London, Dreams, Expectations, Lessons Learned, and Growth

One Achievement Unlocked

Brace Yourself: It is going to be a long blog entry. Full story and all. Of course I am all about the long entries but for those of you who take the time to read it and are interested, thank you. I appreciate you.

It’s been about 7 months since my last blog entry. In my last entry I talked about making plans for your dreams and listed my big dreams I seek to achieve.

I can now cross one off the list. And soon another.

For the first time, I was able to take a week off and travel. I left out of the country and spent one week in London, England.

For a girl who never thought this to be possible traveling has opened more doors and curiosities for me. My trip was an eye opening experience and one week in a new world was definitely not enough. But I will never forget my experience on new land. Both good and bad.

This wonderful opportunity first came when an online friend named Richard offered to host me. We met through a mutual friend and had talked since 2014  connecting over art and music. It was amazing how well we got along. It was nice to talk to another fellow artist about our interests. Then one day, he told me if I can get a ticket, he would host me for a week no charge and show me around town.

I buckled down and went for it. I got my ticket in December and left in May. With good timing I was able to snag a ticket for one week for under $1000. It was about a month’s rent, but I was determined to travel before I was 30.

For months, I was filled with much anticipation and excitement to explore outside of the country on my own and meet my friend. I listened to a lot of English music to pump me up for my trip. (Def Leppard being a given, but everyday I was listening to The Cure, The Smiths, Human League, Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, all that good stuff.) Prior to this trip, I have only visited Las Vegas and California so this was all very new to me. I never travel so my mind was racing on all that I would see. Traveling or doing anything involving money is a luxary to me, or should I say, a luxary to most Americans in debt.

I researched, prepared, made checklists, did everything I could to feel ready to travel. I was nervous but wanted to be prepared.  You think you have everything ready for a rainy day but even with the most preparation you can still miss the mark. Still, researching ahead of time helped minimize more mistakes. Like staying on the right side of the lift. I remembered.

April 30, 2016, the day finally comes. I left on an 8 hour flight from Minnesota to Reykyavik Iceland. I was already impressed by the people. Everyone dressed significantly sharp and the pilots and flight attendents looked like celebrities. Slick uniforms, hair up, tiny hats, blond hair, icy blue eyes, cute high and round cheek bones, I took photographic pictures to remember to include them in my art in the future.

Iceland was a pretty small island from what I can remember. From the sky I noticed there were no trees, barely any roads or traffic, off and on again small neighboorhoods,  surrended by ocean, chilly, and had many beautiful rock formations.

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Sky view of Iceland.

I barely slept at all on the flight. It was hot and cramped but when I walked onto a foregin land for the first time, the air was extremely fresh. I did not spend much time there but I took a moment to appreciate their bathrooms and how Iceland in my mind means “clean” and fresh.”

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I appreciate the bathrooms. They are super clean and private.

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Faucet and Hand Dryer in One. Such a cool design.

London was only two hours away. My stomach was churning and I was even more restless.

I finally made it to Gatwick airport. I was hungry, tired, dazed, but filled with so much excitement.  As soon as I got off the plane I check my phone and tried to connect to Facebook to let my host know I made it. My phone could not connect to the internet and I did not have reception. (This was the first mistake. Make sure your phone works internationally because this caused me the most grief. I could not call anyone and free wifi on the streets was impossible to come by. I tried contacting my carrier but they could not help me.)

I got my bag and GBP and wondered the airport for a while.

As minutes passed, the more nervous I became. I had no way to contact my host Richard so I hung by the exit to the train. Luckily I spotted a man with a bull haircut and mod clothes and knew it was him. He greeted me with a hug, a kiss on the head, and a smile.

Getting from the airport back to the apartment was a blur.  All I remember is talking about art, 60’s music, and movies on the way but there were so many moving stimuli all around me it was difficult to focus. Especially when navigating through crowds of people and traffic. When I got onto the tube for the first time, I remembered looking at the map prior to my departure. I still could not figure it out no matter how hard I looked. This is what it looks like.

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London Tube System

In Minnesota we do not have a subway system so I was having a difficult time trying to figure out the pattern. I have a better understanding of it now, but still this was difficult for me to figure out the pattern.

