One year.

A year ago today, I loaded up my parent’s car and made the journey to San Francisco where I would board a one way flight to England. I over packed my luggage just like any other trip, because who knows what you’ll need when you move to another country?

What a year it has been. I’ve experienced so much happiness and love in the last year, along with moments of sadness and loneliness. I have met the loveliest people, visited beautiful places, made friends I will never forget, fallen in love with the English countryside, fallen in love with London, and acquired a new family. It goes without saying I’ve missed my family and friends at home. I’ve missed out on gatherings and milestones, said goodbye to my childhood dog over the phone, and made mistakes along the way. That being said, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve learnt so much about myself, faced some of my fears, challenged myself, and I’ve had a fabulous freaking time.

That new family I talked about, the appreciation I have for them is endless. I could never thank or express to them fully how grateful I am for them. They’ve welcomed me into their home and have been a family to me when mine was 5,200 miles away (I looked it up). They’ve introduced me to life in the English countryside, European cheese, Gogglebox, and the list could go on. It has been an absolute joy looking after these children. They are happy, hilarious, and insanely adorable. I’ve spent nearly everyday with these people this past year and I’m not quite ready to say goodbye but I know I will see them again soon. I promise.

One week from today I’ll make the long flight journey back to a little piece of heaven in California. I’ll get to see my cousin marry his college sweetheart, catch up on lost times with my people, and be the maid of honor in my best friend’s wedding. I don’t suspect I’ll be home long because I’m already itching to come back to this side of the pond. I’ve had the privilege of seeing just a small chunk of this great big world and I hope I never lose the drive to keep searching. That is all I have for now. Until the next time I have an inkling to sit and chat into the computer, lots of love. Talk soon xx

 

I Wrote It! I Finally Wrote It!

Hi All!

How are you doing? (“Oh, that’s exciting!” “She did what?” “How do you feel about that?”). Syd asked me to write an update about my time visiting her in England. Now, I realize that I am about five months late on this, but I got home the day before school began and then five months went by. Life happens, ya know? Anyway…

Syd moving to England was exciting in so many ways, one being that I would get to visit her. The great thing about a sister-friend is that we get to share in each other’s adventures for our whole lives. After a lot of deliberating, I decided to head over around Christmas time.

Having this plan was daunting, to say the least.

When I was younger, I would get into fights with my sister. (What? No way!) It’s true. To diffuse our spats, my mom would make us sit in the middle of the living room, criss-cross applesauce, and stare at each other. If this seems strange, it’s because it was; but if my mom is anything, she’s not boring. Every time we did this, we would end up laughing at each other and realize how silly our argument had been.

Going on this trip was a lot like that. I found myself staring my fears in the face.

I’ve always fancied myself to be an adventurous person, and I am. But these adventures often come with a lot of anxiety. This trip was no different. I would be spending Christmas without the majority of my family for the first time ever, to go somewhere that I had never been before. I would also gain a personal record for long plane rides. I was inundated with stupid thoughts and worries.

The catch is that I always end up going on my adventures and see how senseless my fear was. This trip was no different.

When I got off the plane, I was greeted with open arms by my traveled sister and a Cadbury chocolate bar. After a few days at her England home with her lovely host family, we set out on our adventures.

First, we went to Harry Potter World. For lack of a better word, it was magical. We spent about five hours venturing around all the sets and props from the films. My favorite part was watching someone get engaged by the scale model of Hogwarts, because I love moments like that.

Next, we went to London. This might have been the first time I experienced culture shock on my trip. London is full of so many wonderful places and people. Thank goodness I had a built in tour guide with Syd. I found myself following her blindly through the London Underground. I was so impressed by how she’d become so comfortable in her new environment.

On our second day in London, I found my favorite spot: Westminster Bridge at sunset. My favorite memory was standing between Big Ben and The London Eye after a rainfall. Even with all of the people, it was incredibly peaceful.

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A few days before Christmas, we started making our way towards Scotland. We spent some time in Cambridge, and then stopped for the night in York. This reminds me that I should say: if someone you know is going to England, please don’t tell them to take pictures of the beautiful buildings. They’re all beautiful. That’s too much pressure and camera storage.

We ended up in Edinburgh on Christmas Eve. Scotland was as breathtaking as I had hoped. We saw green hills, rustic city, and snow in the matter of three days. The city of Edinburgh was full of lights. We had sight of the castle from our hotel room. On Christmas Day, we went to mass in a gorgeous cathedral, and then on a traditional Christmas walk around the city. The following day, we did some more exploring around the city and the castle. Out of all the places I want to see again, I would love to go back to Edinburgh the most.

