Here's to an extraordinary 2012. The year I did everything I had wanted to do since year 9. I don't remember how this dream started but all I know is that when I was in year 9 I set my heart on moving to London the year after I finish High School, and last year I did that. I have links throughout this post so you can read more into everything.
"If your dreams don't scare you, they aren't big enough."
The day I left Sydney
Some of you may be new to my blog and not know anything about me. Basically last year when I was 18 I moved to London by myself. I had a week before I started working in a pub. For the first week I stayed in a disgusting hostel in Earl's Court which was interesting. When I landed and got into my hostel the first thing I did was go to the pub and get my first London Beer. I turned to the guy next to me to ask what to get, we ended up talking for the rest of the night and his brother joined. It turned out that these two brothers, Jack and James actually lived only a few suburbs away from me in Sydney in Hurstville and were here on GAP year also. I still can't believe that the first person I met in London was from Sydney.
Jack and I out a couple of nights after we met where the two brothers took me out for drinks in Soho with their friends.
That same week I ended up meeting two lovely girls Chantel and Yeliz whilst wandering around London being a tourist. We met in the line for the London Dungeons. I still can't believe how easy it is to meet new people when you are alone. I am happy to say that I am still friends with these two beautiful girls and I truly do miss them both so much. I really wish we saw eachother more during the year.
One of the friendly tour guides on my Birthday night.
I flew in on Sunday and that Saturday was actually my 19th Birthday. My new friends were sadly busy so I wandered into Leicester Square by myself for a drink. I ended up meeting a group of lovely British Boys who took me to an Aussie pub Walkabout in Covent Garden where we had a fantastic night.
Sadly Sunday came too soon and I was on a bus with all my belongings to a place I thought would be a lot closer to London. I went over with a piss take company that set me up in a pub just outside of London in Oxshott, Surrey, the most expensive suburb in all of England apparently, but also the most boring. I was working in a pub called The Bear. This is a suburb that was full of mansions and rich people. The train station was a 30minute walk and the trains came once an hour. Not the most ideal experience but it definitely was one. I will never forget when I first got off the bus and had to walk with all of my belongings on the main road. Moving houses is one of the worst experiences especially when you don't have a car.
This was my room above the bar in Oxshott. I didn't mind living here, the room was big and really cheap as it came out of my pay. The only problem was I was either locked in or out between 11pm-9am which was a real pain sometimes especially if I wanted to go out in the city.
This is Lewis and Dom two of the staff members at the Bear that I became good friends with. Dom lived outside in the Annex with Oli and Lewis lived just a suburb away and was one of the chefs. I spent a lot of time with Dom, we went out clubbing and got drunk together practically every night. For the first two months I spent in London I did not go a single day without a drink. Working at the Bear truly did suck sometimes. It's so strange how people think that having money makes you a better person. I dealt with some of the worst customers I have ever had to deal with in my whole life here, some who just had the sharpest of sharp sticks shoved high up in places you don't want sharp sticks shoved. They wanted to be treated like royalty but acted like pigs. But you know what, that's life and working here taught me how to look above that and how to pretend to like these snobs.
The best thing to happen to me probably for the length of my stay was meeting Georgia. She was my best friend, my sister, my lifesaver, my everything. We met online through tumblr and what is amazing is that she actually was from Sydney too and we actually had a large list of mutual friends. She lived only a couple of suburbs away from me as well. It really is a small world sometimes. We met up for coffee one day and I say this in the lest corniest way possible, it was as if we had been friends forever. It was honestly like catching up with an old friend. She introduced me to Milkbar which was my absolute favourite cafe throughout my whole trip (it's in Soho if you're wondering)
Lewis and I started hanging out the last week I was at the Bear. We had trips to the city where we played tourist. I was actually pretty shocked at the lack of tourist things he had done in London. I kid you not I knew more about interesting places and things to do in the city then he did. That was a bit of a pain having to play tour guide in a city you are new too when you would rather have some one show you things you didn't already know. We did do a lot of interesting things and it was a lot of fun. I always carried this one book around which was my absolute guide to London. It's called "1000 Things to do in London for under £10" by the publishers Timeout. You can buy it here.
