I have arrived!

So I’m finally here! After almost a year of anticipating this, I can’t believe it’s actually happening. I’ll be honest, the week before I was starting to get the doubts again. I missed going back to Elon a lot and all these what ifs were running through my mind. But all those doubts were pushed away as soon as I saw the sun rising over London out the window of the plane. Talk about surreal. I just stared out the window for about an hour with probably the most ridiculous grin on my face. I couldn’t contain myself, and kept smacking Clinton out of excitement. I felt like this trip was something that I had been planning for so long but was never going to happen, and then suddenly I was on a plane about to begin a new chapter in my life, one that will probably be the best of them all. We left Newark around 7pm (after a gate change and a delay) and landed in London at 6:45am, London time. Of course I couldn’t sleep at all on the plane. I settled instead for 3 cups of coffee. Once we got here, our advisors told us not to sleep today because that will throw us off schedule. By time I go to bed tonight, I’ll probably have been up for about 30 hours.

London from the plane!

We moved into our flats this morning. I’m living in a 4 person flat, which is actually a penthouse flat, and the only one that’s two stories. Pretty sweet. The flats are in an upscale (or posh, as the English say) residential area called Little Venice. There are canals lined with pubs, cafes and bakeries. It’s so pretty. Oh and did I mention Jude Law lives down the street from us? The weather here has been amazing today. It’s sunny and in the 60s, perfect end of summer weather. After lugging our suitcases into the flats (and dealing with quite possibly the smallest elevator I’ve ever seen) me, Sarah, Clinton and Lina decided to go get cell phones. We went to Carphone Warehouse (yes they still call them carphones) and got these super tiny phones that are cheap, but get the job done. Unfortunately though, I can only communicate with people over here. 😦 We made friends with the British man at the phone store who thought it was just so cool that we were his age. He also told us he loved our accents. Ha! I love British accents. I’m so fascinated when I hear people speak. It’s also interesting to hear the different terminology they use (surname instead of last name, autograph instead of signature). After getting our phones we went to check out some of the markets and grocery stores and just got some basic food items for lunch this week. Nothing too exciting, everyone is pretty jet lagged (surprisingly I’m not) so tomorrow will be our discovering the neighborhood day. We have a group meeting at 4:30 today and then we’ll probably go to dinner somewhere. I’ll keep you updated, this week will be pretty busy!

UPDATE: Just had my first dinner in London. We went to this cute cafe right on the canal in Little Venice! It was so pretty. And the food was good too (so it’s not true that all the food is bad in London haha). And we ordered our first drinks since we’re legal here! Don’t freak out Mom and Dad, it was just a glass of wine- Chardonnay! Mmm overall, it was a successful dining experience!

View from our table at the restaurant

I did it!

I am finally packed. And I managed to fit everything into 2 suitcases and 1 carry on duffel bag. If you know me, you know how big of an accomplishment that is. It was a very stressful process. I sat on the floor in my room for a good 20 minutes just staring at everything I had to bring and wondering how the heck it was going to fit and still manage to comply with the 50 lbs airline weight limit. However, 5 hours and 10 trips to the scale later, I was finished! Such a relief. Except I still feel like I’m forgetting something….

I’m currently sitting in the airport now waiting for my flight to CT where I’ll be spending the week before London visiting friends. I had to say goodbye to my siblings last night (they weren’t going to wake up at 5am to see me off…I don’t blame them) and my parents this morning. It’s a strange feeling knowing you won’t be seeing your family for 3 and a half months. Normally when I head back to Elon I know I’ll see them in a month or so but I’ve never been away for this long. I’ll miss them a lot but I know I’ll be fine.

I can’t believe the summer is already over and before I know it I’ll be living abroad. A lot changed this summer, and I thought I would be at a very different point in my life than I am now. But oh well, life goes on, people change and we can never predict what’s going to happen next. It was a good summer though, filled with lots of family time and fun vacations. I feel like this summer just flew by though and now I’m afraid my time abroad will be over in the blink of an eye too.

Ok well we’re about to board so next time you hear from me I’ll probably be across the pond!

It’s Always Sunny In LA. Really, it is.

So 2 days ago I got back from an amazing vacation in Los Angeles. I don’t even know where to start, so let’s talk about how obsessed I am with the weather there. I may live in the South, but goodness I hate the weather here, so it was no surprise that I loved LA’s never humid, always sunny, 70 degree weather. I think I saw maybe one cloud in the sky the whole time? It’s so amazing. A few mornings I was tricked into thinking it was going to be overcast but then I realized it was just the smog, which lifted soon after to reveal a vivid blue sky. Love it.

If this sky isn't perfect, I don't know what is

Being a total tourist, I took over 600 pictures of the many places we visited. (If you’re friends with me on facebook, you should go see the 200 I managed to narrow them down to.) And boy did we do a lot. I’m talking up early every morning with full days lasting until at least midnight. We did the typical tourist things- Santa Monica, Hollywood, Rodeo Dr, a studio tour (which included being 5 feet from Brad Pitt filming his new film, Moneyball), museums, an Angels baseball game, and driving around in Malibu, Beverly Hills and Bel Air to see the gorgeous houses! I have to say I definitely fell in love with LA and California in general. There’s just so much going on there and I want to be a part of it! It’s no wonder it’s so expensive to live out there. But now being added to my bucket list is renting a convertible and driving up the coast of Cali with a friend or someone I love.