When I got to Crouch End everything was amazing. I loved the little “borough.” All of the  houses were in rows, tucked ever so close to one another. Everything I saw seemed so compact and cute, even the cars. I was in awe of everything, the unique trees, tiny patches of front yard, mysterious staircases, and the churches placed vicariously in the neighborhoods.

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Cute neighborhood. Sat on some apartment steps and enjoyed the peace.

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This amazing van just sitting outside.

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Beautiful little fountain in someone’s front porch.

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Beautiful compact homes.

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Hogwarts type school for the ritzy kids.

The first night was great. We went to a cute little pub. I had a pear cider and got to know my host more. He treated me to Indian curry for take out and I was introduced to British TV. Well the TV show QI in particular. I do not watch TV here so this was a real treat for me. The show was very different as it asks obscure questions and its mostly about the journey of getting the answer, rather than getting the actual answer.

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Stephen Fry hosts QI aka Quite Interesting a comedic panel quiz show.

 

Sunday I spent the whole day exploring the Crouch End neighborhood on my own. My host had to work Sunday and Monday and kindly left me his keys so I could return to the apartment.

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Heading down the hill of Crouch.

Monday I decided to explore further and went up the Alexendra Palace. I was lucky that there was a mini art festival going on in the neighborhood and one of the people handed me a pamphlet with a map of the area on it. I noticed a giant green space on the map of a park and decided to go there because I love nature.

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Breakfast for the day. Mark & Spencers is my new favorite grocery shop. Food was always fresh.

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Cute kitty I met on the way to the palace.

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Alexandre Palace

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I do not think I was supposed to climb onto this part of the palace but I could not resist.

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The view high off ground was great.

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Cute couple enjoying the good London weather.

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Medium raspberry custard I got at Riley’s after. So delicious.

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Awesome portrait of  Bill Murray at the Kings Head.

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One of my favorites. Waterlow Park.

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Happened to walk passed Charles Dickens house. In Cambridge Heath.

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Unique vehicle I saw in the backroad.

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I found this hilarious. Located on Great Portland Street in West London.

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Little Scottie. There were many people with tiny dogs. Tiny dogs are in in London.

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Walked passed The York in Islington. That place was happenin’.

The first 4 days were great. We watched movies like Theater or Blood, Valley of the Dolls, and Tellstar, talked about art, ate delicious food, stopped at some cute pubs and had raspberry beers, and walked around the town. My host was always so thoughtful and asked if I wanted tea or anything to eat quite often. He made me home made vegetarian pasta and an full English breakfast. When he ran errands or went out he brought me chocolate. What I admired was that this person was full of knowledge and history. Any building I saw or anything related to music he had some prior knowledge and shared it with me like a true tour guide. I voiced to him everyday how great and thoughtful he was and that I am so lucky.

 

A Drastic Turn

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The British Museum.

Tuesday is where it all took a turn. In the morning, a previous back pain I had months ago came out of the blue. I could barely bend, walk, sit, or move. For months I was strong and healthy, but all of the walking and tight boots threw back all the progress I had made.

Throughout the day we walked through Soho, Kingly Court. Park Crescent, and Regents Park. By the time I sat at the Park, I could barely keep walking let alone keep my spine straight. I wanted to lay on the ground. I started walk slower and slower falling behind my host. He did not seem to notice. I asked if we could head back home so I could rest.

On the tube, I noticed his attitude changed. He looked frustrated, did not make eye contact at me, and held his head in his hand. After we got off the tube and headed toward the apartment, he quickened his paced and silently marched forward leaving me behind.

On the way, he voiced that he had more plans for the rest of the night and wanted to travel to a few more pubs. I told him my back could not take anymore for the day. I apologized. When we went back to the apartment, I laid down and he left. He was gone for a while.

This was the first night I saw another side to my host.

Later, he returned back from the pub. He walked into the bedroom where I was listening to music and drawing. He starts off, “Well I see you still have not gotten up.”

He leaves the room and comes back.

“You know I find you very insulting. Why would you not plan better. You should have put a little more effort in planning for this trip. What kind of 26 year old gets back problems? Why didnt you bring medicine? I spent alot of money for this week and planned everything out. My time is valuable and I could be painting right now. I did not sign up to spend a week with an invalid. I can not handle four more days of this.”