Sunny Saturdays in Camden
Sunny Saturdays in Camden
I was actually quite lonely in Oxshott though so I ended up buying myself a hamster, this had been my dream since I was 9 years old visiting a family friend in Poland and we played with theirs. And I can't even to begin to explain the heartbreak I experienced when I found out you can't get them in Australia.
I called her Max as in Max from 2 broke girls.
My favourite place in all of London that G introduced me to, the Camden Lock. It is such an unexpected magical place. I remember one day we went the sun was setting and these flowers were falling off the trees, there was a soft breeze and it was like some sort of summer snow.
This is the tattoo I got in the first month to represent the start of my adventure.
I also started a modelling portfolio for fun on the side. I was on this website missionmodels.co.uk for the whole year even though they never contacted me about anything. I found all my own shoots. They were supposedly my agents but they were pretty lousy. They have finally cleaned up the website. You should have seen how many models they had before.
Turns out in my contract with the Bear I was on a 29 day test run and that they could fire me with no notice. I was asked to see the Boss before a 6 hour shoot, thats right BEFORE. I had no idea this would be my last shift. He basically told me that I had a week to move out. That was the worst shift of my entire life. I basically cried and just dropped plates the whole night it was great. But to be fair what did they really expect. The company I came to London with basically just abandoned me and left me high and dry so I had to do everything myself. This was the most awkward week just hanging around this place I now hated and a Boss who broke my wings. But to be honest looking back this was the best thing to have happened to me at the time. This was the kick I needed to push me closer to central London where I had the time of my life.
I moved to a bit of a ghetto in Walthamstow. It was a pretty scary place to live, I couldn't go out when it started to get dark, there were too many shady characters. The place I lived was an absolute rat hole. The roomates were filthy over 50 and foreign, didn't speak a word of English and had no common courtesy in the shared kitchen. They would cook these crazy smelling foreign meals and then I kid you not would just leave them on the stove in the pot overnight, no refrigeration whatsoever. Sometimes this food would stay there for a few days. Their section of the fridge was even worse, my shelf was below theirs and I avoided putting things in there at all costs. Not only did it stink from old food being left in there but their stuff dripped and leaked and nobody cleaned.
My new apartment
A letter from Bambi
My new apartment
A letter from Bambi
I was going to Poland to meet up with mum in less then a month. We were visiting my Grandparents and family in general. I couldn't find a job during this time because I would be travelling with mum for nearly a month. So I just made the most of this time and got to know London better.
Lewis actually took me to see Guns n Roses live at the O2 arena which was pretty amazing!
One afternoon I was heading to Bricklane to see Yeliz and Chantel's graduating art exhibition at Bricklane. I got off the tube and was walking near these two girls who I just though to myself "These girls have such a great style". They ended up stopping me to ask for directions to Bricklane. We walked together and turns out they were both from Perth, Connie was now living in Southhampton and Kelly was just visiting. I planned to meet up with them after the exhibition where we went out for drinks. I am so happy to have met these two beautiful girls. We ended up going out a couple more times that week before K flew home. And I saw Connie throughout my trip. I can't wait to go to Perth one day and catch up with Kelly and hopefully Connie too if she decides to move back permanently.
Moving out of Walthamstow
Moving out of Walthamstow
I couldn't take living in Walthamstow anymore it was a horrible place with disgusting people. In my stay there I ended up killing two mice. Not one but two. And one of the filthy basterds had eaten all my food (which is a big deal when your broke), when the landlord refused to do anything about it that was the last straw the next week I moved in with Lewis and his family who I can't thank enough for taking me in. I was going away in 2 weeks for nearly a month and needed a place I could live for two weeks then store my belongings. Above is Lewis' cat which I renamed "no name slob" like the cat in Breakfast at Tiffany's. R.I.P Slob.
Op shopping in Chessington
Chessington world of Adventures
Letter from Bambi
Op shopping in Chessington
Chessington world of Adventures
Letter from Bambi
I did another two shoots during those two weeks which was really fun. These were shoots that nobody got paid for they were just to build portfolios.