In the last few days I had, we traveled between Sydney’s home in Kelvedon and London. In this time, we saw a lot more of the city, including the reconstructed Globe Theatre (English Nerd dream fulfilled!). There were so many places that we saw, and there is still so much that I want to see. I can’t wait to return someday to visit friendly faces, and find new places.

I learned so much on this adventure. Most importantly, I was reminded that the world is so big, and I want to go find it. I would have never known that if I hadn’t stared my fear in the face. What once seemed daunting became an unforgettable trip with my best friend for life.

Because I am so cultured now (not), here are some tips that I would like to leave you about visiting the UK.

Tips for Travelers:

1. It’s okay to fall asleep on the train, the national rail.

2. It’s not okay to fall asleep on the Tube, the transportation around London.

3. It’s not okay to fall asleep on the bus back from the Harry Potter tour. Your sister might leave you behind (I’m looking at you, Syd).

4. Scotland is cold. Bring a jacket.

5. London is big. Bring tennis shoes.

6. Do you like Cadbury? Good, it’s everywhere.

7. The bathroom is called the “loo.” Public restrooms are called “toilets.”

8. Cookies are “biscuits,” chips are “crisps,” fries are “chips.”

9. Dessert is “pudding,” and candies are “sweeties.”

10. Underwear is called “pants.” Pants are called “trousers.” Oatmeal is “porridge.”

11. Keep calm, and adventure with the people you love.

Thankful.

Remember when I said that I was going to try and be more consistent with my blogging? Well ya that didn’t happen obviously. Oh well maybe that’ll be a New Year’s resolution? Who keeps those anyways?

Since my last blog I’ve gotten to do some pretty exciting things. I went on a little road trip to Oxford with some fellow au pairs which was so fun and documented by my friend Lucie in her awesome vlog. We drove to the park and ride and took the bus into the town center where we spent the day exploring around the city, walking through Oxford University, and having tea. I have gone into London a handful of time of times which is always so amazing. One weekend I went to The British Museum which is so massive and impressive it took awhile to get through. I would like to add that I have never been shoved whilst trying to look at a rock before seeing the Rosetta Stone. Arguably the most popular attraction in the museum but so many people crowd around it to try and take photos, I really just wanted to read the sign.

Another riveting life update is that I’m now 25! I don’t know how that happened but it’s pretty exciting. My host family planned a little treat for me about a week before my birthday which was incredibly sweet of them. My host mum, Orla, and myself had a girls day in London where we went for some lunch at an amazing tapas restaurant. After lunch we went and saw the film Frozen at the Royal Albert Hall accompanied by a live orchestra which was absolutely incredible. The acoustics of the Royal Albert Hall are known for being just stupendous and it was such an amazing experience I won’t soon forget. On the day of my actual birthday I had such a lovely day and my host family made me feel very special with my favorite foods and lovely gifts. I surely felt love from my people back home as well with cards and gifts sent from the states. I told myself leading up to it and still a bit now how old I feel 25 seems (nearly 30, eek!) but in reality it’s not that bad. So here’s to making year 25 fabulous!

Probably the most exciting thing to happen in the last month would be that I got to visit home! For anyone who knows me, I can’t keep a secret to save my life, I have a terrible poker face, and I’m quite honestly a blabbermouth. So to keep this a secret for 2 months is a great accomplishment for myself. With some helpful planning of my mother and my host family I booked a flight home to surprise everyone for Thanksgiving! My travel day started at about 5:30 in the morning UK time by taking the train into London and necessary underground tube trains to get to the airport for my flight. The first leg of the trip from London to Dallas, Texas was a quick 10 hours and 30 minutes. When I touched down in Dallas I had a two hour layover which included going through customs, switching terminals, and going through security and eating of course. Once I pushed back form Dallas it was seriously the longest four hour flight to Sacramento to be reunited with my favorite people. Since a total of two people, my mom and her best friend, knew that I was arriving, they contrived a story to get my youngest sister, Sienna, to the airport to be the first person surprised. As soon as I opened the door to the pickup she leaped into my arms and we didn’t detach until it was time to collect my bag. That is when I discovered she had grown approximately six inches while I was away! On our way out of the airport we FaceTimed with our middle sister, Sarah, to share the news with her. I do feel bad that we made her cry in the middle of Target but I’m so happy that she was surprised. We continued the surprise by calling my best friend the same way and she was able to meet us on our way home. I then arrived home to my sleeping dad and when I woke him up he didn’t exactly know what was going on and says he felt like he was dreaming. After an incredibly exhausting 26+ hour day of travel I was so glad to go to bed in my childhood home with my favorite people.

