I recently got home from a mini-trip to London.
It was lovely. I was shocked to find that I actually enjoyed London, even though I usually don’t like big cities and even though I was freezing. I loved wandering the streets, experiencing the atmosphere and roaming freely.
Did you notice some of the verbs I used there: Wander. Experience. Roam.
I think all too often we let itineraries and plans hold us back from really experiencing a culture or a city. I’ve been guilty of this all too often, especially as I find myself getting back into the groove of traveling. I fill my mind with places I absolutely have to go to and sights I simply must see. But in the process of doing this, I lose sight of experiencing a city for itself. Of standing still and taking in the smells and sounds of a unique place. Of just existing.
For example, Stonehenge was a place that I just “had” to go to while I was in London. I booked tickets for my last day and was all prepped and ready to go when Tuesday morning came…except when I woke up, I realized I didn’t want to. I didn’t feel like getting on a three hour tube ride and listening to someone tell me what to do. I just wanted to be on my last day, I just wanted to experience.
So, instead, I spent the entire day wandering Kensington Palace Gardens. I stumbled across sights that I didn’t even know were there. I played with the many, many dogs off their leashes (because that was a common thing) and let my feet take me to my next destination without Googling all of the memorial sights or statues in the park.
When I came across this memorial to Alfred the Great, I had no idea what it was at first, and that made it all the more enchanting.
And I felt like I stumbled across so many treasures. By not knowing what I was coming upon until I got there, it felt like I was some kind of true explorer, traveling an uncharted territory. Maybe some people will say I missed out on seeing Stonehenge and that what I did was boring in comparison, but I don’t think so. I feel like I got to play discoverer for the day and when I look back on my time in London, this will be the day that sticks out to me the most.
Inside a church I stumbled across called St. Mary’s Abbott. I was so taken by the gentle and quiet atmosphere that I wanted to spend all day inside these ornate walls.
The church above is one that I came across by chance and that I’m sure probably isn’t a “hot spot” location, but I have never been so enchanted by a church as I was by St. Mary’s Abbott. When I entered, there was one parishioner praying. It was such a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the touristy areas where you can’t move two inches without stumbling into someone else. I could just sit and reflect and think and be.
I could just be.
What did you reflect on the last time you traveled?