Sometimes it can be hard to remember that there are people everywhere, living and breathing, every day, going about their lives just like you and I. I always imagine a world far beyond my microcosm, but I never truly grasp what exactly is out there until I experience for myself.
As I pack I first think of everything I don’t need, thinking back to my previous experiences abroad and remembering what I never wore. I grab a hold of my Lonely Planet: London 2020 and scour the book for any advice on clothing.
“Fashion is big in London but eclectic so you’re unlikely to stand out whatever you wear”
That’s not direction. I am more confused than ever sitting in front of my two empty suitcases very well knowing I will try to pack my entire closet to not only be fashionable, but eclectic too. What are people wearing over there? Will I appear plain? Or will I be too overdressed? Maybe London is the perfect place to debut the clothes I’ve never worn here just sitting in my closet. Or is that a waste of space? What if I have the perfect shirt sitting here in my closet for any specific day in London and I leave it here? If only I knew what they were wearing???
Clothes. The people in London are wearing clothes just like ordinary people in Los Angeles, or Sydney, or Quito, or anywhere else in the world really where the socially accepted norm of wearing some form of clothes is adhered to for the most part. There is no stopping the flood of random speculations I generate as I fixate on trivial matters such as what clothes I am going to pack. This happens every time I travel and I know it’s not the clothes that get under my skin. The clothes are merely symbolic of what I am taking and what I am leaving behind. The clothes I leave belong to my microcosm. They are unattainable for the amount of time I will be gone. Everything that fits within the two suitcases I am bringing are what come along with me on this new adventure. It’s the sweatshirt I’ll go the wrong direction on the tube in or the ankle boots I’ll visit Buckingham Palace wearing. What’s with me is what I will be experiencing London with and with the clothes being inanimate I come to the realization that what I will be experiencing for myself will be by myself.
I study abroad again and again because I love traveling, but every time the plane touches down in a new location there is always a split second where I am just completely and utterly terrified. I know there is so much in store for me in London. That fear dissipates knowing this with an understanding that I will hop over to become a human who walks around eight hours ahead of the other humans from where I came. The people who I know are in that part of the world [London] but push it to the back of my mind will now be the people circulating around me. We will be living and breathing and experiencing all together like I never have before and that will only be because I am physically there. The excitement is setting in, so much so I can’t contain it.
I met a little girl who was four while waiting at the security checkpoint. I’m standing there anxiously holding all of my important documents and she talks about rainbows and “doggies” while occasionally her “mum” (as we have delved into the world of British English) reminds her not to be so “cheeky”. Those little connections are what I can neither attain from a television, travel magazine, or even my own imagination. I anticipate moments like these, moments where a least likely source begins my journey into unfamiliarity.
I scan my plane I hear the echoes in the air of people saying “home”. London will be my home for the next 6 months. So, yeah, moving to a new place in another part of the world can seem terrifying, but that that fear is overwhelmed by the sensational feeling of purely existing with those I haven’t before. It’s overwhelmed by the connections I make ─ whether it be with a curious four old or a taxi cab driver ─ that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I have found myself to be more uncomfortable in place than when I am out of place. London is out of place, which means someday soon I’ll be comfortable.
This semester I will be studying at King’s College London. This will be my third and final study abroad in my undergraduate career having previously studied at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito and The Australian National University.