During my week long stay I tried to squeeze in as much as possible with my family and friends. This included multiple Thanksgiving feasts, wedding dress shopping, going to school with Sienna, witnessing my cousin get engaged, a quick pre-airport breakfast with best friends, sharing my new stories,  and just relishing in some quality time with my favorite people. The week went by much too quickly and then it was time to head back home. I’ll tell you over and over about how much I love it here in England but there was something about going home for a little bit that made me appreciate it more. I think it’s funny that before going home I feel like I’ve been here for quite awhile but once I got home it seems like I’d been gone a couple weeks.

After another long journey of planes, trains, and automobiles I’m back in England. With any other job I would have been so pleased to have a week away and would dread coming back but I rather missed these kiddos and my host family. So now I go back to the ways of communicating with lovely technology until I see my people again. I’m so incredibly thankful for the opportunity to travel home, my family and friends, and my host family. The year is drawing to a close and I just can’t help but feel immensely blessed by the people in my life and this amazing opportunity. Gosh how mushy was that? That’s really all I have for now. I apologize if I bored anyone with details of my travel day, but I don’t really care honestly.

I’m so pleased my little sister Sarah is traveling to the UK to spend the holidays with me! It will be a first for our family to not all be together but I know it will be alright. If I don’t blog before then I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your family. Sending my love from England. Talk soon!

I’m rubbish at blogging.

To be honest I’m terrible at keeping up with blogging. I always have every intention of writing when my weekend has finished or when I have a chance mid week but it never happens. I need to make a better effort at it if only to let my mother know what I’m up to…

It’s been almost three months since I moved to England. To be honest I feel as though it’s been longer than that. I couldn’t say why but it just feels that way. I’ve never been more appreciative for technology since I made this move. Yes I have a deep love for my iPhone. It can help me with almost anything but it has become such a lifeline with keeping in touch with the ones I love back home. It makes it so I can see their faces on a regular basis and I believe it attributes to why I haven’t gotten too homesick. I know that I could have done it without such technology but beyond doubt it would be immensely more difficult.

I guess some people wonder what the heck I do while I’m here. Maybe not but I’ll let you know anyways. I spend the weekdays with these adorable children doing drop off/pick up for Orla at pre-school, taking Ralph to playgroups in the mornings and after lunch and quiet time we spend the afternoon taking walks in the wood or doing a craft or activity. I’ve been so incredibly lucky and these children are such an absolute joy to look after. They are so sweet and just so much fun. The whole family calls me Syd which warms my heart because I rarely get called Sydney by people that know me unless I’m in trouble, which is obviously never. I get to cook for my host parents once a week and I think tacos have become a favorite. In the evenings I go out with fellow au pairs or stay in and explore the great discovery that is British television programs. I usually end my day but catching up with all my people back home because they’re usually all awake by then, darn time difference.

On the weekends I get the opportunity to explore this beautiful country. If you were to look at the United Kingdom on a map and compare it to California, it is about half of size in square miles the size of my glorious home state. So at any time you can hop on a train and be to the other end of the country in a matter of hours. I think what is most fascinating to me about being here is that the buildings and towns can be genuinely ancient ruins as with the case of the nearest city to me, Colchester, which is the oldest Roman town in Britain and was a one point the capital of Roman Britain. As rich as the history we have in the States is, when we see something that is “old” it’s relatively only a couple hundred years old. It’s also not uncommon to stumble upon a beautiful cathedral or even a castle in some of the cities and towns here. I can’t wait to get out and about more and travel outside the area I’ve been since I’ve been here.

As much as I love site seeing I do like to have a bit of old fashioned fun as a nearly 25 year old woman should. I had the opportunity to go to the V Festival which is a two day music festival near where I live in Chelmsford. It was incredibly fun and I got to listen to so many great acts and enjoy the festival atmosphere. I took a road trip with some other au pairs and went to Stonehenge which is so remarkable and leaves you awe struck. I also went on my first English pub crawl with some fellow au pairs which was great fun. It was intended to be an international pub crawl in that everyone wore the colors of their countries flag although not everyone did I was able to meet people from all over the world and explore London a bit more. This past weekend I went to a concert at the impressive O2 arena in Greenwich, London and traveled there via river taxi which allowed me to see even more of London which continues to be just as exciting every time I go. I am truly having the greatest time here.

