love letters to england: before we go



“England is never in a hurry because she is eternal.” 
― Henryk Sienkiewicz, In Desert and Wilderness


I begin writing this on the fifteenth day in August in 2016 as I sit between a window and a cheesy tourist gift shop at an airport in Toronto. My bags are checked, I can feel my nerves in the pit of my stomach as I type this, and I'm drinking my very last iced coffee from Tim Horton's until my return— 17 days from now, almost the longest we've ever been away from one another. But that's okay, because it feels like I'm going home anyways.

I've been romanticizing England since I was little; all throughout my childhood relatives would come and visit and I would be completely enamoured—mostly with their accents and all of the sweets & treats they would pull out of their suitcases for us, but enamoured nevertheless. My first major trip and first ever flight was to England in 2009, to see relatives and a boyband. 7 years seem to have flown by since I was that sixteen year old girl that felt awkward and a little lost. A girl that never told her school that she was jetting off on a plane for two weeks (but had a very stern talking to when she walked through the doors of school with only two days left of classes and multiple missed exams). It was all worth it, because while I was there I met and befriended so many girls and it felt like a second home. A place I would want to return to over and over again. 

A few months before I ventured back for the second time, I started dating my first long-term boyfriend. We went on our first date a day after my first year of college wrapped and everything was intoxicatingly new; I was on a high from the excitement and I didn't want it to end. Throughout my trip, even though I really enjoyed myself, my heart wanted to get home to see him—to ease the need to be intoxicated just by being around this boy. At that time, home wasn't 3,000 miles away in a place with rain and accents. Home was with him and I was homesick. 

Two years later, we would be breaking up on a bitterly cold day in March. It would be two years to the day from when I booked flights for that second trip. I could see my breath as I tried to save my home—the one I longed for when I was miles away, the one we were building together. Two weeks prior to that day, I spoke to him about a dream I had that turned into a metaphor for our relationship and how it ended. I didn't understand why we were not trying to repair the home we built, but a home without a roaring fireplace and mugs in the cupboards and photographs on the walls is not a home. It's just a place you go to for shelter from the rain, not for comfort.

That bitter cold air didn't leave my chest for months afterwards as I spent far too much time searching for someone new that would settle my homesickness—one that would bring back that warmth and excitement again. One that would be my home again. But that never worked. Six months later I would be helping one of my very best friends from that very first trip away heal after her long-term relationship ended, too. We would be each other's lifeboats when the storms felt too strong and always be a text away if we needed something. Together, we healed and learned how to build our own homes and decorate them and make them as cozy as we like them to be. We learned that the greatest relationship you can have is with yourself (and some best friends along the way). 

The years that followed were rough, and they continue to be. It feels like I've been climbing a mountain with an unreachable peak. But I'm trying to find that light, however small it is in the dark, whenever I can. And that light right now is this trip, and this feeling of nerves mixed with excitement that I feel at this moment, and the fact that I can be my own home wherever I go. They say home is a feeling, not a place, and I hope to discover that on this trip. 

When I arrived in England last, I had one foot on the plane home already. 

When I arrive again, I know I won't want to look back.

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