09 March 2006

Ten years ago today...

It's Spring Break season for college students. Most are, as during my own college days, headed for Key West, Cancun, or other resort destinations for some (hedonistic) fun.

I decided to take a different route though, back in 1996. On March 9, I headed out from Manhatan to Newark, hopped on a 777, and crossed the Pond for the first time, ending up at London's Heathrow airport the next morning. After facing a nasty immigration officer, I headed to Bloomsbury, where I crashed in with an NYU student group for the next five days. I participated in many of their activities together, for a not-so-hedonistic yet fun group experience. After the NYU people returned to New York, I stayed on in London for two more days for some solo sightseeing.

I would consider this one of the most significant steps in my growth, along with my initial visit to New York City in 1991. The 1991 New York trip allowed me to experience a different world, though still within the confines of American Christian geography and culture, and as a teen (not to mention inspiring me to attend college in New York City). Being in NYC allowed me to go forward with the 1996 London trip, which broke that mold altogether, and allowed me to experience things that I would've never experienced otherwise - and eventually set the stage for my coming out.

London remained - and still remains - a special place in my heart. My final college spring break, in 1998, took me back to London (along with Brussels and Paris), my first overseas trip as a woman; that time, I rented a car and hit Stonehenge. And more recently, in 2003, I returned for a refresher/make-up visit to London and Paris, to visit places my previous visits had left out. And every return continues to bring the memories and the meaning of the original 1996 trip back to me, again and again.