With all of this adventuring and enjoying things that are rather foreign to me there are things from home that I miss. Oh how I miss country radio, the lack of it has forced me to explore and appreciate other types of music. My lovely parents recently sent a care package full of some of my favorite items I haven’t been able to find here which made me so happy. I obviously miss my family and friends more than I could even say but I’m so grateful I get to talk with them as much as I do. I’ve been so lucky to find such wonderful hosts with the Roberts family. They always make sure I feel at home and are quick to help me plan a day out adventuring and I’ve received an abundance of tips for traveling from them and their friends that have visited.

I feel like I’ve tried to add so many details in this because I’m terrible at keeping up with blogging. I’m going to try and a make a genuine effort to do it more. We’ll see how it goes. I really appreciate anyone who actually reads this or comments on the pictures from my journeys with loving words. I miss you all so much and I wish I could bring you along with me. Until next time, I’ll eat some delicious British food and pick up some more of the lingo. Talk soon!

London baby!

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Big Ben
I would have loved to write this sooner but I’ve been having too much fun in the UK! These first few weeks I’ve been busy discovering what there is in all the nearby towns and getting to know my host family and kiddos. This has all been so fun and exciting but my most favorite part would have to be my first trip into London my second weekend here!

I don’t think that my pictures or telling of my weekend would even do it justice but I’m sure gonna try. My weekend started out by taking the train Saturday morning from Kelvedon where I live to the Liverpool Street station in London. This is about a 45 minute journey. When I got off the train and into the station I was immediately overwhelmed. There were so many people. It was exactly like in movies where there is a crowded station and people frantically rushing. Trying to catch their train, get to work, or be reunited with loved ones. It was so exciting. Once I found my way around I got on the bus suggested by my host family that would take me past notable sites in London. It delivered as promised but was also not the fastest mode of transportation. In London there are so many things to see and people all in such a small area, making it quicker to take the underground tube or even walk. Which is what I decided to do. I hopped off the bus in the middle of London and just started walking.

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The underground tube
My first stop was for some lunch because in my excitement of getting ready to go to London that morning I forgot to eat breakfast. I ate at a diner style restaurant called Garfunkel’s. I would have imagined that my first official London meal would be some delicious pub food or fish and chips but no I opted for a bacon burger. This was not the best choice. Not to say England doesn’t have great food but maybe burgers aren’t their strong suit. Or I might be a spoiled Californian with access to In N Out. Needless to say I didn’t enjoy it but I didn’t care because I was in London! After my less than fabulous lunch I started my first exploration into this beautiful city. I first found my way to Big Ben! A fun fact for you, the tower itself is called the Victoria Tower and the bell inside is called Big Ben. Near the Victoria tower is the beautiful Saint Margaret’s Church and Westminster Abbey, which happen to be under construction but was still nothing short of extraordinary. The history that these buildings hold is incredible. Near this is Parliament Square which is home to various statues like Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, and good ole Abraham Lincoln.

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The River Thames

The London Eye
The London Eye
I wandered across the River Thames on one of the various bridges that run through London. I was one of many stopping to snap pictures of all the gorgeous sites surrounding us. I found my way to The London Eye a 443 ft tall Ferris Wheel in the South Bank of the Thames. As you can imagine, an attraction like this is rather popular so I had to purchase my ticket and come back later that day. While I waited I caught the tube to Oxford Circus a street with some fabulous shopping to be done! This place was packed full of people. It seemed that every shop was having a sale and when you stepped in there was a constant noise around because of the volume of people. A little overwhelming but still so exciting. I felt a little awkward being that I had been lugging my backpack around all day but almost everyone around me was toting their suitcases or shopping trolleys with them so I didn’t feel totally out of place. A short time later it was time for me to hop back on the tube and head back to The London Eye. This is quite possibly the best view you will get of London. Unless you happen to be a bird, or a plane, or hell Superman. It was unbelievable and I’m so glad I did it.  After a busy first day in London I decided to find my way to where I would be staying for the night. I’ve never stayed in a hostel but from my first impression of Palmer’s Lodge I hope that all of them are equally as wonderful. I’m probably wrong in assuming this but part of the experience is finding out! With a restaurant and pub downstairs I was able to have my first quality London meal with possibly the best fish and chips I’ve ever had and an ice cold pint.