I flew to Poland which is where I met with mum, my mum is Polish. This was one of the happiest moments in my trip, being reunited with her. And of course my Grandparents who I hadn't seen in over 5 years!
This is my Babcia (Grandma in Polish) and Dziadek (Grandpa) in their home in Chelm.
I have been to Poland multiple times since I was born, I am pretty sure I took my first steps here, and every time it gets better. I really wish I could speak Polish though. In that sense I feel like a bit of a disappointment to my grandparents for not learning.
Going to the Majdanek concentration camp was one of the most confronting experiences.
We stayed in Chelm for over 2 weeks. This was the day we left to go to Warsaw. Babcia would be coming with us but Dziadek was too sick to travel. Last time I saw my Dziadek. Hopefully can see him again in less then 5 years.
Poland day 10 drinks with Ewa
Poland Day 11 City with Ewa and Kasia pt. 1
Poland Day 11 City with Ewa and Kasia pt.2
In Warsaw I met up with my family friend Ewa. We have met up every time I have visited because our mums are best friends from High School. So in a way I have pretty much grown up with Ewa. This was the night she took me out with her friends and we went drinking.
My favorite place in Poland is Krakow but we sadly didn't get a chance to visit. Although Warsaw Old Town is definitely my second favourite it is so lovely.
My uncle was also travelling with us. We stayed with him for a while in Warsaw.
This was our farewell dinner. There were a lot of family members who I did not know but they all knew me. It was a really good night. We ate at a typical Polish restaurant.
Saying goodbye at the Airport to my beautiful Babcia.
Mum came back to London with me and we stayed in a fancy apartment in Earl's Court. Mum was upset because we had been sleeping on lounges and floors and fold out beds for our whole trip to Poland and she was excited to sleep on an actual bed, then we arrived to find out our bed came down from the wall. We had a very touristy weekend. We went to Fortnum and Mason for High Tea with my cousin Jessica.
We went on a tour that took us to places we could barely remember because we were so rushed but it was still amazing. We went to the Tower of London, London Eye, and we also went on a boat. We honestly just went all out tourist.
Saying goodbye to my favourite person in the whole world. My mum is my best friend and saying goodbye not once but twice in one year really tears your heart into a million pieces. She motivated me to stay though and I am so glad she did. At this point in time I was ready to pack my bag and go home with her, not because I missed her so much but because London was hard and I would be lying if I told you it was all butterflies and rainbows. After London I re-read one of my favourite authors of all time book's "Oh the places you'll go by Dr Seuss". You can read it HERE. Basically I just burst out crying after re-reading. Everything it said came true. It was like some eery horoscope. It talks about the ups and downs and I can literally just read it and follow my whole London chapter in my mind. Well this is the part where it gets sad...
“All alone! Whether you like it or not, alone is something you'll be quite a lot!”
London was lonely and Homesickness really hits you when you least expect it. You will be fine just going along your merry way and you will smell a familiar smell or think you hear your friends voice, and when you turn around expecting them to be there it hits you like a tonne of bricks when you realize they are still in a completely different timezone.
I came home from Poland and straight away gave myself maximum of a week to get out of Lewis' house. I needed a fresh start. The photos above were from a bit of a ridiculous night. I went to a speed-dating kind of event, but for people looking for an apartment. Weird right? You would be given a name tag and on it you would write the price and the area you were looking for. I sadly didn't find anything that night but I ended up hanging out with these lovely dudes and going to a shisha bar with them in the markets. I also ended up meeting a pretty cool dj and his model girlfriend and ended up going back to the event and spending the rest of the night with them.
It wasn't that Lewis was a terrible roommate or anything. We were dating sort of so it shouldn't have been that weird. But it was just way too much too soon. I barely knew him and living with not only him but also his family just made me like him a little less every day. He never did a thing wrong to me, he was a great guy and I am so thankful to him and his family for taking me in, but seeing his family everyday whilst being homesick for my own really destroyed me, I needed to leave. But all in all living there was an experience and he had such a lovely baby sister, I sadly left Max there, I couldn't make her move anymore and I knew they would look after her. I really do miss that crazy critter.
