Deanna Strasse
7 min readOct 23, 2022

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  • I had Taco Bell before getting on the bus to O’Hare. Normally, my gut doesn’t have a problem with the Bell’s bean burritos (ask for no cheese and add pico de gallo in order to make it vegan) but maybe my nerves over the upcoming trip plus a surplus of fast food refried beans was not a good combination for me. That’s all I’m going to say. Let your imagination fill in the rest.
  • A woman sat next to me on the bus, and she smelled amazing. Like vanilla mixed with clean laundry. I should have told her that her scent was giving me life, but I figured that would be weird. I don’t want to assume, but it seemed that English was not her first language, and “You smell good” is a phrase with potential problems when lost in translation.
  • The last time I was at O’Hare, I remember thinking that it was an incredibly confusing airport, but I handled this time much better and found my gate without issue. I’m going to take that as a sign of maturity and growth…either on my end or the airport’s.
  • Picture it: you’re sitting on a plane. There’s one row of two on either side of the plane and one row of three going down the middle. You’re sitting on an aisle seat in the middle. A woman sits in the other aisle seat. You’re grateful that at least you’re not in the middle seat but simultaneously are eyeing the very obvious lack of elbow room there is. You’re going to be here for seven and a half hours (at least). How will you survive? You’re trying to enjoy this time while the middle seat is unoccupied. You eye it longingly, thinking of all the things you could put there if only someone else’s butt didn’t have to go there. And then…could it be? You see the flight attendant walking down the aisle, closing up overhead compartments. No one else is getting on the plane. You can almost feel the beautiful click of the airplane door locking shut. You eye the lady in the other aisle seat. It’s almost too good to believe. There is no one sitting in the middle. This is the only exchange that you and the other woman will share through this long journey: just this look and a smile and a simultaneous motion as you both move your bags onto the middle seat. God is good.
  • Benadryl will knock me out…without fail. But I didn’t buy Benadryl for this trip. Instead, I told myself that due to the red eye nature of the flight, I would have no problem falling asleep. For added security, I would take a melatonin prior to getting on the plane, and that would surely knock me out. Despite the fact that melatonin has never really worked for me in the past, I was sure that this time, it would come through for me. But melatonin is no match for my anxiety. Melatonin popped its head around the corner and said, “Alright, brain. It’s time to go to bed.” And my brain, riddled with nervous energy, laughed maniacally at it. My brain cackled at the pure, delightful naivety of melatonin for thinking that it could quiet my thoughts. Occasionally, my mind calmed down enough to allow me to sleep, but it was always a thin sleep, marked by a constant awareness of my surroundings and a distinct lack of REM. I learned a valuable lesson: never send melatonin to do Benadryl’s job.
  • Because I couldn’t sleep, I decided to watch Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. What the hell did I just watch? Asking for myself. It was less of a “movie” with “plot” and more of Rowling and Yates attempting to show off all the cool ideas they had for the wizarding world. Imagine a kid running along the side of a pool, screaming, “Hey, Mom! Look at this! I did a cool wand duel! Did you see? Did you see, Mom?!” That being said, I still adore Eddie Redmayne’s Newt, Dan Fogler’s Jacob, and anything having to do with Nifflers. But Eddie, Dan, and an adorable platypus with kleptomaniac tendencies does not a good movie make.
  • The escalator at the Underground ate my suitcase. I don’t have good luck with suitcases. Now that I think about it, my parents bought me a new one for Christmas before I left for Ireland in 2019, and that only lasted one trip. I borrowed a suitcase from my sister for my California trip, and that zipper broke on the last day. And now here I sit with newly vanquished luggage. The damage is not severe enough to really affect the contents but it does look wonky. Nothing a little duct tape can’t fix, but I am starting to think I’m a sadist towards suitcases.
  • I had the choice to either call a cab to take me to my hostel or walk. A walk would take about fifteen minutes, and a car ride would take about six. It wasn’t the distance that bothered me so much, but the fact that I’d be rolling my nearly fifty-pound suitcase along for the ride (the chewed up one, remember). In the end, though, I decided that since I’d been sitting for about eight hours on the flight and then another forty minutes on the Tube, I could do with some walking. I was sweaty and disheveled when I arrived at the hostel, but my heart felt good and I saved a few bucks.
