Completely Failing The Peter Pan Tour of London

I have what I like to call are my “automatic tearjerkers.” No matter how many times I have watched these movies, I pop them in and reach for the tissues, secure in the knowledge that the tears will be a-rolling. Steel Magnolias is one of these movies, and Finding Neverland is the other.

Personally, I feel no shame in the fact that I love Finding Neverland so. It’s an incredibly beautiful, and incredibly sad, movie. If you haven’t seen it and fancy a good cry, give it a go.

Image via

On one of my first days since arriving that I didn’t have actual work to do, I decided to loll about for the morning watching a movie. Since I am in London (WHAT?!), only a British movie would do. And I was thumbing through the movies, I realized that Finding Neverland was in fact filmed in Kensington Gardens and J.M. Barrie lived in the hood! HEEEEEY!

So I put it in, and two hours later I wearily arose from the couch, with an actual tear stain on my shirt (not my guitar). Through the misery, I had a thought buzzing… I should go FIND Peter Pan themed things here in London and write a blog post about it! How lovely! 

And so I marched outside and headed the half mile north to Kensington Gardens, ready to get my blogger on. Of course, there were other things in store for me… namely THE WEATHER. I smugly distrust the weather predictions in London, since it pretty much SAYS rain every day but rarely is bad enough to warrant an umbrella. I was carrying one anyway, but I should be fine. I could see people out picnicing! Look at this sky! Interesting clouds, sure, but nothing to be concerned about.

So I arrive to the Gardens and say HEY!!! to the home of my future in-laws:

In my very very intense research for this tour, I had found out that the Peter Pan statue was by the Long Lake. Now I could have done the simple thing and looked up where that lake was, but how hard could it be? It’s a lake! I’d head for the body of water! In fact, there’s a body of water right over there, and I can see a statue on the other side! Let’s go.

As I start the walk around the lake, the heavens POUR open. My just-gotten-dry feet are quivering just remembering it. Then I get to the statue and it’s not even Peter – it’s literally “Pure Energy” or some stupid thing like that. COME ON!

I doggedly decide to continue heading north to the old home of Barrie, which I know to be at 100 Bayswater. While it’s still raining, I find a bit of romantic wonderment in walking the empty paths and imagining what it was like 100 years ago – and doesn’t this look like the picture above?!

Finally reaching the street, I randomly turn to one side reasoning I can always backtrack. Naturally this utterly fails me – by the time I can see house numbers, I’m in the 60s and there’s no going back. Number 100 will have to wait.

Luckily I was able to enjoy some beautiful things from the day as the sun peeked its head out, including the Italian Gardens:

Of course, the sun shining was only a tease, for the heavens opened again. And thus my wonderful Peter Pan tour, which would also include me sitting in the park reading my just-downloaded copy, completely failed.

Completely coincidentally, as I trudged home I actually found the statue! So here’s your damn picture:

Final bit of SQUEE from the day – not cats but Mama Duck protecting Baby Ducks from the rain!

A New Kitchen Leaf (As it were)

I’ll let you in on a dirty secret: while I may not be the MOST health- or nutrition-conscious person and I may not be the world’s GREATEST cook, I do have good intentions, I swear!

….at least until I stopped working.

This is probably a common phenomenon, but I found it MUCH easier to eat healthily (or healthier, at least) when I was NOT at my house for 8+ hours every day and had to plan out the foods I bought with me.

This all went to hell in a handbasket (or handbag, as my friend Stephanie would say) over the summer. For the first half, I was home all day with access to parent-sponsored grocery trips (which is not a bad life, to be sure). This continued when I went to Boston and had NO access to cooking supplies or even a microwave – my entire diet relied on the (often inedible) food in the dining hall or restaurant outings.

But now that I’m in London I have a grand plan of Grown Up Nutrition! See, I have the beautiful thing of a Blank Kitchen Slate, just waiting to be created.  My grand plan is to intentionally buy foods that are nutritious – crazy, right?!

My new (empty) fridge – isn’t it so mod?

I’m also cognizant of two unique facts: I will be spending a lot of time working out of my house, or at the most within 10 minutes walking of my house, so I can easily run back home for a salad instead of bringing one to work.

View of my walk on my way to work…

HOWEVER, I won’t be able to cook nearly as often as before, both because I will have a lot of evening commitments and because of the unpredictable nature of my position. So I’m looking for foods that are either stand-alone snack foods or quickly and easily prepared.

The fanciest looking hob I’ve ever seen. It’s a touch-screen stovetop!