Last picture I took of the Hollywood sign before we almost got arrested for trespassing

I also had the opportunity to go with my parents to one of the parties my Dad’s company throws for the top advisors in his business. The theme was Hollywood Goes Bollywood and I definitely felt like a celebrity! Or an indian, maybe. There were 3 rooms full of amazing Indian and “Hollywood” food, Indian dancers, henna artists, photo booths, sari and turban outfitting stations, belly dancers with pythons and an open bar which led to a dance floor full of the most drunk middle aged people I’d ever seen. Oh and of course everything was free. Best. Party. Ever.

The Main Party Hall

One of the best things about the trip was getting to see my cousins I hadn’t seen in a long time. They came on most of our day trip excursions (even brought along some more friends too) and while hilariously dysfunctional (lots of yelling in heavy New York accents, the 10 year old stealing my phone to text people without my knowledge, almost getting killed multiple times a day in LA traffic, and my cousin’s friend ordering 8 ice cream sundaes without anyone’s knowledge) it was probably the most fun I’ve had in a while. It was so nice to get out of Hickory and spend time with people I love and don’t get to see that often. Being there made me more happy than I have been in a while too. It was like everything was more exciting in LA. It sounds cliche but it’s true. Really, it is.

“To travel is worth any cost or sacrifice”

I love to travel. Two of my passions in life are traveling and photography, and lucky for me, those go hand in hand.  So, since I will be doing a lot of traveling in the next 3 months, I have decided to write a blog about it. That way people back home can catch up with what I’m doing and I don’t have to repeat all the stories over and over. In the next 3 weeks, a lot of my time will be spent in airports or in the car. Let me just give you my schedule: I am currently on a plane to Los Angeles, where I will be for a week. Then 2 days after I get home, I leave to go to Chapel Hill to move my sister into college and then 2 days after that I fly to Connecticut to visit friends. And after a week of that I’ll be on a plane to London for 3 months! So this gives me 4 days of free time this month. Wow. And while I’ll have been on 6 different planes, been in 6 different states, 10 cities and 2 countries over the course of 3 short weeks, the thought of that doesn’t tire me out at all. In fact it excites me probably more than it should. I would rather live a fast paced life where I just go, go, go rather than staying in one place for long.

Notice the title of this post. I’m currently reading the book “Eat, Pray, Love,” a story about a woman who spends a year living in Italy, India and Indonesia to rediscover herself. I thought this was an appropriate book to read before I set off to live in Europe for 3 months. As I’m reading it, I’ve found it has a lot of insight in it that has kind of hit home with me. Especially when the author writes “to travel is worth any cost or sacrifice.” Studying abroad is something I’ve always wanted to do, and when I got to college, I didn’t think twice about applying for the London program. I was ecstatic when I found out I got accepted into the program (only 39 students get chosen) and to make things even better, 2 of my best friends are going with me! As time went on though, I began to doubt my decision. My friends and I had weighed the options and chosen to go fall semester, but suddenly I wondered if I had made the right choice. Going in the fall meant I was going to miss the excitement of coming back to Elon and seeing all my friends in the fall, all the fun beginning of school activities at Elon, the football games and most importantly Thanksgiving with my family (it seemed weird to be spending Thanksgiving in the country we had basically run from. Hey at least it’s not 4th of July…) Oh and it didn’t help that I was dating a guy who I found out (after I’d made my decision) was graduating in December. A long distance relationship didn’t seem so fun. I started praying there was a way I could switch to go in the spring so I could spend Thanksgiving with my family and have one more semester with my boyfriend. Lame, I know. Summer rolled around and for the first month I was still regretting my decision. I didn’t really share these doubts with anyone other than my parents. Deep down, I knew I was being stupid, but I didn’t realize it until about a month later. Halfway through June, my boyfriend and I broke up. I was crushed but in a way, it took some of that doubt away. I became more excited to go to London because now I didn’t have to feel like I was leaving someone. There was still that little twinge of doubt though. And then I started reading the book and I realized just how stupid I was being. It hit me like a ton of bricks. “Julia, you’re about to embark on the best 3 months of your life. You’ll never have this experience again.” That little voice inside of me was right. When else would I have the opportunity to live in Europe?? Most likely never.  Everything I was so worried about giving up suddenly seemed so small. To travel is worth ANY cost or sacrifice. Yes, there are things I’m going to have to give up but they are a small price to pay for the experience I have ahead of me. I began to see everything in a new light. Spending Thanksgiving in London is still going to be kind of weird (apparently they don’t have normal stuffing over there? Oh noo!) but I’ll get to cook my own Thanksgiving for the first time. Better to get it out of the way now rather than when I’m married and have to cook for the whole family. Ha! And I think I can give up Elon’s football games in exchange for Oktoberfest in Germany!  I also realized that I didn’t need to worry about the friends I was leaving, because if people really care about me, they’ll still be there when I get back. About the cost part of the quote, obviously money was a factor in my doubt too. I have a savings account that I haven’t touched because I was saving for the future (no plans, I just figured I’d know when to use it), and I realized that almost all of that would go to my travel while abroad. I worried if that was smart. I thought about college loans and expenses when I graduate. But luckily God has blessed with a job this summer where I make some pretty awesome money (lets just say a large majority of my weekly checks can each cover a weekend trip in Europe somewhere). I realized that the money I’ve worked so hard to earn and save is going to go to something I love. I know that this is that special thing I had been waiting for. And if I feel that it’s worth using all that money, you can be sure I will! I’m confident that God will continue to provide for me as long as I continue to work hard and do what I love.  I truly do believe that to do what you love is worth any cost or sacrifice, and no one should give that up for anything or anyone.

With love from 30,000 feet above you,

Julia

Oh and p.s. if you didn’t figure it out, I’m now super excited to go to London and am counting the days!