He went off. I was silent and in disbelief. I did not realize at the time that this was a scene not unfamiliar to someone who knows what its like to be in a presence of an alcoholic. It hit hard for me. I should have realized what kind of person he was from the books on his shelf that read something along the lines of “How to quite the drink.”

I was in shock but knew I had to try and diffuse the situation. I realized how controlling this person was and had to choose my words wisely. Anyone who knows me, knows I am not one for yelling. I always try to find a compromise and never want confrontation to escalate. And what could I say? In a sense I was depending on this one person in a foreign land…

I calmly told him, ” I did not know my back would relapse. I thought I was better now. Its been months since I had any sign of pain. In no means did I mean to insult you. I did put a lot of effort into planning my trip.”

Ignoring my reply, he left the room again and brought his ipad. On the screen was a list of hotels near the Gatwick airport.

” I found some hotels you can stay at that are close to the airport. I am sorry but I can not take any more days like this. I have things to do.”

I told him I would be happy to go and compromise with him on the situation. In no means did I want to impose on him. And in the back of my mind, I wanted to go right than and there. Even if it was 10 or 11 at night.

At the last moment though, he changed his mind and said we would, “make it work.”

So for the rest of the week I was trapped in a room and apartment with a person that viewed me as a burden.

To top it off, my suspicions of him disliking me now was validated. When I had to use his ipad to talk to people and check my messages, (Since my phone was useless), I happened to see him talking with some other person.

Complaining about me. Lying about me.

I respect the privacy of my friends and trust them, they know that I cannot lie and that my conscious is too big, but wandering eyes got the best of me, and after I realized he is not the person I thought he was, I saw what he wrote. A message not meant for these eyes.

He was telling a girl friend of his that he wanted to…

-push me into a taxi and get rid of me

-he did not sign up to spend a week with an invalid

-this was a mistake

-he misses his privacy

-he wishes she was the one spending a week with him

Later, after I got myself a hot patch, he lied to this girl telling her that he had to, “help me put it on.” He did no such thing. He continued on complaining that I used up the rest of his medicine that I paid back, and had the audacity to tell her that, “we are being civil,” the next day like I was doing something wrong. He even complained that I snore. Which for some reason was a big deal. Its a basic human thing. He apologized for it. Something so natural he felt ashamed of…

That moment I knew who I was dealing with. He was painting a picture of some broken/ignorant American that is too much for him to bare. It was like being with a villain in a movie. All smiles and full of charm but a cruel and evil person behind your back. If you are not someone he expects to be, he will throw you out right away. Everything must go according to his plan and cater to his needs. I can see how anyone can be fooled. He is a good story teller let alone actor.

I should have seen the signs early on. During the trip, there were many places we could not go inside. He had mentioned that he used to work at some of the local shops and that all the jobs,”ended on a bad note and that the managers there were jerks.” He was extremely forgetful and often repeated himself telling me the same things. I did not mind, but later I realized he may not remember anything I am saying and is only focused on his thoughts. He detoured me from seeing other friends too while I was in town, he seemed to find always find something negative to say about places of people. It was peculiar.

What really hurts though is that I thought this was a friend. After two years, I was fooled.  I never expected anything like this to happen. Especially from a guy the same age as my mom. To call someone so cruel and childish a man would be a joke…

Anyways, the rest of the week he said nothing more about what happened that night. His attitude from the friendly cool guy from day one was gone, but he still was hospitable to me. But you could tell the rest of the week was a drag for him.

The night before I left I told him I need to be at the airport before noon so we should leave early. He said not to worry we will get there on time. The next morning comes. We don’t leave till 10. Again he goes silent on the whole trip to the aiport. As we were powerwalking through the streets I was carrying 2 bags filled with my stuff and rolling my luggage behind. He told me, ” Could you walk a little faster,” as he powerwalked quickly in front of me. Eventually he helped me by carrying one bag but his expectations were so high he did not care how hurt I was. My back at this point was done for. The blisters on my feet had me walking with a limp. I wanted to lay on the ground but all I could think about at that moment was getting home and away from this person. I toughed it out and continued to push.

