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When writer Lindsay MacMillan moved from the US to London alone during the pandemic, a madcap quest for connection turned into a lesson in self-discovery.
“Hiya, Cardboard Sign Girl!” a voice said through the phone. “It’s the lad waving from the steps. Do you have any extra burgers on that boat?” I scanned the crowd on the King’s Cross canalside to locate the mystery man. Quite a few people were waving and taking pictures of me and the sign I was holding up, which had nothing but my mobile number written on it.
It was the first sunny day of June, and I was standing on the roof of a canal boat, at a barbecue I’d been invited to by a friend of a friend of someone who’d taken pity on me. I’d moved to London from America just a few weeks before. Alone. In a pandemic. Without knowing a single soul.
It was a thirst for adventure that had pulled me here. After more than a year of lockdowns, I was ready to get out and explore, to reclaim my independence as a modern woman. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, I had fled Manhattan, where I was living and working on Wall Street, to move back in with my mum in my Michigan hometown. Unexpectedly, I met and fell in love with a gem of a local guy, and we spent 10 happy months together going on ice cream dates, bicycling through cornfields, and roasting s’mores down by the lake.
This small-town life was a much-needed respite from the rat race, but I soon felt the itch to spread my wings and travel. I wanted to see who I was and who I could be without any security blankets. So, I got my company to transfer me to its London office and decided to take an official break from my boyfriend – I needed space to get the perspective I was lacking in our bubble.