The taxi driver remembered me. The last time I was also getting the sleeper to London, he said. Do I work down there? Do I travel a lot for work? The sleeper is nice, isn’t it?
There’s something relaxing about getting on the train late at night, climbing into a berth just big enough for one adult, and waking up in Euston Station at 7am. When I was little and my mum could still walk easily, my parents and I would travel around Europe during my school holidays; my dad has always loved trains and would tell us stories of famous railway lines and the Orient Express. My mum didn’t care much as long as there was somewhere comfortable to sleep.
No one ever told my parents not to travel with a small child in tow. I was a quiet kid. I never really cried for attention as long as I was left alone to read, or write stories, or draw pictures in my notebook. By the time I was ten years old I’d seen most of western Europe and Southeast Asia. My parents had lived in China their whole lives, and except for Hong Kong and Taiwan, had never left until they had me. By the time I was born they decided they wanted to see the world, and they wanted me to see it with them.
The Student Union at my uni had a travel centre, and I remember going with my best friend to find the cheapest flights our first “Reading Week”. It was my very first trip without either my parents or a boyfriend, and I was so proud of myself for getting us to Copenhagen in one piece. I felt so grown up! We ended up going to London together later that year, and it was such a different experience from staying in hotels and visiting Foyle’s and Selfridges with my parents. Fiona and I stayed in a youth hostel near St Paul’s, sharing a room with 12 other girls. We ended up accidentally joining a protest march, then talking about it for days. We were 18, we didn’t realise that real life protests happened other than in the movies.
At the end of second year of uni, I decided to move to Paris for the summer. What else do art history students do when they have 3 months free of responsibilities? I worked a little, went to art college a little, and visited museums a lot. I’d never travelled on my own before, and it was the best thing ever. I discovered I do have a sense of direction, and that the metro isn’t a terrifying prospect. I realised that what I’d been drinking for years wasn’t real orange juice, and that it’s totally ok to have a croissant for breakfast every morning for 3 months.