I leave for the UK this week.
Seems I was preparing for another transatlantic journey this time last year.
Oh, wait. I was — almost to the day.
Last year, I flew to Paris.
A year later, this Thursday, I'll be getting on a direct flight to Amsterdam, where I'll transfer the next morning to Edinburgh and eventually fly back out of London.
Last year, I thought a trip would change my life. I traveled alone because I couldn't imagine a better travel partner than myself. In the end, I spent most of my savings on shabby hotels and mediocre meals, wandering aimlessly through the city I imagined I'd fall head-over-heels in love with. I was petrified of getting too lost in a tangle of streets that felt more like alleys, or being taken advantage of by some smooth-talking Parisian. (That almost happened a few times.)
To make matters worse, my flatiron shorted out in one of those crazy continental power outlets.
I was disappointed in the city of my dreams, my sanity saved by Skype and my trusty laptop.
(And the life changing actually happened the day after I returned, when the Knight and I stayed up all night talking, laughing and essentially falling in love. We've been inseparable since then.)
And then there's London. Which has never been the city of my dreams. The only other time I visited the United Kingdom, I was disappointed. To say the least. I was 14 years old, shunned by the other high-school freshmen I was traveling with, stymied by the second "toilet" in every bathroom that spewed water upward, sick to death of churches and history after a few days, rapidly losing weight from the terrible food. On my one free afternoon, I navigated the Tube like a pro, but there was nowhere I wanted to go.
So I'm managing my expectations.
But this year, I'm traveling for work, and the stops have officially been pulled out. I'm traveling with a group of Master Gardeners from Orange County, California. We'll stay in four-star hotels and visit the great gardens of the United Kingdom. (Want to read more on the gardening side of things while I'm gone? My work blog is here.)
I have my evenings free and have been researching restaurants and sights to see in my down time. Gordon Ramsay? Brick Lane? Piccadilly Circus? West End? Harrods? Yes, please. The only time I will spend my own money: shopping. And one fancy meal.
I bought a better power converter. My flatiron will not fry. Not this time.
The best thing that came out of last year's trip: a month of inspired writing and 67 glorious photos that now all but cover the walls of my apartment. Sparkling memories of a lackluster trip.
Who knows what this year's trip will bring.
Take me to the airport
And put me on a plane
I got no expectations
To pass through here again