My good friend Becca proclaimed that before she studied abroad a few years ago she was going to reinvent herself. I don’t know if she really did, since she was awesome before and is still awesome now, but I’m taking her words to heart – total reinvention! (Or at least partially).

Obviously this isn’t to say I will suddenly be a health goddess. Cereal is the BEST and I’m as big a fan of frozen pizza as anyone. But I’m hoping to take this new opportunity to make some smart, adult choices – won’t it be fun to see me struggle with this?! Stay tuned!

And if you have any suggestions for healthy foods or good recipes, let me know!

For good measure because I had a request (from one friend and my mother), here’s a picture of my flat! Cute little seating area, dining area, and very importantly – three beds. So I can rotate if I am in the mood for whimsy. Also a little kitchen off the side 🙂

What it doesn’t have:

How to Waste Time in an Airport

On my flight over from Boston to London, I had the thing happen that makes every traveler’s worst nightmare scenario: you are sitting in the plane and they announce an indefinite delay.

The reason for this delay was a “maintenance problem” (the antenna on top of the plane, which I believe is called the falange, wasn’t working?) but this brings up several questions. Why didn’t they figure that out before I had already sat down and powered down my electronics? Why did they spend an hour “feverishly searching” (their words, not mine) the airport to try to find a replacement? Shouldn’t they have a specified place where they keep things like this, like normal people? Eventually it transpired they have to fly one up from Orlando, which seems like a careless place to keep it. But I guess they didn’t ask me to run the airline.

The moral is that I have a six hour delay and a supposed midnight departure – after getting burned several times, I’ve learned to trust Delta about as far as I can throw them. So how does one entertain oneself during this indefinite delay?

Glory in the free wifi and access to Netflix 

One good thing about being stuck in Logan – they have free WiFi. I also don’t know if I will be able to access Netflix in the motherland, so any opportunity to catch up on my important programming like documentaries about worldwide Things of Concern (i.e. Pretty Little Liars) is much appreciated.

Stand in a line for no good reason except that everyone else is doing it 

This will occupy at least a half an hour if not longer. Even if you know that it doesn’t really make sense for you to try to get a different flight, stand in line anyway. Then when you get to the front ask questions like: “Real talk. Is this flight ACTUALLY leaving at midnight?” Of course, they always say yes, but I think the real talk made them think twice.

Do yoga in the corner

You may feel silly doing it, but there’s a code of understanding with travelers in the airport past a certain point in the midst of a delay. I just had the person next to me offer me use of his computer charger, so I didn’t have to take mine out, without me even asking. It’s the code. You can be doing or wearing anything and everyone gets it. Do yoga in the corner. Go ahead and stretch out on the floor and take a nap. It’s fine. Survival of the fittest.

Write a pithy blog post 

See above.


Tried and true: get a glass of wine and accept that you are going to become Tom Hanks in The Terminal and just move in to the airport.

Postscript: No need to worry – I MADE IT, FOLKS. Everyone calm down. And extra bonus: because the flight was delayed and so many people switched, I got a row to myself and TWO HOURS OF SLEEP! Can you say score?

So rather than cats I’m gonna share with you something BOTH my parents felt the need to talk to me about/send me a picture of – they got an egg with a double yolk. Those crazy kids!!

Introspective Wednesday: Joseph Campbell

The other day, I was sitting next to a fireplace in a mahogany chair, reading a very heavy and important book filled with big words and lofty ideas when I came across this quote*:

“You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” – Joseph Campbell

I gotta say,  that Joey knows his STUFF.

I am indeed the ultimate planner – I found my notebook from probably the first few years of high school and I had mapped out, hour-by-hour, my summer vacation. (9am-11am: volunteer at camp. 11am-12pm: lunch. 12pm-1pm: Study for the SATs. 1pm-2:15pm: Break. 2:15-3:00pm: Practice violin. And so on. I am the COOLEST!).

So it’s a little unsettling for me to be in such an unplanned place. I have always had the next step: high school to college. College to grad school. Then grad school to job… right?

Well, I stepped off that just a little bit by choosing a job that was only temporary and then deciding not to actively seek employment when it ends. Not just yet. God only knows the life that is waiting for me, but my job – my employment – is to find it.

While tooling around on the interwebs to try to figure out if the above quote came from a book, I came across a whole mess of Campbell quotes that I think are just fantastic:

“If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”

“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”

“If you are falling… dive.”

“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”

*I know I probably tricked you, but I didn’t ACTUALLY get this quote from reading it in some impressive book. It was on Pretty Little Liars. But that show has gotten super edgy recently.

