Just over a month ago, I returned from an exhausting week in the United Kingdom and from my first solo trip abroad. I already miss London and I have gone back and forth on how I wanted to write about this trip. I read a lot of posts about how to travel inexpensively and spontaneously and so I originally thought that would be the kind of post I would share – tips on how I did this trip while spending the last year living on an Americorps stipend, what things to do, how to not schedule only twenty-four hours for Edinburgh but if you do how to do it better than I did, and so on. Then I realized that I didn’t actually want to talk about budgets, phone apps, and exhausting sightseeing. I wanted to talk about the many thoughts that swam through my head and what this trip meant for me emotionally and spiritually.
Up front, this was a much-needed getaway. I’ve spent the last two years back home post-college and have felt a bit suffocated by it. It has definitely not been all bad – I got to be there for my nephew’s birth, be a part of numerous game nights with family, and take an opportunity to save money rather than paying bills, but I have lived in a constant state of this-is-not-where-I-need-to-be-and-I’m-ready-to-move-on. I had considered different paths to move away but none ever felt right, either by the logistics of it or by that deep, gut feeling that it wouldn’t be the right decision. So for me to go away to England for a week was a welcome break away from this environment that is currently a source of insecurity.
When I got to London the first thing I did was take a train to Durham to meet one of my closest friends and then leave on another train the following morning for Edinburgh. When I arrived in Edinburgh I was unable to check-in at my budget hotel for about 3 hours, which meant I walked around with my packed backpack wherever I went. Reading back on my journaling from that day I noticed that the feeling of dissatisfaction and eagerness that I’ve felt for the last two years was embodied in that initial experience.
When I got off the train, sore and tired, I quickly went through the nearby National Gallery to pass the time till check-in, half paying attention to the art because all I could think about was taking off that backpack and finally being free to explore unhindered. Eventually I left the gallery and found a small park where I sat at a picnic table and drank tea, counting down the minutes till I could be free of my luggage. And even now, I feel that dissatisfaction and impatience so much.
I’m just under ninety days away from my move to London and even with knowing what the next thing is, that light at the end of the tunnel, I still feel extreme dissatisfaction and eagerness to leave tomorrow. It’s like I’m waiting on my life to begin. I’m waiting to drop off my luggage in a place I want to be so I can do the things I want to do.
Now, some would write the above and then go on about how we are to find contentment in our present. How suddenly they opened their eyes to their immediate surroundings and saw the good things right in front of them that they needed to pay attention to and then were suddenly content and happy with their current situation. And sure, we should be wary of dwelling so much on the future that you miss what’s in front of you – “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live,” Dumbledore says in my head every single day – but that is not something I could confidently encourage anyone to do. Because as much as I tell myself to enjoy where I am now, it’s hope in the future that keeps me from falling into despair. When I look at my life right now I just see mistakes and failure. I have found good things to hold to and enjoy – family and a few nearby friends – but I have no immediate purpose or inspiration or motivation in this place, just a feeling of carrying unpacked inspiration and purpose and vision, eager to find that destination where I can drop it on the floor of my home and unleash it.
I know that moment will come, and that’s what I hold to. Because while at the beginning of the trip I was eager to drop my luggage and begin the exploring, the rest of the trip was wonderfully exhausting and life-giving. For the first time in a long time I was invited into the homes of friends. I saw beautiful landscapes and cathedrals and museums. I went to Borough Market for the first time and somehow fell even more in love with the city of London. I ignored whatever stomach bug I had gotten on my travels to the UK and ate good things and got to spend a week with one of my closest friends from college. I felt at home and didn’t want to get on my return flight.
I know that simply moving to a new place won’t solve all of my problems and I know I need to be present wherever I am, but it’s nice to get away every now and then from feeling like you’re constantly waiting or are in a state of “not yet.” I have every hope and expectation that my time in London will be important to my future path, but even if I return stateside at the end of my studies and enter a career irrelevant to my Masters I will have no regrets about it.
Because maybe sometimes in those seasons of dissatisfaction and uncertainty you need to just physically get away for a while, whether you go far away temporarily, move to a different neighborhood, or spend a weekend a few hours away.
I just think that the world always feels and looks different when you get away for a while, and sometimes that getaway feels more like home.