on things to do, places to see, etc.
So here’s to buckling up and getting ready for that ride we call life. Already, the days ahead seem to hold a promise I hadn’t been lucky enough to experience before. The promise of a life well lived, curiosities explored and unapologetic of a path not yet created.
Let me leave you with a quote that always seems to stir something within me, and aptly appropriate for this moment:
“‘What’ and ‘if’: two words as nonthreatening as words come. But put them together, side-by-side, and they have the power to haunt you for the rest of your life.”