I came off of the train with my 13-kilo rucksack on my back and couldn’t help but beam as I made my way down the jam-packed escalator. I was in the London St. Pancras station—a beautiful train station in what might be my favorite city in the world. It was January 2013, and I was struck by how far I’ve come as a traveler.
This was my fourth visit to England, the country where I was infected with the travel bug more than 13 years ago. (It’s hard for me to wrap my head around that number.) During college, I spent a summer working on a horse farm in the British countryside. Some time during my stay, I decided I wanted to return in the course of larger travels. Of course, I had no idea how large my travels would become.
When I set off for long-term, independent travel in May 2011, London was my first stop. I used it as a one-week intro to the hassles of living out of a rucksack and dealing with a foreign currency before heading off to the adventures of farm life in The Netherlands and beyond. I was in this same train station on that trip, feeling weighed down by my bags and completely overwhelmed by the crowds of people, the huge trains, the indecipherable announcements coming over the crackling speaker system, and the constantly changing marquis.
But in January 2013, I barely even noticed the weight on my back anymore, and even better, I was able to truly appreciate the sights and sounds of the station and this city where I first caught a glimpse of independent travel. It is much less a hectic, scary place now; much more like home.