The first trip you make without your parents is always a little exciting, I suppose. For me, that happened in June 2005. I had been a fan of Star Trek: Voyager for quite a while back then. Kate Mulgrew, who played the captain of the Starship Voyager, had captured my special interest. She portrayed a strong, independent woman in a leadership position, something that very much appealed to me – and still does. Apart from that, she is a fascinating and inspiring human being and I was eager to meet her in person. The opportunity to do just that presented itself when it was announced that she would attend London Film and Comic Con 2005.
Several of the people I had met online through various fan sites had declared they would be there, so I decided to go. I had never met any of those people in person and apart from our shared fascination with one woman, we didn’t know much about each other. Regardless of all these uncertainties, I booked a flight and a bed in a hostel dorm, made arrangements to meet some of my online friends, and hoped I wouldn’t regret it.
The first online friend, a girl I had met on a fanfiction board, waited for me in front on my hostel when I arrived. We bonded over a cup of coffee and our weird sense of humour and have been friends ever since. Almost 10 years and many meetings later, she is still my best friend, even if our interests have moved on from a shared fandom.
Later that evening, we met with a large group of Kate Mulgrew fans, sharing stories and making plans for the following two days at the convention. Over the course of the weekend, we got together for drinks and photo sessions and chats, and many of the friendships that were forged that weekend still exist. Some may only involve exchanging Christmas cards, others I keep track of through social media, and a select few I get to meet every now and then when the crazy strikes once more and we all end up at the same event.
The convention itself was an amazing experience. Kate Mulgrew and Garrett Wang were the guests I was interested in, because both had starred in Star Trek: Voyager. The thought of meeting Kate Mulgrew was rather terrifying because there were so many expectations riding on this one short moment. The first encounter on Saturday was very brief, long enough for her to sign a book I brought for that purpose and exchange a few short words. It was also long enough for me to find out that this woman had a rather astonishing effect on my ability to form coherent sentences. Astonishing as in I don’t think I managed to string together more than two words while standing in front of her. That didn’t change much during the other times I got to meet her at that convention. There was another autograph session the next day as well as a short talk where fans could ask questions. That was the one moment I managed to be at least partly coherent, even though I wasn’t able to pose my question in a way that lead to the answer I was hoping for.
Talking to Garrett Wang was a lot more relaxed. My friend knew him from another convention and he remembered her. We had a nice chat about Star Wars, completely free of nervousness.
Most of our time was spent inside the convention centre, so a bag full of touristy photos was not among the things I brought home that time. It was a memorable weekend filled with so many new experiences that I doubted, at that time, anything would ever live up to it. As it turns out, I’ve done far crazier and more memorable things since, but this weekend will always have a special place in my heart, because it was my first time as a travelling fangirl and it was the beginning of many of the friendships I still hold dear today.