  • That’s right: I’m staying at a hostel. It’s an interesting experience that I figured I had had enough of after Ireland. It’s reminiscent of being back in college where we’re all together, on similar but also distinctly different paths. I’m staying in a four-bed all female room. This building seems to be about eighty percent stairs, and my room is (of course) on one of the upper levels. And I mean upper levels. There was a very nice Australian gentleman who sat behind the counter when I checked in (he asked me where I was from, and when I told him Wisconsin, he said that he’d been to Madison…and that he was robbed in Madison). He offered to carry my suitcase (almost fifty pounds, remember) up the seemingly endless flights. First, the stairs are wide, able to fit two to three adults walking up side-by-side. But after the fourth level, they shrink to the point of having to almost turn completely sidewise in order to continue on. My room is on the sixth level, and that isn’t even the very top. I was incredibly grateful to this nice Australian man who, unfortunately, was robbed while visiting Madison, Wisconsin.
  • I was, by no means, able to see everything in London. On paper, I was there for three days, but between airplanes, trains, subways, taxis, and not falling asleep when I was supposed to, I only had one full day to explore. There was a distinct and lingering feeling of guilt as my train pulled out of Kings Cross Station as if I had failed somehow. I didn’t get to one London museum (not even the Doctor Who one!) and while I walked outside the Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral, and Westminster Abbey, I certainly didn’t get to experience anything within the walls. I could just hear everyone’s questions when I got home, “Did you ride the London Eye?” “Did you get a picture of yourself at Platform 9 ¾?” “Did you make it to 221B Baker Street?” No, no, and no. Thanks for the reminder. On every major trip I’ve ever taken, there’s always at least one “big sad” moment (usually towards the beginning of the trip) where you’re sitting alone, shaking your head, and thinking, “Why did I bother? What was I thinking? This trip is awful!” Sitting outside the SuperValu in the rain in Dingle was my Ireland “big sad” moment and crying in the shower, exhausted and sweaty after traveling from Fresno to San Francisco in a rental car I was sure was breaking down was my “big sad” California moment. (There have been others, but those are the two that come to mind.) Today, while riding my train away from London in the very back of the coach where there were no windows, was both big and sad. I was clearly very bad at this whole traveling thing, despite desperately wanting to be seen as a globe-trotter. Add to the fact that I had no internet unless I could find WiFi which was basically nonexistent on my train. An employee came through to see our tickets, and my phone would not load mine. I knew that she wouldn’t toss me off the moving train, but that didn’t stop from panicking. Luckily, my phone loaded enough to show the description of the ticket (but not the actual bar code that this employee needed to scan). She said she believed me and reminded me that I had a train switch to New Castle. She walked on, I sank into my window-less seat and felt the icy rush of more “big sad’ feelings. But those never last long.
  • Any sadness at all melted away as soon as I turned up Royal Mile in Edinburgh. The road is at an incline so I’m sure that I looked a bit silly, dragging my forty-nine pound rolling suitcase up along the closes (I always say that I’m going to pack lighter, but I never do). Edinburgh (as I’ve seen so far) is a beautiful mix of Dublin and Prague. Dublin with its distinctly Celtic feel and adorable kitschy shops and Prague with its old world grandeur; we’re talking castles and cobblestone roads…not a train ride away but right outside your hotel window. You instantly feel like you’ve gone back in time. The page turns and before you know it, you’re sitting outside Edinburgh Castle, writing postcards, sipping tea, and thinking about where to get dinner. After that, you’re strolling through various shops, suddenly feeling the need to wear anything and everything tartan. And then you’re sipping wine while a man with a guitar plays jazzy covers of love songs in the light of Balmoral Clock Tower. Excitement and adrenaline simultaneously mixed with peace and reverence. It’s the feeling of being home in a place you’ve never been to before.

More thoughts coming soon as the adventure continues.

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Deanna Strasse

Playwright, wannabe vegan, critter enthusiast, INFP, Hufflepuff, intermediate crocheter, barista, auntie