I Remember My First Time Abroad

soaring Plane 300x188 I Remember My First Time Abroad

I remember  it like it was yesterday. 
 

The collection of and poring over travel brochures at Elephant and Castle shopping centre.


We didn’t let the fact that we were broke hinder the dream. We were going to get somewhere out of the country somehow someway. As long as we could raise a few hundred to actually buy the ticket we would worry about the rest later.
 

Tamara was working Harveys selling curtains and carpets and I was in my last year at college doing A Levels and was flitting between unemployment and working at some place doing Market Research interviews over the telephone.


We established the plan in about February.


It was between Los Angeles and New York.


The LA brochures were all promoting Disneyland in Anaheim. It looked like that might be all there was to do. We didn’t see packed streets, like we were used to, in the brochures. LA looked too spread out for city girls like us. LA or New York?
 

We decided on New York.

 

Choices Choices…

 

IcelandAir or Air India?


Stopping in Reykjavik, or no stopover at all? No contest really, since I like Indian food.
 

The reasoning back then was that we had seen it depicted on TV and it looked exciting. When we had got together £100 we went and put a deposit down on the flight, which would hold the seats until 8 weeks before, at which time we would have to pay the balance. The date was set in stone. 23rd of July 1998. We were going for two weeks.
 

I was 18 and had never been on a plane before (to my recollection, being two years old doesn’t count!). Tamara was turning 21 that July and had never been on a plane before. When we booked the tickets we didn’t even have passports. That was the extent of our novice-ness.
 

I remember…
 

The excitement whilst waiting for the ticket to be printed at Flightbookers on Tottenham Court Road.
 

I remember…


May 1998


The feeling of elation when we actually got the green and white card tickets in our hands. 
 

I remember…
 

The fear of losing the ticket making me hide it away in a safe place
 

I remember…
 

Not remembering the hiding place and freaking out
 

I remember…

 

Remembering again, and the feeling of an even greater elation than receiving the ticket in the first place.


I remember…


I remember…
 

Our flights were booked but we had nowhere to stay and so the search for accommodation began. It was only when we started looking that we realised that hotel rooms in New York were EXPENSIVE, and it was going to be a stretch to pay for a hotel as well as to have money to spend while there.


In the end we agreed on a place to stay. It had shared bathrooms and was still quite costly but was cheaper than all the rest. Luckily my Mama was on board by then and agreed to help me out with spending money, as a leaving College gift. Being the procrastinators that we were and still are we didn’t book the hotel and before we had a chance to do so another opportunity arose.


His name was Henry.


Back then Tamara had a friend called Prince that she used to hang out with. He was a lot older than us and into dodgy dealings. Henry was his friend. Henry came to London for a few days and a group of us partied with him and Prince for the duration of the trip.


Henry found out we were going to New York and invited us to stay with him, He said that he lived, “near New York… around the corner,” in Washington DC. Having no concept of the distances involved we happily took him up on his offer. I late consulted my atlas and DC did appear to be close, plus Henry said that he partied in New York on the weekends so we didn’t imagine it could be any more than an hour away.


Oh how wrong we were…


When Henry got back to DC he would call us regularly and it was planned that he would come and pick us up at JFK airport in to take us to his place. The day before, plans changed. He called to say that he was going to be working and that he’d send his friend Michael in his place. We weren’t bothered either way… We were going to New York Citaaaaay!
 

I remember…
 

The shock when we realised that Michael was simply the drop of guy and wasn’t even going to be taking us anywhere but the Greyhound station.
 

I remember…
 

Michael telling us, “You gotta get on the bus for a few hours.”
 

I remember…
 

Not wanting to leave New York and begging Michael to let us hang out with him for a few hours. It looked so exciting in New York and straight after an 8 hour flight we didn’t wanna get on no damn bus!


I remember…


Driving through Jamaica, Queens and thinking that it looked like Peckham.
 

Michael drove us around for a couple of hours and we stayed glued to the windows

 

Hearts thumping…

             Wide eyed…

                         Amazed…

 

We were in Am-er-i-ca!


It was only when we got to New York that Washington DC turned into Maryland, a million miles away from the New York we had seen on TV and in the brochures.
 

I still remember…


The name of Henry’s road… Good Luck Road
 

All the trees and deserted streets didn’t seem like good luck to me.
 

It was only when we got there that we realised that Henry’s “around the corner” was in fact 5 hours on a coach, and then almost an hour more to get from Washington DC to Landover, Maryland where Henry actually lived.


I remember…


Tamara’s face when we arrived at the greyhound station in DC just before midnight. She looked horrified and scared, holding her fingers to her temples as if to prevent her brains from exploding. We were welcomed by crack fiends and loonies. Accosted by taxi drivers that looked like they needed to be in rehab, but had obviously said NO… NOOO NOOO NOOO!

 

Fear…

            Confusion…

                         Trepidation…

 

I remember…
 

The din.


Thinking,


Damn, these Americans sure do like to scream when they talk…


I remember…


Looking for Henry amidst the blur and not seeing him anywhere


I remember…
 

I remember…


DO YOU REMEMBER YOUR FIRST BIG TRIP? SHARE YOUR STORY!

Comments

  1. Haha! Hilarious reading. You've got a real gift for writing….keep it up!

    B.

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