Before I decided where I wanted to go on my trip I was randomly looking up flights (which I do in my spare time whether I have a trip planned or not) and I was searching for a place that had a fairly reasonable price for a one way ticket from anywhere in Europe to JFK. I came across Stockholm and decided to fly from there. It was only around $400 and I’d get to visit Sweden which is cool since I’ve never been. My last full day in England I spent in Liverpool. The National Express bus never fails me! I went to a slavery museum, pretty awkward being the only black person in there. As well as the Tate Liverpool which was very impressive, not as big as the one in London of course, but it was just as awesome. Liverpool is a much bigger city than I had originally imagined, it was pretty bustling. Naturally I took picture of Beatles statues and memorabilia, there wasn’t as much as I thought there’d be but their presence was still prominent. I was sad to leave Manchester the next morning, not only did I love the city, I really enjoyed my Airbnb and host. My flight didn’t leave until the evening, so I spent most of the day in the Manchester Piccadilly train station and then the airport. I didn’t get to Stockholm until almost 2 am. Of course once I got to my hotel (yes, hotel! Living large!) my debit card wouldn’t work. What is the point of calling your bank to set up a travel plan in advance? They do this to me every time. After being on hold for almost ten mins with Wells Fargo I finally made it to my room and crashed. There weren’t any windows, which I was aware of and wasn’t bothered by…until the next morning. It was freaky waking up in a pitch black dark room, a mind fuck actually. I hurried and turned the light on immediately and tried to get myself together. I was struggling from going to bed so late but I made my way out to see and feel the sun. The neighborhood was nice but it was a 20-30 minute walk from all the touristy stuff. It was a nice walk though. My favorite areas were Gamla Stan, the old town, and Sofo, where the hipsters reside. I walked through the narrow streets and bought souvenirs, ate ice cream and a waffle with Nutella, filled up my water bottle numerous times in the big fountain, and ate real Swedish fish. I did something today that I’ve never done, I went on a food tour. It was a good experience. It was just me and a couple from New Jersey. Funny how you go around the world and still meet people from your neck of the woods. We tried moose, reindeer, Swedish meatballs, three different types of black licorice and a really good fish soup. I thought I’d be all tour’ed out from all the tours we did on my study abroad trip but I’m happy I did this one. It wasn’t cheap, but trying the delicacies of different countries literally gives you a taste of their culture. So here I am at the airport in Stockholm. I just checked my mountain of a suitcase, went through security with no problems (for probably the first time ever), and praying that this will actually post because the wifi sucks, cheers. Oops, I mean heja Sverige!
After over a six hour bus ride yesterday I finally arrived in Manchester. At first I was kind of nervous, I knew that my Airbnb wasn’t right downtown and my 28′ samsonite is hell lugging around on the regular city bus. On cue it started to rain as soon as I left the bus station, just picture this: me with a bright blue suitcase you could see from space, my backpack, purse, a bag of snacks from Pret A Manger (love that place) and my umbrella, oh yeah and my phone out to navigate. Hell. It started to rain even harder when I was on the city bus to my accommodations. The house was an eight minute walk from the bus stop, which is fine if in only had a purse (and a brain that told me not to pack so heavy, I wouldn’t of listened anyway) but with all this extra baggage weighing me down I felt like I was climbing Mt. Everest just walking down the street. I was having to manhandle my suitcase, it was acting just as tired as I was, and google maps, that bitch is just as lost as Dorothy trying to find Oz. Wow, I am really throwing in the Wizard of Oz references with this post, aren’t I?! Anyhoo, I made it to the house, fiddled with the lock box and made my way in and up two flights of stairs with all my shit to a beautiful attic bedroom space just for me. It felt and looked like heaven, literally, its on the top floor and the decor is all white. Having my own private space means so much to me. The place I stayed in Brighton was nice but it wasn’t as private as I would’ve liked. After a long journey having your own space to decompress is necessary. I wasn’t going to go out but I took a walk, a nice post rain walk and I’m really happy I did. The neighborhood reminds me of my old neighborhood on the west side of Wilmington, DE. Chinese food and fried chicken places on every block, too many corner stores to count, everyday people walking down the street. I thoroughly enjoyed what I was seeing. I actually felt comfortable walking down the street in the neighborhood I’m staying in. I can’t say that about everywhere I’ve stayed. Seeing other brown people makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside and also more secure. I don’t have to worry about people staring at me like I’m a fucking spectacle or something. They’ll just stare because of my bodacious legs, not because I’m some weird novelty. I even heard someone singing Janet Jacksons “Nasty” today, that sealed my love for this city! Today I bought a lot of cute shit that I don’t need, some more rings and headwraps, cute shirts and a hot dress that will be in the closet longer than Kevin Spacey. Walked around until my feet hurt, ate a two piece chicken meal and here I am. Manchester and me!
