Written July 16, 2013 upon arriving in Portsmouth, England via a Ferry from France and on my journey from Portsmouth to Brighton.
I’m back in England! Six years after my international travels began, I’ve returned to the country that started it all for me. I’ve been here barely 30 minutes and already almost missed my train (to within 60 seconds, I had to run for it) because I grabbed a pint of England’s finest with a Brit that I met on my way off the ferry who I shared a cab with on the way to the train station. We had 40 minutes to kill, so naturally, we stopped at the convenient store for a bottle of wine for my train journey to Brighton and then went next door to the nearest bar for a ‘cheeky pint (as the Brits say),’ before my reunion with one of my favorite travel buddies from my trip in Brighton!
I’m having all sorts of crazy culture shock. This is the first time I’m in an English speaking country in over 250 days. I even took a picture of a building when I came in on the ferry across the English Channel that had English writing on it. In foreign countries when I do not speak any of the language, often times, I feel uncomfortable immediately addressing another in English, however on this boat trip, it felt like I was back home again.
It was weird going through passport control and saying “Hello” as opposed to “Hola,” “Buenas,” “Bonjour,” or whatever I was supposed to say in Morocco and Tunisia in Arabic – man is that language impossible! I learned how to say “Thank you” and “No” in Arabic in three weeks there and that’s about it.
People have gone out of their way to help me in this past hour, the bus driver told us that it was a 3 quid (slang for “Pounds” in England) bus ride and a 6 quid taxi ride so we might as well take the taxi between the two of us and be quicker and that my new friend Fergus, a young/middle aged lawyer from London, would make his train. We did make it in time, but there wasn’t a train at the station waiting which led us to the pub across the street for a pint.
When I got on the initial shuttle bus, I noticed the bypassing cars were coming from my right and I was so confused. Next, I hopped into the taxi and the steering wheel was on the wrong side too! I’ve lived in England in the past and it still was all a major culture shock. The currency, although familiar, did not immediately ring a bell either.
The taxi driver and Fergus had a good laugh at me when I politely asked if he could “Pop the trunk” as opposed to “Open the boot” for our luggage. Laughs and smiles all around. Rather than feeling alienated or self conscious, I just took this laughter in stride while adjusting to yet another new culture. It’s just another readjustment and I’ve traveled with several Brits though out my time abroad so my British slang is getting up to par and I’ll be hanging out with my ‘mates’ in no time.
All in all, this is just super exciting to be back in England. I’m planning just over a week here, but I have a feeling if my wallet can withstand London I’m going to be here longer. This is all just so good, so familiar.
*** (Side note of what’s happening on my train as I type this) ***
There’s a family sitting in the pod of chairs in front of me on the train, and this is the first ever public transportation conversation I’ve been able to understand in almost 9 months. The kids are so funny, so many smiles, so much laughter – I’m just waiting this whole time hoping that one of them will say: “Ouch Charlie, Owwwwch. Charlie bit me, Charlie bit my finger.” (If some how you do not know what I’m talking about, YouTube “Charlie bit my finger” and you’ll understand.) ….. If I wait long enough, I’m certain it will happen, but until then I’m just going to enjoy the rest of this ride through England.
*** (Hope you laughed) ***
I can’t wait to meet up with one of my favorite travel buddies of my whole trip in just under an hours time, Cat! I met her in Mexico as she was finishing up 10 months on the road in Latin America and I was on week two of my own 10 month trip. Flip the tables, she’s been living in the UK for 8 months now and I’ve been on the road since – cannot wait to catch up, share more stories, and wander Brighton on the south coast of England. I’m also planning to celebrate my friend Marcus’ birthday tonight in Brighton. I did a four day jungle trek to Ciudad Perdida six weeks ago in Northern Colombia. It should be a good night and a great week (or more) in England – I can’t wait!
So happy to be back!
Edited 2 minutes after I finished typing this – I swear on my next cheeky pint in England that the mom of family just said to one of the kids, “….that’s Charlie’s!” Unfortunately, they got off at the next stop and my dream couldn’t be realized, but I told you it could’ve happened!! Anything can happen while you’re on the road at any given time – and that’s why I love it so much!
Another British experience side note: The loudspeaker on the train just said “Please ‘mind the gap’ between the platform and the train” – that just made my day even better still.