Arrivals

The first thing I said when I got off the plane in London’s Heathrow airport was: “Wow. It’s muggy.”

Not very eloquent for an English major, one excited to be in a new city bursting with opportunity. Granted, we’d just spent 10.5 hours in cramped economy seating aboard a chilly 777. But if we thought we were exhausted then (and we were, seeing as how neither of us slept more than 2 hours, if that), it’s nothing compared to how we felt later at our Airbnb. For new users, London’s rail/tube system can be pretty confusing. So when we grabbed our 30 pound, bigger-than-we-are backpacks and finally made our way to a taxi, only to be told it would be £50 to get to Twickenham, I wasn’t excited to have to figure out the transportation system right away.

But figure it out we did. One bus and two trains later, followed by a 20 minute walk in muggy weather as we dripped sweat, we arrived on the doorstep of the cutest English family. The father was away on business, but we got to meet Ashrita and her two children Hazel (7) and Duncan (5). We loved them immediately, along with their quaint home and beds just waiting to be fallen into. After eating banana bread for dinner and passing some time watching Orange is the New Black (I’m now on Season 2 guys!) we fell quickly asleep.

When I was 13, I went to Germany for 2 weeks with my grandmother and aunt. Our first night, we fell asleep easily, but all 3 of us woke up at 5am the next morning. We talked for 2 hours until we felt it was acceptable to get up. Before our flight to London, I joked that the same thing would happen to me.

I jinxed myself.

What did I think was going to happen when I set my alarm for 9? That I’d wake up then, bright eyed and bushy tailed? Yeah, NO. I woke up promptly at 5:36am. I looked at my phone, thinking that it was AT LEAST 8:30 due to the bright light streaming in through the windows. I almost couldn’t believe what time it actually was, but I immediately tried to go back to sleep, with no luck. A bird with a piercing “caw” was right outside, the light was too bright, and to be honest the bed was hard. There was no going back, so I read my book (Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozie Achidie) until 7:30. I’d call that a partial assimilation to London time.

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After a great breakfast by our gracious host (seriously, shoutout to Ashrita) we spent the morning resting up and repacking our bulging backpacks. Ash gave us a ride to the train stop, and we took a rail to a tube stop WHERE WE TOOK THE TUBE. And yes, it was pretty cool. After screwing up the day before, we took the tube to Oxford Circus, a stop near our hostel in Soho. We checked in with no problem, and since we booked a 4 person dorm we found that there are two girls already staying in there, but they’ve been out all day and we haven’t met yet. Our first meal in London was met with success when we tried a tiny pizza place across the street, and we found they use a wood fire oven (the kind I worked with at Blast 825). Afterwards, we walked up and down Oxford Street where a young British man came out of the bank he worked at to ask me why I was taking a picture of this building:

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He proceeded to inform me that there were many more beautiful buildings in London, and when I said, “Well, we don’t have this in the States,” he seemed interested to hear that we didn’t have buildings where we live. Happy to see Londoners have a sense of humor.

Well, we’re off to go find some more food (and maybe a pint?) Tomorrow we plan on going on a free walking tour, which should provide some hilarity. Stay tuned.

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Cheers!

-Kayla

If a Bear Shits in the Woods…

Since Europe is still more than a month away, I figured it would be helpful (and fun! ) to tell some stories about other trips I’ve been on. This one is from the summer after my sophomore year of college. For anybody interested, the program is called Wildland Studies – I highly recommend it!

A drop of rain, cold as ice, manages to find a way inside my tightly zipped jacket, trickling a triumphant path down my spine. As the skies above continue to dump torrents of water on us, more beads of water follow. Water, sweat – at this point I don’t know what it all is; everyone in our group, myself included, is hustling as fast as they can. I’m trekking across the top of a mountain with fifteen other people I’d just met a week and a half before. We’ve all got backpacks of at least 30 pounds, making running clumsy. Oh, and did I mention – we’re in the middle of a lightning storm that seems intent on killing all of us? In the middle of bear country?


I’ve always been a nature girl, which seems at odds with the fact that I like dressing fashionably and enjoy trips to any big city. Those who know me may say I’m more cosmopolitan, but my roots – and my heart – belong to the woods. So when I heard about a program through CSU Monterey Bay that set up trips all around the world for college students looking to get into nature, I was stoked. I didn’t have anything else to do that summer, so why not?

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It All Started with Food and a Phrase

There’s a saying on the Italian side of my family: “Mangia veni grassa!” I grew up hearing this phrase at mealtimes, so often that when it wasn’t said I felt something was missing. People asked what it meant, and my mom always shrugged and said, “Eat and get fat.” There was also something about a sumo wrestler in there, but I’m pretty sure my mom was just being funny. Nice one, mom.

When I was younger, I was fascinated by this phrase. It made up the few Italian words that my mom knew. My grandmother (who’d spoken Italian) had passed when I was 9. The three words heartily yelled during mealtimes with my family were all I had. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling of wanting to know more – or, better yet, to go abroad and hear it firsthand. I wanted to learn it, I just didn’t know how.

Fast forward to college. When I switched out of my first major of Animal Science and into English, I was told I needed to take a language. When I found out Cal Poly (my alma mater) offered Italian, I didn’t stop to think. Studying the language ended up motivating me to want to go see the country even more, leading me to the first big decision I’ve made (on my own) in my life: I would backpack Europe. I would see everything I’ve ever read or heard about, and finally visit the beautiful country my ancestors come from.

This is all the lead-up to today. There are only 60 days left until I leave for Europe, and I figured it’s about damn time this blog got started. Keep up with my posts to learn about me, my travel companion, our lives, and why we’re going to be living out of backpacks for 3 months through 10+ countries. It’s about to get really wild.

Until next time,
-Kayla