Time flies when you’re black and traveling alone in England, you can quote me. Tonight is my last night in Brighton. As soon as we rolled in I immediately felt a lot more comfortable here than in Dover. The colorful buildings, quirky stores, and black people, hallelujah (not many, but still). I spent the past three days walking around, buying more cute stuff, and sitting on the rocky beach. Today I treated myself to something I usually only do once a year, I got a pedicure. Contrary to when I’m on holiday, I’m a penny pincher when I’m at home in Austin. I don’t eat out often, I don’t go shopping, and I never get my hair or nails done because I’m always saving up for my next trip. Today was the perfect day for some self maintenance. It was great to let someone else take care of me. I ate lunch at this cute bar and then got a massage. Feeling totally relaxed I went to this funky theater and saw the “Whitney” documentary. It was just as heavy as I’d expected and sad, but also uplifting. She was a national treasure and no one could ever match her. Oh my gosh, I totally almost forgot. The first thing I did this morning was go to the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery. It was so cool. I highly recommend it. They had an entire room dedicated to queer looks and transgender peoples journeys. Also an exhibit about Nigerian fashion and Carnival costumes. One exhibit was dedicated to two artists I’ve never heard of, Gilbert and George. Their eccentric, colorful, provocative pieces hung so deliberately in your face. At first I was going to pass on this because I didn’t know if I’d have time, but this was one of the best places I visited on my trip so far. Lately I’ve been feeling like I’m rushing through these posts. I don’t want it to come across like that. I want quality. I don’t want it to seem like I’m doing this for shits and gigs (even though thats exactly what it is) I just want my passion to exude. I also now realize how hard it is to not be in certain forms of contact with the people you love. I really miss talking to my friend Amy, and most of all I really really miss the sound of my moms voice. I don’t want another $400 phone bill so we email almost everyday instead of talk, but I really want to hear the sound of her voice. I go back to the US in one week. I’m not particularly homesick or anything, but along with the conversion rate I’m really looking forward to hearing her annoy me.
Wow. That word describes almost everyday for the past two weeks. My study abroad class ended 3 days ago. I’ve been to London before, almost three years ago exactly and I liked it, but this time, this time you guys…I LOVED IT. A few things I’m happy about……1) Where the class stayed: Right near Oxford Circus and Soho, perfect location to go out and get sweaty on the dance floor as well as cool restaurants and shopping…2) The markets! I love spending money on literally anything, even shit I have no use for and never will. Theres so many outside markets in London that quenched my thirst. Portobello Road, Camden Market, and Brick Lane. Man, I cleaned up at all three. I spent the most time at Camden (and the most money), I don’t even wear jewelry that much and now I have a handmade ring for every finger….3) Extended stay: At first I wasn’t going to stay in London any longer because the class was already going to be there for a week plus I’d been there before. I am elated I decided to stay for two extra nights because PRIDE!! Yes Gawd! London Pride just so happened to be going on right after the class ended so a few of my classmates and I got to go to Pride in London! It was colorful, crowded, loud and everything I day dream of, I’ll always be geeked about it.
The first day waking up without running into anyone on the way to the bathroom was weird. It felt like I had 14 siblings for almost three weeks and now that I don’t its kind of sad. We’d eat at least two meals a day together and hang out in each others rooms regularly. I like being alone more than the average person, but it was nice having the option to explore with someone else if I wanted the company. On my last night in London we went to this awesome brewery and restaurant called Crate in Hackney Wick which is surrounded by graffiti with good people watching. Then we ventured to the The Eagle, a gay bar,and danced the night away until almost 4 am! One of us ripped their pants, another one of us wore pasties at Pride…guess with one was me? It was so much fun and ridiculous and I wish I was doing it again right now. I got to go though, solo travels commence!
We’re in foggy Londontown now, except it isn’t foggy at all. I basically bought a new wardrobe at H&M two nights ago. Its coochie cutter weather in the UK, who knew? I packed for fall weather because its usually chilly over here. Dublin was the only place we’ve gone where pants were necessary, but here in London, they are experiencing a ‘heatwave’ (coughs, 80 degrees Fahrenheit). That, my faithful readers, is winter time weather in Austin, TX. They keep announcing to make sure you carry water and stay hydrated. It’s almost like a state of emergency over here.
