Last year around this time I had just wrapped up another successful NBA All-Star weekend while working for the league as a sports entertainment publicist. I knew that it would be my last. I’d been working on writing my first manuscript for the previous nine months, staying up late to write on nights and weekend because I knew I wanted out.
My career was no longer fulfilling me. By the time that I decided to walk away, I was putting the finishing touches on my first novel, Preseason Love.
I didn’t have a publishing deal. But I had faith. I knew that I was taking a huge chance, however, I believed in myself. Three months after I took that enormous leap of faith I was offered a publishing deal. I was overwhelmed.
With this great news came another risky decision I’d been thinking about for at least 10 years. I wanted to travel through Europe. And so with the money I had saved up, I bought a plane ticket to London. And packed a bag full of dreams. The support of my decision from family and friends was amazing. What they didn’t know was that, though this had been a desire of mine, I was quietly trembling inside with fear. The afternoon my parents dropped me at the San Francisco airport, this independent girl had to hold back the tears. I didn’t know what lay ahead. But I knew it would be exciting.
I landed at Heathrow and headed to my hostel. Finding accommodation in London is as hard finding a place in New York. I decided to stay in the hostel for the first month, which meant shared bathrooms and showers so small that you felt like you were in a casket. I would be sharing a room with five other people. Not ideal, but this trip was about new experiences, right? My first few weeks I shared a room with people from Russia, Italy, France, Norway and Korea. I had always wanted to be on MTV’s Real World and I finally felt like I got that experience.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve gotten to know everyone better over breakfast of toast and Nutella. I’ve learned a lot about different cultures, for instance, baked beans with breakfast is the norm, and the English think we are silly for concerning ourselves with little things like marriage when you can happily cohabit forever. But I still yearn to hear just one American accent.
My time in London was not without challenges. My computer screen was completely damaged in my luggage, my bank emailed to say they were deactivating the card in my possession and sending a new card…to my US address, and each day I was awoken by force due to sharing a room with five strangers with differing schedules. It become apparent that I have to learn how to deal in any circumstance.
Nicole, my lone friend in London, invited me to meet up with her and her friends. I met a table full of Americans living, working, and loving the opportunity that London affords to travel. The group of friends plans international trips every month. Within an hour, a few of the ladies and I had plans to do a weekend trip to Morocco! Africa. Really!
So far, I’ve traveled to Marrakech (Morocco), met up with an old friend in Paris, rolled through Madrid (Spain) where speaking English felt taboo. I thought I’d packed light, but by the end of schlepping a shoulder bag and a backpack through four airports, I knew I could have packed less. When you’re traveling through Europe nobody cares about your outfit or your cute factor. It’s about the experiences.
What I’ve learned in my travels so far is that, much like my luggage, packing light is essential in life. Though I had a dream career, when it came time to switch up, I trusted my instinct and went where my heart led me. Stay tuned for what happens in my next two months abroad.
Ahyiana Angel is a former sports entertainment publicist at the National Basketball Association (NBA). Ups and downs with dating, love, and friendships inspired her to create the popular blog “Life According To Her.” Her debut novel Preseason Love (Strebor Books) will be released October 21, 2014.