I booked my solo trip to London almost 2 months ago and as it drew nearer I had serious doubts about what I was doing and why. My original motivation was that I needed a little break from my husband. We had hit a rough patch and I just wanted to get away. But once we got through that and came out stronger than ever, I still felt the need to do a little solo traveling, and to my surprise and delight, KP was all for it! I realized that my much larger motivation for wanting to travel solo was that we had spent so much time lately traveling together and doing it as a team, that I had forgotten what I would choose to do if I was traveling just on my own. What kind of things am I really interested in and what kind of things do I do just to appease my travel partner? As a full time travel couple, we find that sometimes we do stuff that neither of us really wants to do to avoid doing stuff that only one of us wants to do... stupid right? This would be a chance for me to reset and remember where my interests and heart actually lie, which should be really good for both of us in the long run!
But as the trip drew near the doubts continued and I had trouble even getting excited because I felt like it was such a ridiculous thing to be doing. What was I trying to prove and to whom? And why was it so important that I do it by myself? But when I stepped off the plane and slung my Osprey backpack over my shoulder, I felt a rush of excitement and independence I hadn't felt in so long! And as the express train pulled into Victoria Station I couldn't stop grinning and laughing out of pure joy (also exhaustion I was going on about 2 hours sleep in the last 24 with no immediate rest in site). I was intimidated by the Underground transit system but with the help of Google Maps and the friendly Underground staff, I made it to my hostel with no problems and enough time to sit and enjoy a celebratory Guinness! Part of my travel stress came from the fact I had tickets at 2pm for The Cursed Child (The continuation of the Harry Potter series performed in two parts in the West End) so I only had about 4 hours between my plane landing and curtain… and did I mention the serious lack of sleep?!
For the next six days, I wandered around London seeing things I had missed on my first trip 10 years ago with my mom, and visiting some things for a second time. As I explored, I began to understand why people enjoy solo travel and how it can make you feel even more connected to a place. When you don’t have someone with you to talk to and depend on, you spend more time looking around you and relying on the city itself to guide you. My hostel was in an awesome location on the NE corner of Hyde Park, just a 45 minute beautiful walk to Westminster and Big Ben, or a less than 30 minute train ride to just about anywhere else in the city. Most mornings I walked to my first destination to stretch my legs and see some of the beauty and excitement London would have to offer, or I would take the train most of the way and get out a couple stops early so I could still get some walking in.
KP asked me to describe what it was about London that I liked so much and it’s really hard to put into words, but here’s what I’ve come up with. When you walk somewhere in London, you will pass buildings that are brand new, 50 years old, 100 years old, and then some that are as much as 500 years old, all in the span of about a block. You will also pass people speaking English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Arabic, and Hindi within that same block. London is the most diverse and exciting city I have ever been in, and it never ceases to provide me with something to look at or listen to.
Here are some of the highlights of things that I did while I was in London. I plan to write a
“travel guide” sometime in the next couple weeks that details a little more of my day to day travels in a kind of sightseeing tour form that could provide people with some exciting ideas for their own trip to London. I’ll also include some of the tips that helped me so much!
The Cursed Child: If you are a Harry Potter fan and also a fan of theatre, then this is a no brainer! This 8th story in the series is told in two parts and follows the events that happen immediately after the epilogue at the end of book 7. I chose to see both parts in one day so I saw Part 1 at the 2pm matinee and Part 2 at the 7:30pm evening performance. This piece of theatre is just plain incredible. The director mixes music and choreography into his scene changes and to help show the passage of time in such an amazing way, then throw on top of that all the “magic” that this show requires and it is just an amazing thing to watch. The performances were so good as well, especially the adult versions of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. These actors played the characters with such sincerity and honesty you would believe they had just stopped off the pages of the book. I was slightly delirious from exhaustion when I saw this, but believe me it was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had in a theatre!
The Churchill War Rooms: This look at the underground world that Churchill and his staff lived in during World War II is so incredible. Many of the rooms are left untouched since they were vacated at the end of the war, and you can see papers left out, coffee mugs still sitting on desks. It’s really incredible to get a look into this world where many people spent years of their life. The museum devoted to Churchill’s life and his efforts in the war is really incredible as well.
The British Museum: If you’ve ever wanted to see The Rosetta Stone, 5,000 year old mummies, or a head from Easter Island, well you can find them all in one convenient place here. I was so overwhelmed by this museum and its contents, including many artifacts from sites we had visited including the Acropolis and Ephesus.
The Tower of London: I had visited this on my last trip, but this will always be worth a visit in my opinion. Standing in the same room that Anne Boleyn was held in before her execution, or looking at the armor worn by centuries of royalty, in a place that has been standing for almost 1,000 years is just awe-inspiring.
In conclusion, I would highly suggest that everyone travel alone at some point. It is good for the soul. You will find you connect with the place your seeing in a very different way, relying on the locals and on your own instincts to get you where you want to go. It may be intimidating at first, but I think that it is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. That being said, I missed my husband terribly and was so happy to see him when he picked me up at the airport! I can’t wait to spend the next 8 months with him on the road!