I love London, even more than the first time, but with the class we’ve been taking many day trips. Our first one was to Oxford, England. We did a tour of the campus as well as the city. Oxford is such a prestigious school, more than half who apply aren’t accepted. Everything is so old and fancy, even the dining hall looks like a wedding reception venue. Our city tour guide was a whimsical dame who I’m convinced is the real life Mary Poppins. She told us stories about how the story of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ came about and places and people that inspired it. Notable authors J.R.R Tolkein and C.S. Lewis both taught and lived at Oxford.
Two days later we ventured off to Canterbury. Before we left we read some of the Canterbury tales so it was interesting to see where they were written. We went on a tour of the cathedral and the cute little town and also watched a seagull eat French fries off of someones plate, cheers! Our guide was the tinies little English grandmother. She used to be a school teacher and is the type who would still take you over her knee. She scolded some of the students for playing footsies and wanted us standing in formation. One of my classmates called her sassy, she wasn’t sure if it was a compliment or not, it is.
Today we took an early train to Cambridge. Just like Canterbury and Oxford, Cambrige is adorable and full of history. Its history is rich in science as well as literature. Charles Darwin was a student there, as well as John Harvard who founded Harvard University in Cambrige, Massachusetts. Theres a tree outside of Sir Isaac Newtons old dorm room that is a direct descendant of the tree that he was sitting under when the apple fell down on him. Also Noble Prize winners for discovering the DNA structure were students at Cambrige. After lunch we went punting, which I never knew was a thing. It looks like a gondola except the guy pushing the boat isn’t wearing stripes. It was very relaxing and the guy pushing our boat looked like a young Howard Stern.
Theres only two days left with the class! Its been a summer so far. It feels like I have 14 siblings now so it will definitely be weird to not have to consider anyone, but also liberating. We only have a few activates left with each other and then we’re off!
Yesterday afternoon we made it to our next destination. Haworth is a tiny village in West Yorkshire where the Bronte family lived in the 1800’s. I’ve never heard of it until the class so I was excited to visit. Its literally out of a fairytale. Theres one main street up a cobblestone hill and thats basically it. Tiny cottages everywhere and rolling hills straight out of “The Sound of Music”. When we arrived at the Apothecary Guest House the man working was so startled by my “large case” that he gave me the biggest room. I felt like I was on housewives whenever they go on their cast trip and always fight over who gets the best room. Seniority! We went on a little tour of the church and then found an insanely creepy graveyard behind it with tall crooked tombstones, it gave me serious “Are You Afraid of the Dark” vibes. The dates on the graves were all from the 1800’s, we were stepping all over them which felt weird but there was nowhere else to walk. There was a herd of sheep in a large field behind the graveyard that we tried to engage with, they weren’t having it.
A few days ago one of my classmates fell onto the cobblestones in Edinburgh and scarred her face and lost half of her front tooth. Whiskey may or may not have been involved, we are on holiday after all. It’s traumatizing to imagine, let alone going through in a foreign country without your family and close friends. So on our last night in Scotland two of our other classmates went to the street where she fell to search for her tooth…..and they fucking found it!!!! I don’t know how, I am stuttering in my head right now because there is no way to comprehend how they actually found a tooth amongst the stones and debris on the ground on the busy Royal Mile in Edinburgh. A higher power was definitely involved. Last night we all met at the graveyard to tell scary stories, we gave her a card with her missing half front tooth in it that we all signed and drew on with funny tooth puns and pictures. You guys, this life!
Today we went to visit the Bronte museum, we are in Bronte Country after all. We all have to do presentations on certain authors and I chose the Brontes because they were some of the only women authors to choose from. I’ve never read “Wuthering Heights” or “Agnes Grey” but their struggle to write boldly resonates with me. The fact that they couldn’t even publish their own work under their real names, or were rightfully compensated for their works is an example of how far women have come, and how much further we have to go just to be on a equal playing field, excuse me, paying field. Just as recent as my grandmothers generation, women, especially black women couldn’t do a quarter of the opportunities I am fortunate enough to pursue. Limited is not even the word to describe possibilities for women, god forbid you wanted to be more than a maid. Coming to a small village like this and seeing how these sisters used their imaginations and creativity that outlasted their short lives is so encouraging to a small state girl like me, with that said, I got to go!
Even though I looked haggard as hell, I’m so happy I stayed up late and posted a few nights ago. Everyday is such a “wow” day that there is no reason not to document it. Yesterday was a long one, but a good one. With the free time we had in the middle of our long but good day I found a post office and got some stamps to mail postcards back home. The night before I saw a picture online of a place called Calton Hill. Its a beautiful look out point to see the city thats perfect for photo ops! The huge gate reminds of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin that I only got to see from the bus. Usually I would’ve went alone but I thought my classmates would thoroughly enjoy the experience as well. It was kind of a wild goose chase to get to, as most worthy destinations are, but we found it! How many flights of stairs can you climb in one day? Whatever the record is, we broke it.