I was really lucky. I found what I thought was the perfect apartment. Close to the station in Hendon Central, good area, nice room etc. But it wasn't all that it cracked up to be. More on that later.
That Sunday I caught the train to Paris alone. I was so upset and alone at this point in time and Paris was exactly what I needed.
I started my day by going to Musee D' Orsay where I fell head over heels in love with French impressionism. In particularly an artist called Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec. Who is actually exhibiting in Canberra until April which I am a bit too excited about.
I had booked tickets for Bon Iver in my first month of my trip. But it had never been delivered to me. Life lesson learnt, when travelling always click "pick up at Box office". I ended up having to buy another ticket. But looking back I don't care, it was worth it. Because this was the most amazing concert I have ever been to and it is where I met Morgan (photographer) and Caitlin (Fashion Designer) who both kick started the most incredible 4 days in Paris. I met them both just by asking them to take a photo of me outside.
Paris Day 1
Paris Day 1
The next day I went to the Eiffel Tower then met up with Morgan afterwards and we did a little shoot near the Louvre.
Morgan and I met Nima and Quentin at the Pompidou Center. We were just taking photos and they commented on Morgan's photography direction and that is how we became friends. Honestly it is so easy to make friends when you aren't in that comfortable bubble.
Paris Day 2
Paris Day 2
I wrote a lot about my Paris adventure so I won't bore you with details here. But this is Montmartre, my absolute most favourite place in the whole entire world (that I have seen so far).
Meeting more friends through N and Q. I met some awesome people who introduced me to American cultures which I had previously been so oblivious to. Like bike riding. Not so big in Sydney because we are so spread out and everyone hates people who ride bikes. I was so shocked how many people rode bikes in Paris. I was just so unaccustomed to it. There is a whole following of bike riders who have custom bikes and know the exact measurements of these parts and then converse with other riders about their parts. I like cultural differences like this, little things you would never really notice.
Our romantic dinner.
I went to the Louvre sorely hungover and outfit repeating. I spent most of the day barely able to stand straight. We lay on the floor and looked at the paintings on the ceilings and sat in front of huge paintings analysing every detail. There is no way we could have seen everything. But we saw what we wanted to see. I saw my favourite, "Winged Victory" and the overrated "Mona Lisa".
Paris was the most incredible experience. I am so happy I went by myself it would have been so different if I went with someone. Being alone opens you up more to life and to friends. I see my trip like a chain, friends built on top of friends and in 4 days I ended up making the same amount of friends as I had in my whole trip in London. These friends locations ranged from in Paris to Texas to San Francisco to California to Los Angeles. I learnt so much about all the different places just by talking to my new friends. It opened me up to a whole new array of cultures I was completely unfamiliar with.
"Paris is always a good idea"
I came back to London refreshed and more alive, did another shoot for fun and got a job at GAP on Oxford Street before catching the train to Brighton with Georgia.
Our trip to Brighton started that day in a coffee shop. We were both just catching up when we randomly decided to just get a train and go. Barely any thinking or planning went into this other then "What time is the train?" and "what do we pack?" We ended up in a horrible crack den hostel but we didn't really care, we were just happy to be away.
Brighton is such an amazing place. Everyone is so young and fun or old and relaxed. There are cute little crafty shops on every corner, very Frankie magazine. And the seaside is so cliche England travel it is just amazing. The seagulls are huge, the sand on the beach are rocks that hurt to walk on, fish and chips with curry sauce and an amazing nightlife. We were lucky enough to go to a club that was having a 60's night. Honestly the best night clubbing I have ever had. Some random guy pretty much just picked me up and started dancing with me. I was a ragdoll. I have never been so scared and thrilled at the same time. He would throw me up then catch me just before my scull cracked on the floor. It was sweaty, he was hideous but I had the best night.
And that was just the first night! Brighton was so much fun. It really was such a weekend getaway kind of place. I wish I went again before I left.