We get at the airport a little bit before 12:30pm and was told the terminal has been closed. My flight was gone.

We go to Gatwick Express to try and get a transfer. I hand over my ticket information and travel insurance information. The lady said she could not get a hold of any of the emergency numbers listed on my paperwork nor did Icelandair transfer. I would have to buy a whole new tickets to leave.

At this point I couldn’t handle anymore, I was ready to leave. She said there were no more flights to Minnesota and that the only place that is leaving was at a completely different airport. She gave me a price range on how much the tickets would be and quoted around £1200-£2000 .

My host was at his boiling point and said, ” I don’t have that money. I can’t help you.” I told him not to worry about it. I will make it work.

Soon after without looking me in the eyes he stomped away and said “If only you would have walked faster you wouldn’t have missed your flight. Sorry I can’t help you.”

And that was the last I saw Richard. No hugs. No farewells. Nothing.

He abandoned me at the airport. If insulting me was not enough, this cut the cake.

I had no working cellphone still. No access to the internet. No one I knew was around. Not enough money in my checking account. No one at home knew what happened. I felt helpless and betrayed.

My eyes got foggy and the tears came out, I could not hold it in any longer. The lady at the desk worked very hard for the next hour or so to find me the most affordable tickets back. She continued to say, ” Thank you for your patience.” After her and another lady helped me they finally were able to get me a ticket to New York that would bring me to Minnesota the next morning. Which then my host would tell me that,” I could have taken the train myself,” and that he did, “not appreciate that I could not figure out the tube map. Its not rocket science.” He continued to put blame on me for things out of my power after the fact, dodging any responsibility, and lashing out. All I imagine so he could move forward in his life with no consequence or remorse.

I had to pay around $1400 to get home. I luckily had my credit card with me, however this threw me into a lot of debt that I am still in today. After this whole trip, my travel insurance I got through CSA told me that I could not claim anything and there is nothing they could do for me. Needless to say do not invest in this insurance. It was a waste of money.

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New York from the subway window.

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After waiting all night I got to wait outside the terminal to Minnesota.

I left on my flight to New York. Hiding my tears in my hat and thinking over and over I will be home soon to Davis and my bunnies. The only hope I held onto. I stayed up all night cold in New York. My phone finally got reception and I was able to talk to Kirsan and Davis that night. The next morning, as soon as I got on my flight to Minnesota and arrived, I was filled with joy. A hot humid day in Minnesota never seemed so perfect.

My friend Rithy contacted me that morning. He offered to see me but it was already too late. My flight was arriving within the hour. It would have been nice to see him since he was not so far away. Although I was a complete mess. Good thing he did not.

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Scene from outside my apartment. Good ole Minnesota.

Its been a few months since I have returned.  Thinking back on all of this it does make me really upset. Something that started off so wonderful ended with me losing a friend, $1400 more in debt, an injured back, a sour feeling in my gut and physically/emotionally drained.

However I do not want to give a bad impression, I have wonderful memories of my trip and do not regret going. Anyone who dreams of travel please put England on your list. Bad things may have happened, but its important to always find the positive, learn from your experience, and move forward. As soon as I got home, I found a new appreciation for Minnesota and truly realized how much I love my home and how much of life I am missing out on.

After getting all this all out, I feel better. I tend to keep my personal feelings to myself and not on the internet, but I had to get this rock off my chest. I refuse to hide, back down , or feel ashamed for anything that happened. I will never be walked over nor will I be silent. People who are terrible should be exposed and should not be able to just walk through life without consequence…Never let anyone belittle or bully you.

Learn from my mistakes and be careful and not to give your trust online so quickly. Always follow your gut. I see now why I never add people I do not know. I can’t help but see the good in everyone and give them a chance, but once you cross the line that is it. I sent my host my last thoughts and have not spoken to him since. He did send me a few messages after. First apologizing after he found my thank you card and money and then went back to being himself after seeing how my friends/family reacted to this story and how he treated me.

And now that I have said my peace and have learned from my experience, I am ready to put this negativity behind me and remember the positives of my trip.

What I saw and learned about London

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One of many beautiful churches tucked in the neighborhood.