FORGOT CAT PHOTO AGAIN! Here is one Dad sent me today.

A Tale of Three Mondays

Monday, August 6: Boston
Monday, August 13: Norfolk
Monday, 20 August: London (see what I did there?! I am SO. CLEVER.)

Three Mondays in a row, three completely different locations, and three completely different lives.

Boston: an old American city, where I spent the month prior exploring what I tentatively hope will be my future home. When I started the job search process, I decided to focus on Boston for three important reasons: It has a market overflowing with universities (my place of employment), with many universities in the same market-basket as previous institutions for which I have worked. I have many friends and family who live in the city or nearby, providing a ready-built support system.

Most importantly, I look really good in winter apparel. I said this in a job interview and I swear to God that was what got me to the second round.

While I may have gotten a position at a Boston university, said position is (as we all know) in London. So I was just in Boston for training.

My first Monday saw me visiting with friends, new and old, and taking a long walk through downtown Boston. Will I be back? Oh, that I could tell you…

Norfolk: an older American city, my kinda-hometown (Hampton Roadsians know that you can call basically any of the cities in the ol’ HR home), location of Kevin and Margaret, those old such-and-suches, and where I keep the majority of my clothes.

A beautiful place, a wonderful home filled with friends and family, but ultimately not my last stop.

My second Monday was more pragmatic: running errands, engaging in a packing crisis, and anticipating my upcoming life crisis (as I write this, on the second Monday, I’m just counting down the hours until I scream WHAT AM I DOING?! WHOSE IDEA WAS THIS?!)

London: and now we’ve reached my third Monday. What will this day hold? I know that I’ll have been in London for almost a week already, and be wildly preparing for student arrival in two days. But after that? As with so many other things I keep babbling on about… total mystery.

But you know what? Even as I write this, I feel a little better – when I was trying to find a London picture to use, I found this one from last summer with the caption: “London… I’m coming back for you. THAT’S A THREAT AND A PROMISE.” So… here I come!

Even as I transition from place to place with only the faintest idea of what I’m doing, I got my homies (and more accurately, my adorable nephew and a very confused looking cat) on my side.

What I Am: A Fearful Vagabondress

So now that I have thoroughly exhausted the whole topic of me being a fairly incompetent blogger who cries at the drop of a hat but is about to spend the next 8ish months abroad…. let’s talk some more about me!

In my short lifetime, I have thankfully been able to travel to different corners of the world with a myriad of travel companions. I gallivanted in Western Europe with my best friends in high school and then again with my college friends; I traveled with my family to Japan and Central Europe; I spent a semester studying abroad in London and a wonderful month exploring the Continent with two very dear friends; and most recently I spent two Januarys (and two birthdays) in a row in Turkey, one of my favorite places in the world, with – again – a wonderful group of friends and peers on short-term study abroad programs.

Some – though certainly not all – of my favorite travel companions 

So you see the pattern? I am so pleased to have had many opportunities to travel with so many different companions, but I have never gone anywhere alone.

But I am not just a fearful girl from Virginia – I am a fearful girl about to set out on a few big adventures! (However fearfully I might do so). As you know, I’m currently in London for work until December. I’ve been to London a number of times, so I am excited to see some of the less-visited sites and do more exploration. I’m also hoping to spend some weekends traveling around England or the surrounding countries. Destinations have yet to be determined, so any suggestions are welcome! 

I will also be sharing what it is like to plan for three+ months of backpacking in Southeast Asia while living in another country. I’m nervous about the challenges I may have with just getting things in order – When will I possibly be able to buy everything I need? (I assure you, there will be no excess space in the luggage I bring over!) Will I have time to do such intense planning? Will I even want to set out on more traveling after I finish in London?

I fly out of London on December 13 (which, incidentally, is Taylor Swift’s birthday). My plan is to spend a month at home for the holidays and leave shortly after my birthday in the middle of January. And then? It’s off to Bangkok!

What I Am Not: A Fearless Travel Blogger

My first time traveling without grown-ups, at age 20!

You want the truth? With this blog, I will not become a professional travel blogger, make any money, or even reach an audience beyond my family and friends (aka, my mother, who has already promised to read every post). I frankly lack the skills necessary to do any fancy design, HTML, or marketing. And you know what? I don’t want to become a professional travel blogger.

After having read dozens of blogs and hundreds of posts, I know that there are plenty of incredibly talented bloggers out there who are more adept than I at helping others achieve their dreams – my personal inspirations have been Kate at Adventurous Kate, Stephanie at Twenty-Something Travel, and Christine at C’est Christine.

