UK Challenges

Tada! Here we are! OVER THE POND.

Tom 'n Sharmini ride London busses

Riding the double decker bus

The other side. That side we planned to reach 8 months ago when we bought tickets to London. And then launched a kickstarter. And then waited for Spring.

So here we are!

We have big plans, and we have no plans at all. We know exactly what we want to do: get instruments, play music, make money, see the countryside.

But at the same time, a confession, we really don’t know how to make our plans happen. I mean, we know how to busk. We’ve done it a million times in many different cities. But we have no idea how to busk England, and even less how to busk the rest of Europe. And the world?!?!?!?!

We’ve done some research, we’ve saved some money, we have a laptop and can find the internet (sometimes). But how do we begin to make these things happen? Even finding a music shop is an extra challenge. What do they call music shops in England? Are there pawn shops? How many pounds is a reasonable amount to pay? How the hell do we get to a music shop?!

Ah yes, the challenges of being in a foreign country. We’ve been traveling in the U.S. so long there’s a few things we started to take for granted!

A few challenges we didn’t foresee

1) Finding outlets/charging equipment

Outlets in England 3 prong

The ghost-mask outlets of England that need to be switched on

Outlets are hard to find in English McDonalds too! How comforting that McDonalds the world over offers free internet and no way to charge your computer! But coffee shops in the U.S. are usually guaranteed to have outlets, whereas here in England I’ve already been in a few coffee shops lacking outlets. Hell, I forget what the outlet’s look like half the time so how’m I supposed to find them. And the first time I tried to use one, I didn’t realize you have to turn the switch on. Silly. And another thing we didn’t think about: we only have one outlet adaptor which makes it hard to charge everything in one sitting. I guess we’re going to be spending a lot of time in the library.

2) Finding the internet

On the one hand, The London Underground has wireless on the trains (or at least according to Yoda). On the other, McDonald’s requires you to receive a code via txt in order to use their wireless. As we are phone-less, McDonald’s wireless is out. Unless…anyone want to receive a txt from England on our behalf so we have a reliable source of wifi? But that’s assuming we can find the golden arches everywhere we go. They’re not quite as common as in the states.

3) The price of coffee

Yowza, England! £2.20 for a small cafe Americano! No free refills? The British just don’t know how to pound coffee!

4) The Weather

We know it’s not Summer yet. We knew it wasn’t going to be Summer when we planned this trip. We expected it to be sorta cold. But not windy. England is windy, windy, windy! Makes walking around with a backpack challenging! And sleeping outside even worse. And then there’s the little rain signs over all over the weather forecasts of the UK. A lot of rain! Is Glasgow worth it? Is Ireland? Should we just head to mainland Europe? Rain is always a busker’s defeat.

5) Finding a thrift store

We weren’t prepared enough for the weather. So now we need some warmer clothes. But how does one find a thrift store in the UK?

6) Finding directions

So far I haven’t seen a single road name on a street sign. Nope. The English post their road names on the buildings facing the intersection. We’re already learning how to recognize this, but it sometimes makes street signs really hard to find! Especially if there aren’t any buildings on a corner! Strange, strange system. As for us finding directions? Well, really we just need a map! And the internet. If we had that wifi code, things would be better…

Humps for miles English street signs

Humps for miles

6) Hitchhiking with all our gear

Damn, cars are small here. We did manage to score one ride. Will they pick us up once we’re carrying a guitar and a saw on top of two giant packs? Maybe we shouldn’t travel with clothes. They take up too much space.

7) Finding toilets

Where do the English pee? There’s a legend that Reading, England (where we’re at right now!) has public toilets that rise out of the ground at night. Maybe one can conjure those toilets with the right spell.

8) Being sick.

This isn’t a UK specific problem. Just a pain in the throat. Plus everyone looks at us weird when we’re coughing. When will this cold go away? Maybe not as long as we’re in windy, rainy England. Didn’t the English always vacation on the Mediterranean to get rid of their colds?

But really, things aren’t that challenging. 

Tom Senkus in Slough with meat pies

Nope. Getting around England is surprisingly easy! People speak ENGLISH! Woah! I mean, they can answer questions and we can read road signs (except when we can’t find the street names…) That’s pretty amazing!

Plus the English are super polite. And friendly. The other day we were walking through Slough and I asked a cashier for directions. Well, one of the English ladies inside started giving me thorough instructions on where to hitchhike from in the area. And when she saw me standing outside the grocery store later, she repeated those directions just to make sure. Very sweet. Although she was trying to convince me to take a bus instead. And when we had the wrong pass at the subway station, the attendent just let us through the gate with a ‘tsk-tsk’ instead of making us pay extra fare. He was very nice. And English people are always apologizing when I run into them (carrying a giant pack, you know). That’s very nice!

Plus, we can already use an English grocery store, ride an English bus, count an English £, say “garrage” and find an English library. I feel hip.

Okay, time to get out of this library (that does have both outlets and wifi, yay!) and get instruments.

Today we get instruments. And then we start busking. So far we’ve just been navigating the streets. But now the real fun begins!

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One thought on “UK Challenges

  1. Tallyho, cheerio, and pip pip! Funny thing about the lack of road signs. You should enlighten them about the wonderful concept. Or maybe they WANT foreigners to get lost? 🙂

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