London was huge to me. But to those who travel and to people like my partner Davis who sees farther into the cosmos, London is just a tiny sliver. A sliver that appeared overcrowded and compact. At all times of the day, there were always someone on the street. During the day you constantly walk through crowds of people on thin sidewalks. There seemed to be lack of privacy. In my eyes, the way they design, they do best to accommodate space and create architectures in a smart way to not be just luxurious but to be practical and smart. Making use of space very smart. Seeing this, was ever so interesting coming from the land of 10,000 lakes where there is always tons of space, large front yards, and houses that are far apart you don’t have to hear your neighbor. I could walk down the street at 7pm and not have someone walk by me. The difference was amazing.

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Trying to find Pink Floyd’s Live in Pompeii record for Davis.

Buying items in London was quite expensive. Everyday I had to keep track of how much of what I was spending and what I realized was that it was going fast. A lot of items were 15-20 pounds. (Almost 30 dollars in US money. It went quickly)

Even with what happened,  I believed all of what my host said about his home in London. He had lived there for many of years and knew it well. I pointed out the cameras and me said crime has gone down since CCTV installed them everywhere. Not many people steal or mug people. Some may feel big brother is watching, but overall people feel safe and do not worry about some idiot doing something stupid. ( They will get caught very fast.) It is also very difficult to attain weapons. The general public is not allowed to own firearms. Which really surprised me. The only people who have them are farmers and police. Which I learned the type of people who commit suicide the most are lonely farmers. They can have guns in order to protect their live stock.

Which gets me wondering why can’t America figure it out? With all the shootings, murder, and increase of assaults happening lately, when will we take note to move forward?

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View from Suicide Bridge.

((After my trip, my good friend Adina went to Scotland and had her own experiences and insights in a foreign land. She too noticed how sick America looks from the outside and how the folk of Scotland are very caring for one another. She wrote about her experience in her blog. You can check it out here. Also thanks for the shout out!))

To me the food I ate was so delicious and fresh. Fast food and adverts were very much the same as it is here in America. To my surprise, KFC is still going strong, where here in Minnesota they are all disappearing and turning into a Popyes. The portions of their food are significantly smaller and the access to fresh produce was on every corner.

One of my favorite places was this fish shop. It was super cute and the lady their said she liked my accent.

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Delicious fish I had at Mathew’s Kitchen.

While I got to watch tv, I noticed a lot of the type of shows on their channels were game shows, news, and home improvement/home search shows. I was very interested in them. I watched QI, Room 101, and Two Truths and a Lie. Shows that seemed very much clever and smart. Especially QI. It was not like Family Feud where people shout and the answers are given to you. A right and wrong. It was about the journey of figuring out the answer and deducing from previous knowledge the panelists had. It was funny but fascinating. I told my host I can see why this show did not make it to America. With a world that wants stimuli immediately presented to them, not many people would have the patience or interest to a panel of people discuss on a quiz show with no reward. (Not like Price is Right where you get a prize. The satisfaction comes from the journey of figuring out the answer to the proposed question)

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As glamorous as phone boxes look, they smell very bad. Hobos pee in them.

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Forbidden Planet. One of the biggest and most beautiful comic book stores. ❤

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Tiny colored homes.

Compared to Minnesota, everything was very old and very compact. There were small patches of land in front of rows and rows of apartments, but no actual yards. In a country where everything is spread out and big everything was compact, condensed, and designed to be managed in the smartest of ways. The architecture was breathtaking. It was amazing to see how,”unnoticeable” it is to the people that lived there.

I was surprised to find that one of the biggest problems in London is not so different from what we experience here at home. It’s true, they work hard to preserve the history and the beautiful old buildings, but there is constantly construction going on everywhere to create new flats. And the issue is there are so many expensive flats being made nobody is living in them.

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The streets of Soho

London is expensive and people are having to leave because they can barely afford the most basic of tiny apartments in the city. My host told me that the “rich” are moving in and raising the prices of rent. Realtors scour areas that have some sort of history or is a runned down cool spot where artists live, they buy it, rebuild it, and sell it for a high price to market to people, and when that happens, the people scraping by have to leave and the people who made it cool in the first place have to leave.