The day we got to Edinburgh everyone kept talking about climbing to Arthurs Seat, this ancient volcano across from where we’re staying. I swore I wasn’t going to, because to me it may as well be Mt. Kilimanjaro. So naturally today I participated because yesterday I said I wouldn’t. True Natasha fashion. I was nervous because we supposedly took the harder route but it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I take long strides so the steep rocks weren’t as bad for me, but I was still huffing and puffing every time we took a break. We met lots of people from all over the world at the top. Russia, South Korea, London, and of course Scotland. We were literally in the middle of a cloud we were up so high. Blame it on the a-a-a-al-ti-tude! We walked across to the highest point. Living on the edge.
Many “oohs” and “ahh” were said. Looking back at how far we’d come was crazy. It’s honestly incomprehensible to me that not only did we climb it, we made it down. It makes me wonder what else I’ve been holding myself back from that just seems so out of reach when it really isn’t. If it wasn’t for my classmates encouragement I wouldn’t of done this. I’m so thankful for them and this experience.
I’m going to start off this post the same way I start off every post, by apologizing. I’m so sorry, (mostly to myself and the higher power who gave me this talent and passion) that I rarely post. If I had a good excuse attached to my tardiness I’d feel better, but there isn’t one. There never could be one, because there will never be a good reason to not do what you love. I am in Edinburgh (pronounced Edin-brahh). I told myself that I wouldn’t study abroad again, but at this point I should be used to doing what I say I’d never do. I told myself that I shouldn’t do it because I did it last year, that I’m a manager at work, that I should go somewhere else, but I’m so happy I did it. This has already been such a pleasant surprise of an experience. From the Guinness Storehouse in Ireland to the Edinburgh Castle, I am roaming once again (and I don’t mean being charged out the ass by Verizon).
Ireland, As I knew it was only four leaf clovers, leprechauns, Guinness, and people with red hair. Its that, but so much more and I fucking love it. The first leg of my flight was from Philadelphia, and it was delayed an hour so I just made my connecting flight, but my bag didn’t. Now, I know that this happens to probably hundreds of people everyday but it has been my biggest fear for years. I was literally sitting in the window seat in Reykjavik and watched as my brand new 28″ Samsonite full of the cutest clothes Target and Ross have to offer was driven away because the flight was ready to take off. I only had the clothes on my back. Mind you, I literally wear pajamas to the airport. Hair in a scarf, no bra, and old leggings. That look I served for over 48 hrs, not fun. I was ready to cry the second day. I know its just stuff, but its my stuff. The main thing that lifted my spirits was the lovely people of Ireland. Everyone is so genuinely nice. I know what its like to live in a place where people aren’t particularly nice (my hometown, Wilmington, DE) and what its like where people are particularly fake nice (where I live now, Austin, TX). If it wasn’t for the charming gestures and attitudes of the natives I would’ve been balling in the staircase. I know I would’ve because had a good cry scheduled for that evening but my bag arrived just in time! I went on a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher and although it was foggy, it was beautiful.
The next day was our first day of class. I use the term class loosely because we aren’t sitting in a classroom, we’re out exploring as a group. We went to the James Joyce Center, and did a walking tour of Dublin starting at Trinity College where we stayed in the dorms. Of course on our own we went to the Guinness Storehouse, Irish Whiskey Museum, and pub, after pub,…after pub. When in Dublin!
Howth the hell have I never heard about Howth, Ireland?! Its actually pronounced “Hote”. It is a beyond words beautiful coastal town only 30 minutes from Dublin by train. We walked up a hill through a beautiful neighborhood to get to the Howth Cliff Walk, then we hiked up what felt like Mt. Everest to the very top to get even more amazing views.
Today was our first day in Edinburgh. We went to the Edinburgh Castle and the National Museum of Scotland which was really cool. Every floor had so many artifacts and information about different regions of the world. It was one of those moments when you realize that theres so much you don’t know about the world. Dublin set the bar high so I was nervous about Edinburgh, I wasn’t sure if it would live up to my expectations but it has surpassed them.
I usually heavily edit my posts, (you probably can’t tell) and change so much before I hit “publish”, but its late in Edinburgh and I have to be up in less than 7 hrs. I want to post almost every night, or at least every few days of my trip. I’ve been hash tagging #travelwithbakari on my Instagram (@roamifshewantsto) on my posts. Bakari was a young man from Austin who was killed in Greece last year, I don’t know him, but his story really struck my heart. A young black kid who had a passion for traveling and experiencing new things. There aren’t many of us I see out here so by hashtagging #travelwithbakari he can spiritually travel with me to all the places I’m going on my trip!
