Please note: This blog, although very much about travel, is also an intro to one of my short stories being written for my upcoming book. Within the book you will hear more about this unfortunate story. Enjoy!
Lovers in London. Left in London.
Lonely in London.
As often as I travel alone, there are still a handful of destinations that are reserved for the day I have someone special by my side. You know, the places that just gush romance; couples, young and old, walking hand in hand, lovers kissing as if no one is watching, the idyllic setting of a movie…
After six long years of traveling alone, I finally had a companion by my side willing to embark on this “movie-like” trip with me. It was a whirlwind connection, a spontaneous trip built upon daydreaming with one another, and all the things that made my heart swoon. Love and travel. What more could a girl ask for?
London was the starting point of our magical journey. Three days of wandering the streets of this lovely foreign place, learning more and more about one another, stopping for pastries and mimosas along the way. Amsterdam would then carry the torch for an additional three days, until the much anticipated train ride to Paris. Let me say that again. London, Amsterdam, and PARIS! Pinch me!! Still the thought of what this trip was meant to be can steal me away for moments at a time.
Although we shared many conversations about the trip, Jace (let’s just call him Jace) offered to plan the whole trip and I gladly accepted. I know firsthand the work that goes into a multi destination trip and for once it felt nice that someone wanted to take the lead. The downside? I was soon about to learn that when plans fail, and fail hard, I’d be left with nothing!
On our second day in London, Jace stayed back in the room to catch up on some much needed rest while I went down to the hotel restaurant to do some work on my laptop. With my choice of indoor or outdoor seating, I of course chose to be outside where I could flirt with the sun and enjoy my first mimosa of the day.
After only about an hour of work, Jace joined me at my cozy table for two. He ordered himself a mimosa and a second one for me as we started to chat about our upcoming night. The very reason this trip was put into action was because of a daydream of seeing Coldplay in London. Eek! We were on our way to see COLDPLAY.. in LONDON!!
While wrapping up our conversation about what time I should be ready to leave the hotel that evening, Jace said casually to me, “um, we may not have tickets to the concert.” Now, you should know we were only about four hours from show time. I can’t even put into words how I felt at that moment. “Come again? Because I think I just heard you say we might not have tickets for a show we flew across the pond to see.” As he tried to explain how he fucked this all up, I could feel my body heat and my annoyance climbing simultaneously. The tension was so very thick, I was actually thankful that we were in public or I am sure the German in me would have made an appearance.
From that very moment, our time together, and our trip of a lifetime, began to unravel.
Without getting into details of what took place on that unfortunate and unforgettable night in London, I will say this. I found out real quick just how big and scary London can be when left all alone in the middle of the night. In a matter of hours my world shifted from a fairytale story to a nightmare I couldn’t wake from. I was alone, with no plan, no sense of direction (literally and figuratively), and found myself in a situation I had never navigated before.
When planning a solo trip I am fully aware of each and every detail. Once there, I pay attention to all street signs, landmarks, how the transportation system works, and so on. My senses are on high alert knowing that I am responsible not only for my safety, but also finding my way to and from. I rely on no one. In London, I fully relied on Jace and I am now a solo traveler…. 100% unprepared.
On that very night in London, the night that I still can’t believe happened, it was as if I was picked up by the collar of my shirt, legs dangling like a child, carried from one movie scene to another, only to be placed in the middle of a bustling city street in the dead of night. I had no idea where I was in relation to our hotel, I had no idea how to navigate the train station, and I had no idea what my next steps should be.
After waiting nearly an hour and spending a fortune on an Uber, I finally made my way back to our hotel. My only hope was to get into the room and gather my things before bumping into Jace. Well, that and getting a room for the night in order to clear my head and come up with a game plan for the rest of the trip that was clearly crumbling before my eyes. I was in no state of mind to make any decisions at that moment. I just needed the day to end. “All we have is a single room” seemed obnoxiously comical, but perfectly timed as the hotel agent checked their availability. “I’ll take it!”
The next day I intentionally wandered streets that took me away from anything he may gravitate to. I ate with my back facing the door. And with each and every move I made I wondered why on Earth this pained me so deeply. I am no stranger to loneliness, but being alone in London took the meaning, and the feeling, to a whole new level. My body ached and my eyes couldn’t bear to look anyone in the eye for they would see that I had been left, and in fact, lonely in London.
After two nights alone in London, I decided to change the course and I made my way to Denmark. Why Denmark and not Amsterdam you ask. Amsterdam would have stung too deeply and of course I had no idea if he would be there. I knew I couldn’t go home just yet, but wanted nothing to do with Amsterdam. More importantly, Denmark would bless me with a familiar face and a soft place to land.
About five years ago I met my dear friend Philipp, who is from Germany. Not once, but twice he has found his way to me when I was in a time of need. He knew I would be in London with Jace and we all intended on meeting up for dinner one night while there. Philipp had lived there for a period of time and was happy to show us around. When I told him of my misfortune he invited me to join him and his colleagues in Denmark. I gladly accepted and hopped a flight as soon as I could.
As the taxi approached my hotel in Copenhagen, for the first time in days a smile made its way to my face. Stepping out of the car, turning towards the lovely water across the street from the hotel, the first thing I saw was Philipp with a glass of white wine walking towards me. Even writing this I am placed right back in that moment. The evening sun was shining oh so perfectly, his familiar walk and smile heading my way…it felt like home. For a moment in time I had forgotten why I was even there in the first place.
The way it felt to see him after all these years…. how surreal that moment felt…I needed someone to be my soft spot, my familiar voice, and I thank God for him on that day. I don’t think he realized just how delicate I was at that moment.
Denmark was lovely and exactly the distraction that I needed, for the most part. Philipp and I spent time walking the sidewalks of Copenhagen and catching up. Our children had spent four days together years ago and it was beautiful to hear about the things that were happening in their lives now. I was so very thankful for those easy conversations that flowed as they should with an old friend.
I never really shook what took place in London and always found myself fighting back tears while in Denmark. As much as Philipp was there for me, he still had business to tend to and I was left alone for hours at a time, with only my thoughts. I could not for the life of me understand the depth of what I was feeling. Was it just the extreme high to the extreme low that had me off caliber? Was it the sheer devastation of “what might have been” that shattered in a matter of hours? Or was it something bigger; something I could not yet understand?
The tears did not stop once I arrived home. In fact they hit harder. I was alone when I should be in Paris, well on my way to falling in love. Falling in love… in Paris…sigh. To add to the sting we had made this trip fairly public on social media (something very new to both of us) so I had to deal with the calls and texts asking about my trip. The overly excited, “you so deserve this…. finally….tell me all the details… I can’t wait to hear all about it,” messages. I wanted to silence my phone and eternal sunshine the whole damn thing.
Why do I write about this half a year later? Why do I open myself back up to the experience that shook me like an addict having withdrawals? Because in sharing, even the things that shake us, we find connection with others. In sharing we heal. And in sharing we find growth. This tragic rom-com has helped me grow in ways that are only mine.
Although I thought my story would read “Lovers in London” but now reads “Lonely in London,” I remind myself of the beauty that was experienced all because of an unforeseen disaster. I got to spend time with a cherished friend and that time can never be replaced. I learned more about myself and the dating world from a whole new perspective. Add travel to that equation and how can I not find something to smile about?
For more on this story, stay tuned for Theresa’s book coming out in 2024.
*Short stories of how dating and travel collide, and everything in between.
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