Stepping off the plane into the humid loading bridge that connected the London Heathrow Airport to the plane I’d just spent nine hours in, I felt like I was cheating.
In video game terms, I felt as if I had clipped through some invisible wall of reality. I’d discovered a part of the game that had been hyped up for my whole life, but it hadn’t been released yet, and I was doubtful of actually seeing it in my lifetime.
This surreal feeling followed me through the airport, into the Tube, and down the several blocks’ walk to get to my lodgings in London. I’d never been out of the country before, or at least, I’d never been out of the United States before and been cognizant of it. My family had visited Niagara Falls when I was a baby, but that’s neither here nor there.
England was always this far-off place that didn’t really exist. Sure, I knew people who had gone and claimed it was real, and I even had friends online who said they lived there. If you asked me, I would say of course I believed in England, what a silly question, but my body had a much different reaction to actually being in the country.
For a while, you could say I was star-struck. This, combined with my jet lag, made a fun mix in my mental and physical energy.
The very first day was April 29th, though it still felt like the 28th to me, as it had only been 6pm in Salt Lake City when I’d left and I hadn’t slept hardly at all on the plane. The adrenaline that was flowing through me from being in a new country and a strange city meant I was actually pretty aware of my surroundings at first, so after checking into my lodgings and taking a shower, I met up with some of the people from the program in Trafalgar Square.
We got lunch at the cafe in the crypt of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and I had my very first authentic British fish and chips. Perhaps that choice was a mistake because as a rule, I dislike both fish and fries. I scarfed it down the best I could, knowing I wouldn’t feel obligated to eat that dish again. Then the group nosed around some old bookshops as I began to fade fast, despite it being barely midafternoon. When I finally got back to my room, I slept for 13 hours.