Erstwhile Expeditions is an ongoing series in which I reflect on my past travel experiences. I recently wrote about my decision to move to London after college and whether or not traveling requires a great amount of courage. In my last post, I offered some suggestions for how to meet new people while traveling.
After spending my first weekend in London hanging out with my new-found friends and adjusting to the time difference, it was time to buckle down and start looking for employment. The work abroad program I was traveling through, BUNAC, had a small office in the heart of London where participants could go to use the internet and browse through a variety of online and print job postings. Most of the people I had met in my flat had been there long enough to have already found jobs, so I headed out by myself early Monday morning. I took the London Underground and then walked to my destination, using my trusty London A-Z. When I lived in London, you could buy this pocket-sized atlas almost everywhere and it was an invaluable resource. I would have been constantly lost without it.
Because I arrived in early December, the options at the job office were slim. I was looking primarily for a waitressing job, as I had the experience and was hoping for something with a flexible schedule that would allow me to travel around the UK. I sent emails in response to a few potential jobs, then left for the day, hoping to hear back soon.
The next day I returned, hopeful that I would find some new job postings. Nothing. I scoured through the resources at the BUNAC office for some time, desperate to find something quickly. I had saved enough money to last a few weeks in London, but if I didn’t start earning an income before Christmas, I knew I’d be in trouble.
I scraped together a few more possible leads and headed to a computer to send out a few more applications. That’s when I finally saw a reply from one of my previous emails; the manager at The Mockingbird Hotel* asking me to come in for an interview the next day. I quickly replied and told her I would be there.
The Mockingbird was located in a small town about an hour outside of London alongside the banks of the Thames. I woke early Wednesday morning to travel to the train station. Though I had travelled to several sites outside of London on my previous visit, I had never been to one of the smaller, non-touristy towns. I found it immediately charming. Though the morning was cold, the sun was shining as I disembarked from the train and made my way through the town square towards the river. It was still early enough that not many townsfolk were out and about (or perhaps they were staying indoors to keep warm).
I was able to find the Mockingbird easily enough; just across the first bridge out of the town square and to the left. I entered the empty lobby, a bit nervous. Before I had a chance to ring the bell, the manager appeared.
My interview was short and surprisingly simple; my waitressing experience seemed to be adequate enough to hire me to work at the hotel restaurant and, occasionally, at the bar. The position would be live-in, in which I was to have my own apartment alongside other employees and my salary would be slightly reduced to compensate for living expenses. And they wanted me to start right away.
It was a lovely hotel in a beautiful location, and stirred in me an excitement to begin a new adventure. I gladly accepted. As I returned to London to gather up my belongings and check out of my temporary hostel, I thought briefly about how lucky I was to have found such a perfect job so quickly. It seemed too good to be true. At the time, however, I had no way of knowing that it was.
*Name has been changed.
Be sure to read the next chapter of my travel series, in which I reflect on my time spent at the Mockingbird.