It’s so refreshing to meet other backpackers. It’s such a welcome reminder that this is a completely normal thing to do.
By the time I left America, I was pretty frustrated with every person around me. I was so tired of hearing people tell me I’m crazy for doing this, stupid for quitting my job and asking what I’m going to do when I get back. I’m 24-years-old. I have my entire life ahead of me. Why can’t I take three months to see a little part of this world that I don’t have much time on? Three months is such a small part of my life.
But meeting other backpackers here, no one really asks me what I’m going to do when I get back. They just say’ “Oh, you’re here for three months? I’m here for five.” They think it’s cool that I left my big city job to travel – although many are jealous of the job I left!
While most Americans we’ve met don’t seem to be backpacking for quite as long as we are, the Aussies travel even longer! We met one girl who traveled for nine months around the world and is now back to do a three month stint in Europe. Another is currently traveling for eight months.
Meet Mel, the endlessly sweet Aussie who stayed in our room at Generator Hostel in London. She’s from Perth and became our best friend. She just arrived in Europe and is traveling for five months. And her job is letting her come back! I couldn’t believe it. I don’t think any U.S. company would let an employee leave for five months and come back to their job. Hey Michael – can I have my job back in September!?
We spent our first night in London hanging out in the hostel getting to know Mel (mostly discussing the differences between Australia and America!) and researching some things to do. Mel is leaving in a week for a Top Deck tour. This is a guided tour that takes her pretty much all over Europe in 28 days. Chelsea and I didn’t want to do something guided because we sort of wanted to try it on our own but we’re realizing it probably would have been cheaper and easier to do something like her. We may still try to get on something like that for maybe our last month but we’re not sure. There is zero plan.
On our first full day in London, we did a hop on hop off bus. I always cringed at these in New York but it was actually a really amazing way to see the city. Chelsea and I were exhausted from walking all over Dublin and London the past three days so it was a convenient way to still sightsee without being exhausting. There was also recorded commentary we listened to so it was nice to learn about what we were seeing instead of just staring at it.
But we struggled to even find the damn thing.
We found one bus but they told us that it was heading to the end so it would make more sense to walk to the next bus stop. We couldn’t figure out where it was so we started walking further to try to find it. Of course the bus drives by. So two American girls and one Aussie start sprinting down the street after it. Sandals flapping, satchels flopping, sweat coming.
I’m sure every Brit we passed was thinking, “Stupid tourists.”
And we didn’t even catch it! So we followed it hoping we’d find the next stop.
Finally one bus stopped at a light next to us and we begged the driver to let us on. He really didn’t want to but we finally convinced him.
The three of us got off at Buckingham Palace to take some photos. And call to Prince Harry 😉
Unfortunately, we had a late start to the day so we missed the changing of the guard. I have actually been to London with family before so I’ve seen it but Chels didn’t get to so that sucked.
We stopped at Kensington Palace to say hello to Will and Kate and went on to Tower Bridge where we got on a free river cruise down the Thames. The guide was hilarious. I definitely recommend a river cruise if you’re heading to London!
There were three older Aussie women behind us in line for the river cruise who were traveling for three months as well. They were probably in their 70s. I was so impressed that they were traveling for so long! I hope I’m still exploring the world at their age.
That night we went out with Mel to find a London pub. It was a Monday night so nothing was really open. That’s been a strange difference in Europe so far. I’m so used to New York, the city that never sleeps, and I’m finding here that everything closes early.
We ended up talking to some Brits on the street who told us about a pub that was open so we headed there with them. It was a fun night of dancing that ended with Burger King where we met more Brits on the street that we chatted with for awhile.
The next morning Chelsea woke up quite sick so she spent the morning resting while Mel and I checked out Platform 9 3/4. I finally found my Hogwarts letter! See ya later Muggles.
Our last night in London, Mel and I headed to Brick Lane, a street famous for their Indian restaurants, while Chelsea went back to try to sleep off more of her sickness. Mackayla, another Aussie, joined us as well. She’s traveling for eight months on a round the world ticket! Check out her blog to learn more.
Walking down Brick Lane, each restaurant hounded us to come inside. “A bottle of wine, entrees, rice and bread for 10 pounds!” “If you walk away and come back it’s 11 pounds!”
But Mel, being the excellent barterer she is, knew she could do better so we kept walking. We ended up at Brick Lane Brasserie which several sites called the best spot on Brick Lane and got two bottles of wine, appetizers, entrees, rice and bread for 10 pounds each. Not bad!
We spent the meal discussing more of the differences between the U.S. and Australia. Have you heard of the Bali bombings? The girls said it was a large terrorist attack on Aussie tourists in Bali but I don’t remember ever learning anything about it. They knew all about the U.S. civil war but I didn’t know a thing about their history. It was honestly pretty embarrassing.
Chels and I were sad to leave London not because of the city but because of the friends we made. Mel instantly become our best friend and Mackayla and Asher, another Aussie, were really sweet, too. We all exchanged Facebook contacts so hopefully we can meet up again along this crazy journey.
Now we are leaving Brussels! We’re moving fast so try to keep up 😉