Learning all this, I still plan to visit England again in the future. Hopefully with my best friend Kirsan. There is still much to learn about this place and mine. My biggest goal however, is to visit Sheffield and see Steve’s grave. My host told me I would hate such a small town, but he really had no idea who I am. I love nature, I love small towns, and I love exploring. I am patient and enjoy the little things in life. I WILL see my favorite rock star in the “Town of Steel.”

Tips For Future London Travelers

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Me standing in front of some awesome art in Shoreditch.

-Make sure your phone plan supports international travel

-Invest in good Travel Insurance.

-Bring medicine

-Wear good shoes. (My new boots destroyed my baby toe)

-Make sure to order your Oyster card before hand. I am glad I did. I was able to skip the long line to top up and get a card. Have it handy. You will be needing this a lot.

– Stay in a hostile/hotel. Do not stay with someone you do not know unless you have met them or they are family. Or if you have not met them, make sure you have someone with you.

-If you travel with other people make sure you guys work well together and have the same goals. Traveling with my host, we breezed through all the sights. I felt like I could not venture off and do what I wanted. I had to stick close and stick to his plan. My style is explore and check out everything thoroughly, taking my time. For me next time I will travel with someone where we can explore both solo and together.

-Save up around $2500 for this trip. It may seem difficult but if you move around your priorities it can happen. Don’t waste money on gum or coffee, save every penny. The reward and experience will be even more worth it.

-When you get there, talk to the locals. Looking back, I wish I could have talked to other Londoner’s while I was out and about. Learning about their lives, what they are into, and if they are happy living there.

-Avoid tourist traps. Try traveling to lesser known areas. You can find charity shops with affordable goods. The areas by big landmarks had very expensive clothes and such.

Present and Future Goals

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3 of my girls draw with pen and Prisma for my recycled art paper series.

Traveling out and experiencing a whole new culture for the first time. I have been bitten by the travel bug. I have always loved exploring but now I want to explore the land I live on. Getting back into my pattern, and realzing more and more that everyweek I am losing about 10 hours of my life in traffic. Traveling from 169 to 62 everyday in morning traffic sometimes takes me over and hour to get to work both ways. To try and get more out of my days I try and leave earlier so I am at work by 7-7:30am.

I have created a new pattern and slowly want to break it inbetween. Going out and drawing more, attending events, seeing parks and lakes I have never visited, and exploring as far as I can go.

Another first for me besides my trip, was taking PTO. I took a day to go to Sea Life and draw the fish. To work on my skills. It was great.

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Handpool of cute underwater life

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Amazon fish

My two main focuses now are launching my store and drawing girl on recycled paper series.

I got this really cool paper from London and I love it. Its recycled and made from India.

You can purchase some here.

My store The Jolly Jawbreaker is slowly coming together. I’ve changed the launch dates over and over. It was due for spring but already its summer. Can’t rush these things I guess. Here is a preview of the store front.

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The Jolly Jawbreaker website progress.

I have test printed the buttons, postcards, and bags and am pleased with the results.

The next items on the t0-do list are making the bookmarks, prints, and charms. Then I will feel ready to photograph and launch this store! I am so close.

(Thank you Jessica for letting me borrow your laminator)

I am also happy to say I made my first sales already. My cousin bought two buttons and my best friend bought 6. I am lucky to have such great people that support my passion.

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Thank You.

 

And now, If you are still reading my blog. I applaud you and thank you so so much for taking the time. I’ve tried to jampack all of my experience and thoughts in this blog but its gotten really long…My overall thought is there will always be bumps and bad things that happen, but it is always possible to turn them into something positive for yourself. I am so grateful for this opportunity and do not regret experiencing a new land. It really reiterated a lot of things for me. Like, do not get stuck in monotonous activity. Do not get sucked into technology. Write down your goals, explore the world, figure out your true passions and what you want to do, do not wait, do not wonder and waste time. Our life is really short on this planet. Experience the beauties and diversities that life has to offer. Do not let the stress of money stop you from what you want. Do not let something so small stop you. It is such a strong force that can dictate our actions everyday… It can seem hopeless at times as our generation faces so much debt and financial burden, but the ability to adapt and overcome is always possible. Do not  make excuses to not fulfill your dreams. Push yourself and try, because regret and not even trying is worse than failing.

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