Wow. I’m embarrassed and ashamed that I let this go on for so long. Still paying for a site that haven’t posted on since June 2017. It’s $18, but I paid more than that for the current season of RuPauls Drag Race on Amazon. I love to write so why don’t I do it? I write for myself in a journal, but Im still apprehensive about the uphill feat of posting for other people to see. “I’m brave, but I’m chicken shit” my favorite line in “You Live, You Learn”. I have the usual excuses. Tired, busy, constipated, but so what?! I need to do what I love because it makes absolutely no sense not to. I firmly believe that it doesn’t matter how busy you are, because you will always make time for what is important to you. The last time I posted was during my study abroad trip last year. I wanted to continue posting throughout my trip but didn’t. I blamed my shitty computer when it was really just my laziness. I had an amazing time. I went to Frankfurt, Berlin, Copenhagen, Pamplona, Barcelona, and Madrid. There is always something so unexpected when traveling that usually has nothing to do with your trip, it doesn’t always derail your plans but if it does its usually in your best interest. For example, I had a rendezvous with a gentleman I met on the street in Barcelona. We sat under a full moon on the beach and talked about our past lives ( he was a British woman) and the next day we went all around the city, eating, laughing and ducking in corners to make out whenever cars drove down the skinny streets. It was great to have a hot foreign guy to hold hands with and grope for a couple of days. Also a relief to have him order at restaurants and navigate. I was feeling the fantasy. That experience shook me, not only because it was fun and unexpected, but because I was in a relationship back home. Oops. Yeah, that part. I obviously had thoughts about ending it, but now it was something that was inevitable. See what I mean, traveling always puts you in the right place. My heart rate is going up as I type because I just booked a trip last week for dun..dun…DUNNN another study abroad trip. I couldn’t resist. I never can actually, its for a British literature class in the UK. I kind of had my heart set on a different continent this time around but studying abroad is a great way to travel because you have built in travel buddies if you want them and its cheaper. I’m looking forward to learning about literature and being immersed in a different culture and way of life, I adapt to that easily. I’m also curious about what I will learn about myself, theres always something. This post is sloppy and I’m not breaking up paragraphs because I’m exhausted and really want to take a shower, eat everything in my house, and watch Real Housewives of Atlanta reunion. Lucky for me this new MacBook even finishes the words before I’m done typing, but I won’t be satisfied until I can think thoughts onto the screen. C’mon Apple!
This spider taking a nap next to my window encouraged me to write. It’s been almost a year since I’ve posted, which is embarrassing. I’ve been busy, but that’s no excuse. In the year of not posting I managed to dive into community college. Living in Austin is fun, everybody knows that, but after years of hanging out, and still being homesick, you have to have an answer for yourself when you can’t stop asking “Wtf am I really doing here?”.
Last September I saw a flyer at school and it said “Is your classroom here?”, a picture of a standard classroom with desks and a chalkboard, and another picture that said “Or is it here?”, this picture was of a metropolitan city in France for a government class. I immediately went to the library, got on the computer and applied, I had to take that class anyway in the future so why not? Since then, I’ve been stuffing money into a bright yellow envelope in my drawer and praying that at least 9 other students sign up for this program. 10 doesn’t sound like a lot, but I don’t know 10 people that would save their money and travel. I know 100 people who would talk about how expensive traveling is, unaware that the drive through they visit multiple times a week is killing their pockets. If you’re broke at least have an interesting reason for it.
I was so ecstatic when I got the email that 15 students signed up so the study abroad program could take place. I actually cried when I got another email that I was a recipient for a scholarship that I applied for through my school. It was $2,000, which isn’t a whole lot but I’m really proud of myself you guys, I wasn’t exactly a scholar back in my traditional school years. After multiple trips to Target I was ready for France! Strasbourg to be exact.
Its been a little over a week and I finally feel like a normal person. This is one of the most unique experiences I will ever have. Usually I never talk much to the other students in class, mostly because I have to focus and I’m really f’n tired from work, but here we are all in this together….in a foreign country, trying to figure out how to start the washing machine at the laundry mat down the street. Its not a vacation because usually on vacation you’re not grocery shopping and going to the post office. But what a lovely post office it is, Strasbourg, a city I had never heard of, is beyond words beautiful. Its diverse, full of nice people (except for the creeps who followed us yesterday), and is giving me what I always yearn for, a different experience than my everyday life.
My computer is barely on life support so I can only add pictures from my phone and not my big camera at the moment. Whomp.