As life goes, things don’t always work out as planned. Sometimes, things go really, really wrong, especially when embarking on a journey when you’re young. I had a bit of one of those experiences when I travelled to the U.K. with my friend Lexi last weekend.
Initially, we had planned to go to Galway, Ireland to visit one of Lexi’s friends who is studying abroad there. We then decided to split up the weekend and stop in London first, where another friend of Lexi’s, Ben, offered to let us stay with him. This required lots of meticulous and stressful planning. We would take an overnight bus to London (which goes under the English Channel), take a plane to Shannon Airport in Ireland, a bus to Galway, then a cab back to the airport, plane back to London, and another bus back to Paris…. Something was bound to go wrong with such a hectic itinerary. And it did.
Thursday Night: About an hour of sleep was had on the bus ride overnight to London. Lexi and I are always finding something to laugh about, so we talked and giggled most of the night instead of trying to snooze.
Friday: We arrived in London at 5:00 am, where we were dumped somewhat unceremoniously onto the rainy street. Nothing was open at all, and with no means of transportation (since the tube was closed), we wandered the streets until we saw a cab and flagged him down frantically.
“Is there anything at all open?” I asked the driver tentatively as we climbed into the car.
Apparently, McDonalds is the only thing that is open at 5:00 am in London. Never again will I be so excited to see the golden M in my life.
After waiting in McDonalds until a decent enough time to show up at Ben’s doorstep, we found the tube and then Ben’s apartment building (after a couple of faulty tries). We dragged our stuff into his room, hit the floor to sleep for about an hour, then headed off into the city. We got to see lots of really cool monuments, such as Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey. We even got tickets for the London Eye and got an aerial view of the city! That night, we went to the Cheshire Cheese, an authentic English pub where people such as Mark Twain and Charles Dickens were known to be regulars in their time. After dinner, we went out to experience London’s exciting nightlife and returned home 3:30am.
Saturday: Despite lack of sleep, we woke up at 6:00 am as planned and headed to the tube to catch our flight to Shannon. Unfortunately, the tube is much slower than the Paris metro, and we missed our train to get the the airport on time by about 30 seconds. We took the next train to get to the airport and got there 15 minutes before takeoff… We had missed our flight! Three hours of travel time wasn’t enough to get us on the plane. After evaluating our options, we decided that the cheapest option was to stay in London even though our plane tickets and overnight reservations would go to waste. The rest of the day was spent scrambling to get what was, I’m sure, the last hostel open that night, waiting for trains, and going to the wrong hostel and having to backtrack across town. The night started looking up when we found a really good Indian place for dinner and a perfect authentic English pub where all of the locals go. We ended up having a really good conversation with two American guys that we found there!
Sunday: We left two hours in advance to get to our bus stop about six stops away (something that takes about seven minutes in Paris) and just barely made it onto the bus on time due to closed tube stops. We slept most of the ride home. I don’t think either of us was happier to get on the bed-smelling-yet-fast-as-lightning Paris metro on our return home.
So, lesson learned. When in a country where you’re not familiar with the transportation systems, leave more than enough time to get to where you’re going. Despite all of the catastrophes that happened on the trip, I’ll still look back fondly on it as an adventure. For one, English people are extremely kind and helpful. There were numerous times when we looked lost and people came up to us to ask us if we needed help. A man even offered to carry my suitcase up the tube steps for me! You don’t find much of that in Paris; the people here are much more reserved and not generally known for their friendliness.
One of the best things that came out of this, though, was that we learned to stay positive in the face of defeat. There were so many things that went wrong, but not once did we snap at each other or break down into tears. In situations like these, the best thing to do is just to accept that there’s not much you can do but remain calm and figure out what the next step is. Luckily, I was travelling with a fantastic person who doesn’t get angry very easily! Travelling is one of the best things in the world, but it can be very stressful when things aren’t going as planned. When things go wrong, tell yourself, “C’est la vie!” and stay in London an extra night.