The Americans Have Landed

We have left the confines of sardine life in a tin airplane and stepped into the hustle and bustle of London. Once we departed the airport, we purchased a train ride on the Gatwick Express. The train was packed, so stood watching over our packs while Big Al sat being lulled asleep by the rolls of the wheels. 

Approximately 30 minutes later, we arrived at Victoria Station. It was a sensory overload. People moving in every which direction, smells from a variety of sources, weirdly the main smell was macaroni and cheese, bright flashing lights!!! I am not sure I can paint a picture with words because my ADD clouded my perspective. I will return to the busy station tomorrow on our way to the theater, so I will be more prepared to absorb the environment and possibly take some photos.

After shuffling through different tube tunnels, we made our way to Marble Gate and collided with a cold rainy mix. We attempted to navigate with umbrellas, but the wind and juggling Google maps proved frustrating. We resorted to the only true American sanctuary (read that with a sarcastic overtone) McDonalds. I needed reliable WiFi. Mom needed coffee, and we both needed a restroom. Our McDonalds refuge allowed the rain to pass and Google maps to supply us directions to our B&B. 

We met the building manager, Khalil. She (I totally thought  with the name it was a boy, wrong) walked us through the small but perfectly poss space near Hyde Park. We have the essentials: shower, toilet, bed, and kitchen basics. Mom caught a cat nap while I prepped research on my mini iPad to explore our new hood for dinner and groceries.

We stumbled around the streets getting lost in the old world architecture. Mom and I agreed a pub would be the perfect start to London. We picked The Portman! A picture perfect corner spot for local families needing a hot meal or business men popping in for a pint. The menu had savory English classics. We picked smoked tomato soup with creme freshe and shared a chicken and leek pie. The warmth was the prefect meal to warm two wind-blown travelers. 

After dinner, my mom and I each reached our 10,000 step daily FitBit challenge, which is approximately 5 miles. I am certain that four of those miles were with our packs. I am hoping to loose some weight on this vaca! Walk it out!!! Side note: I am currently in a weight lose group with some friends; I am using the luggage scale at airports for my weigh-ins! 

Then we kicked it to the equivalent of Whole Foods called Waitrose. We loaded up on breakfast items, snacks, and picked our some delicious soups for lunch or dinner. For eight breakfasts, dried fruits and nuts, soup, bread, and cheesecake (a sweet treat to celebrate our first night of our trip) was just under $50 USD. It is truly worth buying one or two meals in a grocery store to save money. It adds up quickly. Especially when the English Pound is stronger than the United States Dollar. When you try to save money then you can splurge on excursions. Like tomorrow’s day of riding the tubes and the theater! 

An Open Letter to Airlines

Dear Airline Companies, 

As a traveler, I would not say that I am expert or seasoned, but I am a paying costumer who works tirelessly to save my teacher pennies to plan trips for holiday. This holiday is a spectacular adventure for me and my mom. We started planning six month ago, scheduled flights, found the best deals for excursions, and still was meet with a disgruntled flight attendant. How can open person’s annoyance in her chosen profession disrupt the positive energy of the 60 and Doc backpacking adventure?

As we boarded the plan, we were surrounded by the Biosteel Elite Canadian 16-18 basketball team. The tallest player was 6’11” and the shortest was 6’2″. It comprised of the top 25 athletes from Canada. Each player had two to three new pairs of Nikes with boxes and had just finished an unsuccessful tournament in Atlanta. They were BIG boys and their bags and equipment were large, too. 

My little ol’ mom and I were the last seat before the bathroom leaving NO overhead storage room. The lovely flight attendant, let’s call her Linda, was less than excited to help with our luggage. Rude does not begin to describe the level of sass she was delivering to me and my packs.

As I was escorted to first class, not for a complementary upgrade and additional flight attendant, Stephen, was more than happy to make room for our belongings. So my note to airlines is rid your companies of people who don’t enjoy the company of strangers. These strangers spend enormous amounts of money to ride in your uncomfortable planes with loud engines to escape to a new destination. Your employees are the first faces of people’s holidays, a smile and helpful hand go a long way!

Listen, Linda…I am not going to hold it against you or let you ruin what is going to be an amazing adventure, but word to the wise…JUST BE NICE!


P.S. The letter was typed on May 30th. We have officially landed in London and have met with our AirBnB flat owner! We are getting showers and about to take off and discover our little nook of Hyde Park Square! 

33 is around the corner…

Tomorrow is the day that I have been counting down to and it is not because it is my 33rd birthday. Tomorrow, May 30th begins my next travel adventure. I have packed my backpack. It is weighing in just under 25 pounds, lighter than my pack to India. I have checked-in online with Delta. Made final arrangements with the B&B in London, and rechecked my check list. I know you can’t prepare for every scenario and there will be bumps along the excursion…but bring it on!

I am certain I will not sleep a wink tonight. It is like Christmas Eve and I am five years old waiting for Santa. My friends anticipated that I would be up until four in the morning packing, but I am ready to roll ONCE my technology is full charged.

Send positive energy as I anticipate long lines in the TSA Security lines at the airport. Check out this article from the Wall Street Journal. Pat me down, search my bags, do want you need to do, just get me to London!

A few nights ago, I relived my China Southern nightmare in a dream form, but it was compounded because I lost my luggage and my passport! Let’s hope this dream does not become a reality. 

Planning Anxiety

In less than 10 days, my mom and I will be heading across the pond to start our 29-day journey! The anticipation of our trip is a mixture of excitement and nervousness. My mom has been anxiously scanning weather apps to pack and prepare for every climate situation. While I have been reviewing my notebook and Google calendar, to organize and reorganize each detail. When we began to plan last December, my mom requested me to secure a nightly stay in a clean bed, all airline tickets, and a timeline of country hopping prior to our departure. I may have got a bit carried away with the planning. I now have a 1-inch binder with nearly all tickets to excursions, museums, and attractions pre-purchased and scheduled, our reservations through Airbnb with clean beds waiting, and travel vouchers by plane, train, boat, and bicycle through our 5 country trip.

I think weekly, if not daily, I sing the praise of Google! I have said in my school that I am going to get a tattoo that says, “I love Google and Greene!” Greene, is Jeni Greene, my school’s Local School Technology Coordinator (LSTC) who introduced me to the unknown world of Google products. From auto-grading test to collected electronic homework from students, it has changed my teaching practices.

BUT for the 60&Doc backpacking trip, Google has been a great tool for organizing and sharing information with my mom. I created an interactive color-coded document that outlines our trips, flights, and activities. My nerdy side has been tickled pink with the outcomes (seen below). The most amazing part of Google is the ability to access the information through my Google Drive. Instead of carrying Silver Maple, my ultra sleek, but heavy MacBook Pro on my trip, I have downloaded the Google Drive app and various programs like Doc, Slides, and Sheets to my mini iPad. The versatile and easy of portability makes my travel plans easily accessed through a swipe of my screen. I know the Google calendar is intense, but I have scheduled a variety of events that are flexible allowing us to explore the towns at our pace and find little-hidden treasures. In addition to the google calendar, I wanted to share some other great travel apps! One more week of school to push through and then bon voyage and hello Europe!!!