Today is a milestone day for me personally and on milestones I think it behooves us to take a moment or two to reflect…. not something I am naturally predisposed to do!
On November 2, 1991 I walked through Manchester airport and boarded an American Airlines flight to Chicago, Illinois and then a second flight onto Indianapolis, Indiana. Actually, it was my first flight alone – something that I only realized as I approached passport control. I was 26 years of age – and full of the confidence of youth – as I started on my new adventure. The milestone is that today marks the balance point as I lived in England for the first 26 years of my life and I have lived here in the heartland of the US for the next 26 years!
My plan, such as it was, was to travel the world one IT project at a time having adventures along the way. This vision came about from my time consulting under my UK company Angel Computer Services (ACS Ltd). On my last project I sat alongside Andy Parker who, simply put, had the best stories arising from his years traveling the world with IT jobs. I have parents who’d lived and worked abroad in beautiful Bermuda, and an immigrant Irish grandfather, who also had their glorious stories they shared so maybe the seed was there and it just needed watering.
All successful journeys need a support team and I had that – Mum and Dad didn’t miss a beat – in fact told on a Tuesday of the plan and that I was leaving in three weeks, by the following day Mum had a connection for me to meet a friend’s daughter, Caroline, here in Indianapolis. My Mum had her own internal version of LinkedIn before the concept was even an idea! Remember in 1991 there was no internet.
The leader of the support team was my then partner, and now husband of 20 years, Nick Taylor. When I shared the idea of traveling, although he thought I was aiming for weekends in Europe, he immediately started the job search with me. We spent a Tuesday night developing my CV (resume) and identifying the international recruiting companies advertising in the weekly newspaper Computer World that all IT professionals magically received at both work and at home. Remember in 1991 there was no internet.
After scientifically selecting Indianapolis as a good target city to move to:
- Weather was good – it wasn’t as hot as Houston
- I knew no one here (I hadn’t met the Caroline mentioned above) so would be living the lone traveler adventure – unlike NYC where I have cousins
- History – it was an inch down from Chicago on an atlas page map of the US and I knew all about Chicago because I read the novels of Sara Paretsky about a single private detective called V I Warshawski
- Background – I knew from the Roger Miller song that “God didn’t make little green apples and it don’t rain in Indianapolis in the summertime”
So back to the rainy Monday in Manchester – a city I do know and where it rains year-round – think Seattle but true! As I took my seat the reality of flying alone to a new place armed with only $500 and a brand new American Express card left me feeling nervous and a tad weepy. Two hours later after waiting on an issue with cargo in the hold all that changed and I was now ready to go. My companion in row 12 was another Brit traveling onto Dallas to meet her grandchild for the first time. Once established the sniffles were emotional rather than bacterial we chatted. Questions on where I was going and what it would be like and how “brave” I was merely confirmed that maybe I – not for the first or last time – was acting on the idea without identifying or worrying about too many risks.
Upon arrival the immigration officer was also sharing that since I was late it would have been best to have my hotel details and contact numbers for the person meeting me. Again, no internet, no cell phones with international dialing, no Google …it was 1991.
When I got to Indy there was my contact with a sign for Audrey Clough and off we went to the Omni Hotel. From this point on my story is made up of the many kindnesses I have experienced since making Indy home – my accent doesn’t easily indicate how much of a Hoosier I have become.
- To the realtor who helped me find my first apartment(flat) and then took me shopping in Walmart to stock up on all the small items we all need to set up home…thank you!
- To the server in Churchills (in 1991 there was a British pub on the Circle) who on my first Friday lunch took the drink orders from left to right allowing me to learn that in the US we go to the pub on Friday’s and drink Iced Tea…. thank you!
- To Steve and Kristen Valdez for opening their home to host me at their first Thanksgiving as a married couple…thank you!
- To Kathy Rollins for sharing Broad Ripple Saturday’s with me… thank you!
- To Kevin Rollins who introduced me to John Mellencamp – and helped me cope with money that was all one color…thank you!
- To Robert Reed who tried to share his passion for all things Ohio State and tried to help me understand basketball…thank you!
- To Meggie and Betty and everyone who I grew to know and love at the original Distillery on Indiana Avenue, my own personal version of Cheers…. thank you!
Over the years the list has grown exponentially but the help of strangers and the friends I made in those first few weeks are why I knew that if I could deliver on my work I’d be here beyond that first 12-month contract. I knew enough to suggest Nick, too, should look to join me over here and by May 1992 we were at the opening week of qualifying for our first Indy 500. I can’t say I knew I’d be here 26 years later, the mother of two American boys and a citizen myself…but I know that strong foundation made it ALL possible.
As we say in the northwest of England – ta very much mate!