My home for the evening. Palmer's Lodge
My home for the evening. Palmer’s Lodge
My next day in the city started out early as I ate breakfast at the Lodge and then headed out to do some more exploring. On my way to the start of my first tour of the day I stumbled upon a 10 k charity run that went right through the center of London. The turnout was huge with people participating from all over the world. The first tour I went on a Royal tour where I got to see Big Ben (again), Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey (again), Churchill War Rooms, St James Park, Horse Guards Parade, Buckingham Palace, St James Palace, The National Gallery, and Trafalgar Square. After the tour I joined some people from the tour at a pub in Soho for lunch. As I walked through Soho I knew that I would definitely be returning to check it out on my next visit. As an added bonus I even made a new friend on my tour! I now headed to my final destination for the weekend, The London Dungeon. Those who know me know that I do not do anything scary. Scary movies? Nope. Haunted houses? Nope. Masks or costumes? Nope. I’m pretty much afraid of my own shadow. But I’m in a new place, new continent, and I’m going to try everything I can! The London Dungeon is a historical thrill attraction that details the gore of London’s most notorious criminals such as Jack the Ripper and Sweeney Todd. The Dungeon is interactive and the actors enjoyed picking on the girl from California and making sure I was properly frightened. They did a fabulous job in scaring me and I learned more about London so I’d take it as a win. After two adventure filled days in London it was time for me to hop on the tube to catch my train back home.

I’d have to say that for only having two days and exploring London on my own I had an opportunity to see so much in such a short time and I have a list of places I want to go next time. I’m reading a book at the moment by American author Bill Bryson titled Notes From A Small Island. In the book Bryson details his time of living in the UK from the point of view of an outsider. It is very much hitting close to home and proving to be a great resource. There is such an abundance and character packed into this small island that I don’t think you could ever fun out of places to explore. Samuel Johnson said that when a man is tired of London he is tired of life. There’s so much to do and I can’t wait to go back.

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That was a long flight

Well I made it to England!

Trying to be a photographer on the airplane
Trying to be a photographer on the airplane

For anyone who doesn’t know or is curious about how I got here, let me start at the beginning. I have always had a bit of a travel bug but sometime last Fall it grew much larger. I was at lunch with my super awesome Dad and we were talking about my nagging need to get out and see the world! I figured he would tell me that I need to finish school first but he did the opposite and said if I wanted to go, I should do it now. His approval of my crazy pipe dream is what got the ball rolling to make it happen. I then had to explain to my other family and friends about this crazy idea that I had. Some were not equally as enthusiastic about the idea as Dad was. I am forever grateful to everyone who has supported me and encouraged me on my adventure!

I had heard of some friends who had been au pairs (aka nanny) or knew of someone who had, and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for me to get out and make my plan happen. I began my search by registering with an online au pair network and began the task of looking for a host family. With the building excitement of wanting to go as soon as possible, I would get my hopes up when I thought the perfect family had come along—and then would fall right from my hands. This became rather discouraging along with the arduous task of getting a visa to stay in the UK for an extended period of time. It was just my luck that my biological Father and Grandparents are citizens of the UK and I was issued a UK ancestry visa which allows me to study/work in the UK for up to 5 years. My mother, Jennifer, says there is no way in hell I’ll be staying that long. I guess she would miss me too much.

Going away party with my sweet momma
Going away party with my sweet momma

My expectations for being an au pair was that I would have a family away from family while I am here. For those who do and don’t know, I am extremely fortunate to be close with my parents and sisters, so the idea of leaving them made me reluctant—and they in turn, wanted to make sure I found the right fit. After many months of searching, sifting through host family profiles and applications, and interviewing via Skype I found the perfect host family. When I Skyped with other families it always felt exactly like any old interview with all the pressure and formality. With the Roberts family it was so easy to chat with them and I knew that they were the right choice. They are unbelievably sweet and have made me feel so welcome while I adjust to life a few time zones away from home. It doesn’t hurt that their children I look after are equally as sweet and insanely adorable. Now that I had my host family, I contacted a travel agent and waited patiently for my visa to arrive. This took until the very last week, keeping me on my toes and stressing me out to the max. Once I received my visa, it was a mad dash to pack all my things that I would take with me and then leave them in storage with myever-so-kind parents. Then came the hard part of saying “see you soon” to all of my favorite people. Not that any were easy, but the more difficult ones came last. Let me tell you—airport crying is not cute when its 110 degrees in California. So with my parents, one third of the greatest sister trio there ever was, and my best friend to see me off, I embarked on my greatest adventure yet. One long 12 hour flight, and a chatty taxi drive later, I am in my new home in England.

My new view
My new view

Flying into London was one of the most exciting things I have ever experienced. It’s gorgeous here and from what I’ve seen the people are wonderful. I cannot wait to get out and explore all that Europe and the world has to offer me. I have made a promise to myself, influenced by the advice of a dear friend, that I am going to try everything, eat everything, talk to everyone and give this adventure 100%. Lets see how it goes! 

My view flying into London. It was beautiful
My view flying into London. It was beautiful