When I got back I did my first paid shoot in Bricklane. I don't remember how much I got paid but it went straight to my rent. This was definitely my favourite shoot. Sadly it was also my last. I wish I had more clothing but I had already shipped home pretty much all of my clothes. This is why at the end of my trip I was basically wearing leather tights and a t-shirt.
This was an incredible night. I finished work one night and was pretty tired but I remembered seeing that Matt Corby was playing that night at the Notting Hill Arts Club, an artist I wanted to see at a place I wanted to go...perfect right? Well it got better. (Confession "Brother" is still my ringtone and has been since it was on the radio).
I actually ended up almost walking right into him at the front door. He was smoking with his mates. I ended up becoming friends with them all because I had no one else and why not them? Not only did I get to see Matt Corby play live in the smallest venue I have ever been in but I also was able to hang out with him and his mates and bearded guy called Henry, he took me under his wing and introduced me to all these random people who I couldn't remember if I tried. This was after a couple of weeks of just working non-stop and it was such a great unexpected awesome thing to happen.
It was around this time I moved into my best friends home in South Croydon. I ended up losing all my bond money from the previous place, £300 because he didn't have it on him on the day I was leaving. He accused me of being dirty and loud and disrespectful, none of which I had ever been. That was his justification for not giving me my bond back. He made me clean the whole entire room with toilet paper and soap, even though when I moved in the place was disgusting. He made me sweep the floor with tissues because he didn't want me breaking his vacuum. How roomateship ended with me yelling all sorts of profanities at him and slamming his own door in his face. If you are moving into a new place make sure the minimum stay is a month or even less. Keep your options open. And take photos of everything when you first move in. This applies for anything you rent on holidays. Be it a room, jet skis, a car. Take photos of everything because some people are just plain nasty.
FINALLY I got to see Matilda. Roald Dahl and Dr Seuss were my childhood. I finally had the time and the money to go see my first West End Musical in London. And it was incredible! I really wish I spent more money on musicals and experiences and less on clothes. That is probably my biggest regret.
If you go to London you MUST go to the Harry Potter Studio. Even if you aren't a crazy Harry Potter fan like myself. It is just such a wonderful experience. And the tour itself is so well planned out.
During my last few couple of weeks I quit work at GAP and just did everything I wanted to do whilst in London. I miss Yeliz so much. We had the best touristy days in my last weeks. I can't wait for her to come stay with me later this year when she visits!
Along the way I met a friend, his name is Dan. Sometimes the best things happen when you least expect them too. I had two weeks left and for some reason the universe thought this would be an awesome time to throw in one of the best things that happened to me in London. I pretty much spent every day and night with Dan doing silly tourist things and just having weird little adventures. It was exactly what I needed but it just came at the wrong time. But I made the most out of those two weeks and we had a wicked time tearing apart the streets of London by day and night with my awful singing of Mary Poppins showtunes and his ridiculously great outlook on life.
I finally got the tattoo I have been wanting to get ever since I changed my blog name to Yes Wanderlust. It was to represent not the end but my continuing journey of understanding who I am as a person, not only through travel but through my experiences and the people I meet. This is my favourite tattoo and the artist who did it did an amazing job. To this day it has not bled out or blurred, it is as clean as the day I got it. I got both of my tattoos in Camden at a place called Camden Tattoos and Piercings. Both by different people and both turned out great and they were really cheap! Well compared to Sydney and other shops in the same street.
Over my time in London I had a big bucket list which only got bigger as I went along. This is one of the multiple things I ticked off my list on my last 2 weeks. Sit on on of the Trafalgar Lions. It was definitely harder to get on then it looks.
A night I burst out crying in a club because I was going home and I was leaving all my amazing friends in London behind. So many mixed emotions. Dan managed to cheer me up just by being an idiot with glow sticks. But it worked. I can't begin to explain how hard it was spending these last 2 weeks with these amazing people who had helped me so much throughout the year, knowing that I would have to leave them, and not be able to see them for a very long time.
My last day in London. Saying goodbye to Oxford Circus. The place I spent most of my time.
