I had the good fortune to be sent to London for 10 days by my place of employment… and I must say. I had a wonderful time.
Between all the travel and mix of client pitches and onsite work, I had some time to ponder & appreciate what I was experiencing. I may or may not be exaggerating pieces of it..you’ll have to decide for yourself 😉
The soundtrack this time around? “Everything Now,” by Arcade Fire…
1 – Yep. The actual travel part still sucks.
I left on a Wednesday morning. It took 1.5 hours to get to Chicago O’Hare. I wanted to ensure I had ample time to get through security, so I got there three hours early. After making it through, I had 2.5 hours before my flight to walk around the terminal. By the time my plane took off, it was approximately 4:00 pm with a 7 hour journey ahead of me towards Dublin. Did I sleep? Of course not. Landed in Dublin at 5 am local time. A 2 hour layover before hopping another plane to London Heathrow, this time 1 hour.
Finally arrived in London a little past 8 am local time, but I wasn’t done yet. I hopped a train (It was only 15 minutes) to the nearest underground, and then took that for 30 minutes into the city of London and headed to the office. By now it was almost 10:30 am and I felt like a zombie. Good thing I had a full day ahead of me. Speaking of which…
2 – The Human Body really is amazing.
I made sure to eat regular meals and drink lots of fluids during what I described above, but one thing just wasn’t available. Sleep for 24 hours. I was warned by my colleagues (and mentally prepared myself as best I could) that the first day would be rough and just something I’d have to get through. I suppose on one hand, it’s scary how fragile we actually are. One night without sleep and I felt sluggish, foggy and may have been battling some slight vertigo. Nevertheless I made it through the day, which I found funny and fascinating. When I was around my colleagues, I wondered if they could tell how tired I was. Then I’d get pulled into a quick demo or client pitch and I’d get a burst of energy. I did this pretty much all day.
Before I left my workplace that evening, I said goodbye to my London colleagues and headed down the elevator to head to the hotel. I didn’t realize it until I walked out of the building that I left my backpack and the rest of my luggage in their office. Yeah, it was time to shut the engines down… I think the total log time was 35 hours. My head hit the pillow around 8 pm and I think it only took about 35 seconds before I was out cold…
3 – London isn’t really known for it’s food
I chatted off and on with friends and family when I was over…and they all wanted to know what kinds of foods I was eating. I never had a good answer, but when I asked one of my work colleagues, they replied that the city wasn’t known specifically for any one food, it was more of an international city. On one hand, I could have anything I wanted. On the other hand, there wasn’t anything special that I could ONLY get in London. I did enjoy the English breakfasts every morning, though (poached eggs, white toast, blood sausage, bacon and baked beans).
4 – Rain isn’t really a big deal
It rained almost every day I was there. On a few of those days, I was accompanied by colleagues … and at first I was like, “We’re walking over there in this weather?” I would get the same emotionless look and a reply of, “Yeah, Mate. It rains a lot. What can you do?” and then they’d be off.. They were right. I got used to being a little wet right before meetings.
5 – Apparently I’m from the moon…
I had an opportunity to spend three days onsite with a client and they were nice enough to bring in food for lunch each day. I picked at the sandwiches and fruit, but admittedly so, I was more focused on presenting and delivering value than I was with eating. At one point, one of the ladies asked me if I’d ever had pie before? Another one of the ladies shot back quickly, “Of course he has! He’s not from the moon!..” The look I gave very much affirmed that…or so we thought. I said, “Yes. Yes I’ve had pie before….” and put one on my plate. I wish I could have seen the look on my face when I bit into it and came up with a mouth full of meat. I was expecting dessert. We all got quite a laugh out of it.
Just afterwards, I was offered tea with milk (which isn’t that weird) but I was a little cautious about it. I had some, of course and everyday after one of the ladies would bring me a cup at approximately the same time… It was very enjoyable. Although…
6 – I take black coffee for granted
So the Brits love their tea…and we Americans love our coffee. I wish you luck over there… it was all expresso’s, flat whites, americano’s, cappuccinos, etc. I’m used to slowly sipping on my black coffee through the mid morning, not a shot of 150 mgs of caffeine all at once.
7 – Politics…was still just politics
Per usual, I’ll leave out my own personal beliefs, but I found it interesting how much the landscape was the same. Instead of reading a bunch of negative daily yahoo articles or newspapers about US leaders, I got used to reading a bunch of negative daily yahoo or newspaper articles about UK leaders. I found it slightly comforting and discouraging all at the same time… I guess you don’t get into politics if you want to be loved …
8 – Speaking English didn’t guarantee people understood me…nor I them.
So the Queen’s English is really a thing. I found it fascinating that multiple times a day, I would have to ask someone to repeat what they said to me. It wasn’t that I didn’t hear them, or understand the words…I just had no idea what they were asking. For any of my colleagues or clients that are reading this, you were all great, but I’d order food, or ask someone a question on the underground, or be in a cab, etc… and yeah. A few times we both just finally nodded our heads, smiled or gave a thumbs up and then stopped talking…
9 – The public transportation is amazing.
I’m sure New York City rivals it (and Chicago is pretty good, too) but I was heavily impressed by London’s public transportation. While I was a bit nervous taking the underground at first and figuring out the directions and changeovers, once I did I was unstoppable. I would take it multiple times a day to all different parts of the city without much concern of getting home. I felt pretty good about that.
10 – Apparently I look suspicious.
On my way home, I did more of the same travel routine. Hotel > Underground > Train > Train was out so I had to take a cab to Heathrow > Dublin > Chicago > Milwaukee. Needless to say, it was just something I was trying to get through. I knew it wasn’t going to be enjoyable. To add to that, though, right before I got on my flight to Chicago, I was asked by the gate to get out of line, where I was escorted back to security (where I’d just came from) for a full pat down and inspection of my luggage. I likely didn’t help matters because I was less than enthused and had been up since 4:30 am. I cooperated but continued to have a scowl on my face while they looked through my dirty laundry and patted me down. They brought me back to the plane and told me to have a nice flight. I forced a smile their way and walked to my seat… I couldn’t wait to get home. Either that or I was just randomly selected 😉
So there you have it. I’ve written in the past about the Euphoria associated with doing things that make you uncomfortable (and succeeding anyway) or just shaking up your normal routine. Walking back into my home in Milwaukee yesterday, that feeling was all mine.
Until next time…