Back from Spain I had just over one week in London before I was heading home to New Zealand.
I was lucky enough that while I was in town my mum’s cousin Allison who lives in LA was also in London. At Marina’s house, I met her and her daughter as well as another cousin Trudy and her two kids. We went out for dinner and it was awesome being able to meet more of my extended family and share stories from back home in NZ. Not many of the rest of my family had met Allison and it was crazy to see the resemblance that she had with my Aunty Pat. They were all really interested in my travels as well as what my grandma Mammy was up to (their aunty). Back home in NZ we have a small, tight-knit family so it’s been awesome over the year being able to meet more and more relatives.
On Thursday night (19th September) I was taking Dan, Claire, Marina and Lee out for dinner to say thank you for everything they had done for me that year. Dan, Marina and I met Claire at her work, Topshop HQ, and then headed for a drink. After that we made our way to Reform in Marylebone for dinner where Lee joined us. The food was amazing and we all had such a fantastic night. The four of them surprised me with my birthday present which was a beautiful Marc Jacobs watch which I absolutely love. I got a bit teary at the end of the night at the thought of having to return home and say goodbye to these four who had become my closest family over the last 9 months.
The next day it was my birthday! I took the train up to Leeds for one final time but this time it was to see Sophie!
I taxied to the university and met her by the Parkinson steps. Sophie had only been in Leeds a couple of days herself but it was great to see where she was staying and to see that she was already settled in. After meeting a few of her flatmates I wanted to show her the parts of Leeds that I knew so we went for a walk. Through the university we headed down to where my accommodation was and then into town. It was great being able to explain the city and share the tips that I had. We went into town and had a look around the shops for some new outfits for the night. We then went to Trinity (the new shopping mall) and had a drink at Alchemist before dinner at a place called Giraffe. After our catchup we walked to Sainsbury’s to get some vodka (little did I know what a bad decision that would be) and then we headed back to her flat.
Time flew by as we were drinking and getting ready and then we went across the hall to another flat filled with more exchange students. I had a great time getting to know all of Sophie’s new friends. I hadn’t drunk vodka in quite a while and I thought that my tolerance was a lot higher than it actually was. As it was my 21st I was asked to down quite a few drinks and it ended up that I got a bit emotional and at that point I felt I could have easily spent another semester in Leeds! It reminded me so much of the first few weeks I had had in Leeds when everyone was so excited to meet new people and start a new experience.
We decided to head off to the union to check out the bars and clubs. The rest of the night is a bit hazy but we went to Terrace for a bit of a dance with all of Sophie’s friends and then Sophie, Jock and I headed down to Fruity. After ordering some tequila shots that did not come with any lime or lemon we danced a fair bit and I then I vaguely remember Jock and Sophie helping me back home.
I woke up the next morning in a shocking state. I asked Sophie what time we got home thinking she would reply with “3/4am” in the morning, but she said that I was asleep by 12.30… very embarrassing. I spent the entire morning being very sick which wasn’t fun at all especially since I had a lot of things that I had wanted to do on my last day in Leeds. None of those came to fruition and then it was time for me to taxi to the train. As I struggled onto the train it was to my dismay that the man sitting across from me was making his way through a whole bottle of wine. I purchased a bag of chips and a coke and I started to feel a little less seedy… After stopping in some random English town to change trains I finally made it to Stratford where I had to battle my way through the shopping mall to meet Dan at the end. Not all the tubes were working that weekend so it was great that he was able to drop me home.
Back at theirs Claire had some friends round and later that night we went to Switch (their local pub) for a few more drinks. The amaretto and cokes weren’t really going down that well and I was exhausted so wasn’t a very late one for me!
My last couple of days in London were filled with me packing and running errands. A few times the tube wasn’t working so I was housebound a bit with Dexter but that was ok! I headed over to Marina’s for some last catchups, Dan and I went to Shoreditch for lunch and a look around and I went to Stratford for the last time and to close my bank account etc. Was so weird to finally be closing everything up after so long.
My last night in London Marina and Lee came over and Claire cooked my favourite meal of hers, lasagne! We had a night in chatting before Marina and Lee headed home – very sad to say goodbye to the family I have grown so close to over the past 9 months.
The next day I said goodbye to Claire in the morning as she went to work and then Dan and I had some brekkie, watched some TV and took Dexter out for a walk. We headed to the airport and I checked in. Said a tearful goodbye to Dan and then went through to security. Managed to use up my last 9pounds in coins to buy a new book and chocolate and then got my last bit of Pret-a-manger (my fave while here in London)!
My flight stopped off in Los Angeles – the one and only time I have been to America and then made my way through to Auckland.
Crazy to think that the trip that I planned for so long is over now. When I first went over I had no return ticket back to Auckland, I knew I was coming back within the year but not sure when. In saying that, I was definitely ready to come home – the combination of no money and missing my friends and family meant that it was the right time however it is also sad to think it’s all over.
I have learnt so much about myself on this trip and have definitely changed in so many positive ways. What I am most proud of is the independence and confidence that I gained. Putting myself in the deep end by moving to a new city all by myself and then soon after travelling solo on my Topdeck tour put me in situations that I would beforehand feel uncomfortable in but by seeing how well I coped I became more confident. After this I gained a love for solo-travelling and between trips with friends I travelled to Scotland, Barcelona, Ireland and Croatia all by myself making great new friends along the way. There were many situations that if I had encountered these back in NZ I would immediately pick up the phone to call Mum or a friend to figure out a solution but with no way to do that on the other side of the world I was forced to make my own decisions illustrating to me how capable I am of doing this and that I should trust my own judgement more.
I’m back in NZ now for a few years to finish my degree and let the funds catchup a bit but I really hope to be back in England and Europe soon to see family again and get back to travelling!