It was with a mixture of nervousness and sadness, but mostly excitement, that I said my fairwells to the family at Newcastle airport this afternoon, and started what is for me, an adventure of a lifetime.
This week has been very busy making my last minute preparations and packing for the trip. My birthday was on Thursday and I was very touched by the reaction of everyone at work. My desk had been decorated with banners and balloons, and I was greeted by a chorus of "Happy Birthday" on my arrival. Very nice and unexpected.
The evening was spent with my family at Fratelli's, a nice Italian restaurant not far from where we live, and it was great to see everyone before I left. It was nice that Lynsey, Matt and Seth travelled up from Leeds to help me celebrate.
Saturday was our wedding anniversary, which Gillian I spent at the Mal Maison hotel in Newcastle, and we had a lovely dinner at "Six", the restaurant on the top of the Baltic art gallery in Gateshead, with outstanding views over the river and across Newcastle.
And so to today. We had a family Sunday dinner at The Badger, a pub/restaurant next to the airport, and then I was dropped off to catch the first leg of my journey to Heathrow, along with a few emotional goodbyes.
I don't think that it's sunk in yet that I really am doing this. I travel to London fairly regularly on business, probably about 2 or 3 times a month, so this part didn't really seem out of the ordinary. Tomorrow, when I head off to the USA will really be the start of the trip, and I expect then it'll dawn on me that the trip, years in the planning, has started.
On the flight down to London though, I began to realise that in 18 years of marriage, this will be the longest time I've been away on my own and the longest journey that I'll have taken on my own. I'd like to thank my family, and especially Gillian, for letting me take the time out to do this trip, and although it will be exciting and great fun (I'm sure), I will be thinking of them, and wishing I could share my experieneces with them. Unfortunately, getting them all on a motorbike would prove to be challenging!
Well it's late, and it's been a long day, I'm tired and getting emotional, so I'll sign off for now, and retire to my bed in the luxurious T5 Travelodge!
Today; London, Tomorrow; Chicago!