Oct 092008
Authors: Phoenix MourningStar

After nearly an eight-hour flight, the plane is preparing to descend into London’s Heathrow Airport — the site of the infamous Terminal Five baggage claim diabolical. I’ll have a two-hour layover before catching the next flight on to Edinburgh, Scotland.

My housing contact fell through 10 days ago, and the trip was nearly cancelled. After a week of consideration, a few stops at REI and Jax and a last minute learching call for assistance to my friends on CouchSurfing.com, I am now strapped with everything I think I need to be self-sustaining for the next two to four months.

Welcome to my life. If you’ve known me for any amount of time or continue to read the 650 words a week that the Collegian is providing me to write each week, you’ll know (or find) that this is just the way it goes: a series of linked unknowns which just happen to work out in usually good favor, like an East coast skier at Steamboat on a 12-inch powder day.

In speaking with my editor at the Collegian, this column is supposed to eventually contain interviews and international perspectives on the environment, my travels and — how could it be avoided — the U.S. Presidential election from the British commoner’s point of view. To be honest, I’m not sure how much response I am going to get on these issues; however, now with global economies tanking, I suppose I should be prepared for a healthy dose of sour words directed at our country.

So far, the plan is to arrive in Edinburgh and stay with a few couch-surfer contacts for a week or so.

I’ve always felt the initial arrival to a new city in a foreign country to be the most important in a successful stay. I like to use that first blast of “feet-on-ground” energy to meet and greet the hosts/friends and start laying that foundation — sleeping at a hotel or adjusting to jet lag in the hotel is for the weak or people who can afford it. As a guy who slept and lived out of his car for his entire undergraduate education and now has to maintain hygiene well enough to convince people to let him interview them, there really is no time to waste.

Besides, it’s the U.K. — Scotland, no less — where public drunkenness and having at least a couple of shots before and after breakfast is supposed to be the norm; you just can’t miss breakfast when you’re a guest, now can you?

Once I’ve laid some minor foundations and located this Edinburgh University’s main campus, we can then move on to the process of seeking out camping spots and work.

Employment from the perspective of my past means one of two things: Either, one, career building, meaningful resume padding and 9-5 work; or, more likely, two, low pay, free food, occasional access to worry-free squatting (urban camping), a ski pass (or its equivalent) and variable hours service industry work. I’ll be happy with either or neither since I’ve got plenty of research and reading to do — this trip is more of a way of doing hard work somewhere fun. Not that Fort Fun isn’t great, I just needed a break.

In further preparation for this journey, I also called out to my friends on Facebook. The global friend network has come through like the champs they are by providing links to their favorite cheap travel sites, hook ups, couches, scams and itineraries — from the cheapest European flights to the cities with easiest pay-or-don’t-bother-paying bussing systems — all of which I will attempt to share with you.

To wrap up this introductory column, I would like to invite CSU students to e-mail questions and topic ideas to me at thinkinabout@gmail.com. I suspect there are a grand number of topics and issues which will slip my mind during my time here, so keep me on my toes!

Phoenix Mourning-Star is an environmental health graduate student. His column will appear Thursdays starting next week. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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