Under the not-so-watchful eyes of my oldest brother and our teenage babysitter, I wandered across the street from the church we were at to Sonic. Alone. Somehow, unbeknownst to me, I wound up in the hands of a police officer who later returned me to my panicked parents, balloon tied to my hand.
That was 20 years ago.
My insatiable appetite for adventure and my curiosity about the world has only grown since then. The same instinct that led my two-year-old self into the unknown territory of Sonic, America’s Drive-In, has recently brought me to London, England.
Looking like a Kansas City Sherpa, I flew out of MCI one month ago today. After a worthwhile pit stop in New York where I rang in 2012 (even on central time by singing the KU alma mater and Rock Chalk chant with about 10 other Jayhawks), I made it to Heathrow on Jan. 6. When I tried getting in the driver’s side of Lucy’s car, I think things finally sank in a bit. It was no longer just a plane ticket, a reason for a giant going-away party or a muse for Photoshopping myself in front of the Union Jack flag — I’m actually here.
It has sunk in more and more each day. Old-school taxis, double-decker buses, pubs on every corner, going to an Anglican church, meeting with editors, going to Harrods (where I bought some exceptional earl gray dark chocolate), seeing Big Ben (and mentally replaying the scene from “European Vacation”), having afternoon tea, and visiting the mother of tennis Grand Slams, Wimbledon (I was not moved to tears as anticipated), all remind me in one way or another how fortunate I am to be here.
It’s an incredible thing to experience another culture, regardless of how, but I know I’ve fared well given the position I’m in — living with a Brit who’s well acquainted with America and is also a stellar journalist; looking after a sweet 9-month-old who provides endless entertainment and makes the miles between my nephew and me easier to handle; and getting to experience the journalism industry outside of the States. I’m learning more and more every day. Perhaps my favorite part of traveling, living somewhere else and abandoning my comfort zone is discovering just how big the world is and, in the grand scheme of things, how little I really know.
And I will say that it’s easy to think of home, my family, my pillow-top mattress that I’m really attached to, the comfort of routine college life and maybe the reassurance of knowing —even just a little bit — what tomorrow, next week or next month hold, and want to click my heels and be back in Kansas City. While there’s no place like home, there’s also nothing like a leap of faith. Sure, the big question mark that is my future sometimes makes me wonder how crazy a person has to be to pick up her life (all that will fit into four bags, anyway), move across the globe and just wing it. But ultimately, I know I’ll gain more from this whole journey than I ever could from the anticipated or from college life on repeat.
Sarah Champ 2.0.
It took me nearly a month to actually blog about all of this. Funny thing — even though I’m a “journalist,” I’ve discovered writing about my own life is a different story (yes, literally and figuratively). I’ll get the hang of it.