Saying goodbye was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Leaving Sydney was easy compared to this. After Dan and Georgia left and I went through the gates I spent the whole time until I was completely up in the air sobbing. I was an absolute wet mess of a human being. Blubbering in a corner going through photos. It was the saddest day but it had to happen. I had only known Dan for 2 weeks but he knew me better then I knew myself. And Georgia was my rock, my best friend, my lifesaver, my everything. Leaving these two amazing people broke my heart a thousand times over.
But in the end I was going home to see the people I loved and who I had spent this whole time missing. I was beyond excited on the plane I could barely breath, but then again that's probably because I had some old red winey man on the seat next to me taking up all my room. A horrible plane ride later I was finally home. And you already know about my sneaky surprises with all my friends.
I thought when I came home everything would look different, feel different, taste different, that everything would have changed. Then I realised that nothing around me had actually changed at home, I was the one who had changed. I came home with a completely new outlook on life. I felt refreshed, like a completely different person. I was happier then I had been. I could see everything from a different point of view and I could appreciate the little things so much more, like my mum doing the washing for me. Something I had never even thought twice about. In saying this I went to London to figure out who I am as a person, what I want to do, who I want to be. I didn't discover all the things I wanted to about myself. But I am closer then I would have been if I had never gone.
If you have any thought in the back of your mind about going on a GAP year I really think you should think about it. You may still be in high school, you may have just finished and still haven't figured out what direction you want to go, you may already be studying what you thought you wanted to do but have come to a point where you just can't find the motivation to go on. We all need a break. We all need to escape sometimes. Your idea of a break may be just going to QLD and surfing non stop. Or going backpacking in Vietnam. If you have the money or have time to save enough I highly recommend taking a year off. You aren't going to fall behind. You have all the time in the world, who says you need to plan your career straight away.
Quoting my all time favourite tv series Daria,
"My goal is not to wake up at forty with the bitter realization that I've wasted my life in a job I hate, because I was forced to decide on a career in my teens."
It was hard there is no doubt in that. If I could do it all over again I would have saved every single dollar I have ever earned just so I could have travelled more. I would have stayed in the cheapest hostels and eaten the cheapest foods, sat in the worst seats on the buses and trains, but I would have seen an awful lot more. I would have saved enough money to not need to work. That is my only real regret. Going there on a working visa and going there with that company. globalworkandtravel is the company I went over with. Whatever you do DO NOT EVER GO ANYWHERE WITH THIS COMPANY. They take your money and completely abandon you in a place that is barely even counted as London it is so far away from Central. If I was to do it again I wouldn't want the responsibility of working and living. That is why my last few weeks were so great, I was staying with a friend, no work, no responsibilities, just adventures. But whatever you decide to do, work or not, do not go with a company. If anything I can tell you how to everything, it's super easy. They just make it out to seem really scary and daunting.
"And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)"
I learnt a lot by being alone. Don't ever be scared to go somewhere alone. I spent most of my time in London alone, walking home, catching trains just walking around. If it is night time and you are walking home just walk fast, look down and whatever you do, do not make eye contact. I am not saying bad things can't happen, but being streetsmart never hurt. Over the year I started to develop a few "mottos" that I stand by to this day. One of those is "Always rely on the kindness of strangers." I can't even list the amount of times I had complete and utter strangers come and help me for no reason other then just to be nice. Not to say I didn't meet a whole lot of creeps along the way. But the amount of creeps doesn't even compare to the kind souls that walk among us every day.
I know that when I go back to London one day it will be completely different. It will still be amazing. But it will never be the same. Same goes for Paris. I am still overcome with Wanderlust on a daily basis. Constantly itching to get out of the house and travel. But Sydney will always be my home, the little house in the middle of the street with the yellow brick driveway. London I will see you again one day, but in the meantime I have a whole world to explore.
“Paradise was always over there, a day’s sail away. But it’s a funny thing, escapism. You can go far and wide and you can keep moving on and on through places and years, but you never escape your own life. I, finally, knew where my life belonged. Home.”
With love from E