So – why do I write? (Besides my love of self-aggrandizing, of course). I thought hard about if I wanted to start this blog (or more accurately, re-start my now-slightly-embarrassing study abroad blog). I’ve already said that there are others more talented and much cooler than I am doing the same thing – so why contribute my voice?

The answer, it turned out, is simple – I need a record for myself that I actually did this. That I actually took my introverted, transitions-hating, schedule-loving self abroad, solo, into the complete unknown.

The truth is I am terrified. I am planning my travels with almost a grim inevitability. Wanderlust has been a part of me for as long as I can remember, and traveling solo to my dream destinations the single-minded goal I have been working towards for the past three years.  And yet, I am SO SCARED. 

But as I’ve chewed over my fear, I realized something important: every single time I have been scared in my life of a new, unknown thing, it has worked out perfectly.

Continuing to be the coolest person around (at graduation)

And so, I journey forward. The fear remains, and will remain for quite a while, I suspect. But this is why I write. I need to show myself, when I reach the end of the road, that I may have quivered as I initially stepped foot, but I made it to the end and survived. 

(Also, I wasn’t kidding about the whole self-aggrandizing thing. I have a domain! I’m kind of a big deal.)

So what’s the master plan? The first part of my next steps most people know – I will be working in London through the fall. And after that? Well, I’ve decided to follow in the footsteps of those favorite bloggers and jump on to the well-trodden backpacker’s trail in the winter and spring for solo travel in Southeast Asia.

[P.S. My good friend Laura Maas at Maasachusetts wrote a fantastic post today about why she writes, including an absolutely wonderful article about why every woman should travel solo. I really enjoyed it and encourage you to read it as well!]

(To end with CAT PICTURE! Here’s the happiest cat in Istanbul – not quite SEA, but gettin’ on over there. Why is this cat so happy? He is FAMOUS! The bona fide Hagia Sophia cat – he seriously does live in the museum; he’s been pet by the man, President Obama, himself; AND he’s now in my blog. Fame, my friends. Here is where you start paying, in sweat!)

To 18 Year Old Kristen

So, here we are. I finished up my short time in Boston. The thought that I will be in London so soon is incredibly surreal – despite all the planning I’m doing of where I should buy groceries, what my daily work schedule will be, planning for programs, I can’t believe it’s actually happening.

While I wait for it to actually happen I had a FABULOUS last weekend in Boston. My college roommate is in Boston for law school, and another fabulous college friend of ours just happened to be visiting the last weekend I was there. Cue stuffing ourselves at Indian restaurants, deciding where we want to live when we all move in to the same giant house together, and sleepover!

During our massive, approximately seven hour gab fest (and this was after I had seen Lauren for lunch earlier that day), I think the conversation that stuck most with me was what we would tell our freshmen year selves.

These guys! (Also, I spent a REALLY long time trying to find the perfect picture of the three of us, which doesn’t exist because we apparently took pictures in every combination but, and then the perfect one that captured Lauren’s personality. I mostly failed although I did see one gem that in 2007 I tagged “Looooopy Lauren flying a kite!” She’s perfect.)

I decided I wanted to go back to freshman year, grab little Kristen by the shoulders, and say “CALM DOWN. Relax. Enjoy. It all works out.” Then we talked about what we wanted to tell our middle school selves, and I realized I wanted to say the same thing – just relax! It’s fine!

This is something I really need to remember. I tend to, how shall we say, worry about things more than I should (although I think I’ve gotten much better). But hopefully present-day Kristen can realize that it’s all going to work out fine – there might be some heartache and difficulties on the journey, but in retrospect, it’s a breeze. I was mulling over that the morning after our sleepover (!) when I checked Postsecret and saw a secret that read something like, “I think my future self is telling me not to worry so much!” Um, how appropriate is that? IT’S A SIGN. It all works out.

Rewarding Introspection with… a “Beach Attempt”

So besides the amazing revelations I enjoyed as a result of my wonderful friends, we also decided to go to a beach! This shocked us all, but Boston is apparently close to the water? And that means beaches?

This is how our day went: we arrive at the beach (Revere Beach – apparently the country’s first public beach! who knew!) and immediately find perfect, free, street parking – L didn’t even have to parallel park, she could just pull in. And it was ON THE BEACH. She and I spend literally about five minutes marveling over how perfect that was, to find FREE EASY parking at the beach, as we all walk into the sand.

The second our blanket hits the sand, it starts to rain. OF COURSE. So we gather up our stuff and contemplate running to a cafe … and it stops raining. We cautiously sit back down, go in the water, come back to sunbathe. It starts raining. It stops raining. By the third time we were like YUUPPP!!!! We’re done.

So instead, we GORGED ourselves on a huge lunch/dinner at an Indian restaurant and walked it off in the surrounding neighborhood, where we decided we should all live. And it was good.

So, that is the end. Of Boston, that is. A great and good city, one I still do hope to move to one day, made better by the amazing old friends I could see and the amazing new friends I’ve been able to make.

As for now… Mrs. Landingham! What’s next?

[EDIT] Can’t believe I forgot a cat! To make up for it, here’s one of Annie looking really stupid (but still majestic):

Snapshots: Maine

I harbor this secret (or not so secret, given my fascination with shows like Gilmore Girls) desire to move to a small, quaint town, where I can gossip with the local color in the post office and go shopping in a teeny market instead of a big grocery store. This fantasy almost always takes place in my head in New England, where I sit by a fireplace (that’s probably in an old-fashioned woodstove) at night and do outdoorsy things during the day like hiking and skiing.

This fantasy has its basis in my Aunt Carol, who actually did live that life in a small town in Vermont for most of her adult life. She’s since moved from that Vermont town to far choicer digs: a GORGEOUS house (mansion? homestead?) on Islesboro, an island accessible by ferry off the coast of Maine. Every time I visit I think, “Huh. I should really move here. Then I’ll eat all-natural foods and probably learn to like seafood.” Of course, every time I mention this my mother reminds me that I’ve only ever visited Maine in summer when it is BEAUTIFUL, and maybe I should come sometime between October-April to decide for sure. Fair point, mother.

While my fantasy of living in that small town may never come true, I did get the chance to visit for a getaway from Boston. Enter unbelievably gorgeous weather and, even better, FOOD that didn’t come from a dining hall! My aunt and uncle were hosting “camp” for all of their grandkids so I got some veritable kid-wrangling and QT with my cousins and stepcousins (once removed, that is!).

Feast your eyes, friends:

First things first – this house. The view from the living room (one of my many reading perches) at sunset… the exquisite details in my bedroom flooded with sunlight… and most importantly, the beautiful view out the window that was the first thing I saw every morning when I opened my eyes. Not a bad way to live.

After I finally managed to roll out of bed and close the book (and the laptop… gotta work like a dog before departure!), I went for a walk along the bay. Not too shabby, eh?

But the things that made me most breathless were undoubtedly the beautiful sunsets over the water. I never quite understood the image of a “painted sky” until I sat outside as night fell in Maine.

And of course, the most valuable part of my experience – spending time with my family and getting to know the littlest members: my cousins/stepcousins-once-removed. A moment of peace now means spending time with my aunt and uncle to watch the little ones kayak across the bay as the sun set over the water, with the oldest boy grabbing life vests for his littlest girl cousins to join him in his canoe.

Oh, Maine… I will be back.

Kristen McCarthy, Harvard Graduate

I’ve already talked about how I suffer from “what if” syndrome (as in, what if I had gone to X university? Lived in X place? How would my life be different?). I think this kicks into overload when I’m wandering around those “prestigious” universities like Harvard. (Perhaps you’ve heard of it?).

I cannot recall a SINGLE moment in my childhood in which I had a desire to attend Harvard, but now I wonder – what if I had applied? What if I had GONE? I would probably be a doctor by now. Yes, at 24.

My pal Lauren and I engaged in this discussion when we were wandering around Cambridge today after a delicious diner lunch. (Side note: the bathroom in this diner was THROUGH the kitchen, down a flight of rickety stairs to the basement that guest starred in every person’s nightmare and was featured in a few horror movies.) The whole concept of applying to the Ivies just wasn’t even part of our lives, and we wondered if that’s due to the fact that we didn’t grow up in New England and just weren’t part of that whole private school, golf course, school uniform life.

Even though I never actually attended Harvard, I am proud to announce that I have now gotten lost there so many times (i.e. two) that I know my way around! Today I was just bounding around the streets, instinctively turning at the right corners, knowing where I can go to get water. I think that means I can call myself a graduate of Harvard.

Most importantly, I got the chance to sit outside and enjoy the area – from chess-playing men to views of the river.

(However, I’ve also learned why I am NOT a graduate of Harvard – because it took me three tries to spell “chess” correctly. “Okay, no, c-h-e-s-e doesn’t look correct, c-h-e-e-s-e is cheese…”)

It’s okay. ANNIE STILL LOVES ME! Cat picture!