Ask Yourself the Scary Question
I arrived in London feeling like I shed the past and was on a new path. I didn’t get the long-term visa I needed to live in Europe permanently with H, but I realized I had the opportunity to choose positive over negative, and ask myself a powerful question:
What do I want to do?
Not anyone else. Me. When do we ever stop doing what we’re doing long enough to ask ourselves that question? When did it become selfish to do so?
If you’re not happy, chances are those around you aren’t happy either. Our loved ones want to see us thriving and happy (hopefully), so please, give yourself and those around you the gift of taking a couple of hours (you can find a couple of hours SOMEWHERE in your week) and take yourself on a date.
Go to the coffee shop, to the public library or to a park bench. Find space, any space, where you can be left alone to journal, to ask yourself the question: ‘What do I honestly want out of life?’
Even if you have a spouse, or kids, or are completely broke, if you know what you want and set a plan to make your way towards what you ultimately want, it creates the opportunity. Work towards it little by little – whether it’s some day, a year from now, or five years from now.
For me, all my possessions still lived in storage from my move to Europe. At that moment in time, I made a career that allows me to work from my computer and to teach yoga. Not a lot of money, but untethered in a way I might never experience again.
So I asked again: Where do I want to travel? What do I want to do? The openness of the question felt almost overwhelming. Just a couple years ago I wanted the family, house, kids, an office job – a ‘normal life’. I judged myself at first when it didn’t materialize perfectly and immediately.
I realized I’m on my own awesome path, and in each moment I get to pick and choose what I feel in this life. Just like you.
We all have obstacles, but you also have the choice to see things as opportunities or to look at things negatively. I could let my student loans, my breakup due to long distance, or even my biracial looks become insurmountable blocks. But this is my path, and I get to decide where it goes.
I don’t want to force those things if the person, or job, or place is wrong. I don’t feel guilty anymore. It might make others feel uncomfortable because my path looks different from theirs, but I’ve never been more happy following what I want out of life.
With limitless possibilities I decided I wanted to:
- Return to Spain. It had been 10 years (what?!) since I studied abroad in Sevilla, and it was one of the best times of my life. Spain in November – what could be better?
- Visit home over Christmas. With my grandma sick and the holidays approaching, nothing felt better than to visit family in Minnesota over December (despite the frigid temps).
- Live on the beach. In Costa Rica. During the months I hate the most: January – March. I felt the Pura Vida pull after two visits there the year before (a volunteer program and to visit H on his study abroad). More specifically, to teach yoga and help out with social media/marketing/writing at a yoga retreat center in Costa Rica (WHAT!).
The next six months planned. Open-ended. To others, it might look reckless or irresponsible or confusing. To me it felt perfect.
So, I digress. Back to London for a few days to renew my Schengen (European) Short Term Tourist Visa before Spain. In order to go to Spain for the month, I had to leave a certain part of Europe for a different part (non-Schengen… it’s complicated).
Again, something that could have messed up my plans or made me endlessly upset, but I made it work for me – a trip to the UK! I’ve never been, and at around $75 for a roundtrip Ryan Air ticket – perfect.
Stranded in Downtown London at Midnight with No Money
I pre-booked a ride on a small bus to take me the 45 minutes into downtown London once I landed on my RyanAir flight at 10 pm. The driver dropped me off near Bakers Street; nothing could go wrong, I could speak the language after all.
Pointed in the right direction to the Underground (not the tube or the subway, mind you), I left the airport in such a rush to catch my bus that I didn’t get out any pounds from the ATM. I only had Euros.
Long story short, I went up and down from the Underground with all my bags, near midnight, looking for a working ATM for the next 45 minutes. I was sweating a lot. Finally, I admitted I a walk was the only way to get to my hostel. It then lightly began to rain.
I asked a nice Scotsman at a nearby bus stop the direction of the major cross streets. He showed me on his iPhone the treck was at least 45 minutes. I didn’t really have much of a choice. It began to rain harder.
For 45 minutes I bumped my roller bag along the road, in the dark, in the rain, cursing myself for not being a better traveler. I was a dedicated traveler the better part of a decade, and I forgot to get out cash. Rookie mistake.
My bags fell every few meters with the cracks in the sidewalk, the rain matted my hair against my face and my scarf fell in a mud puddle. I looked a hot mess.
After turning around in multiple directions I finally stumbled upon my hostel. My credit card reservation worked, I had a bed for the night! I have never felt more grateful. I had one of the most emotionally taxing weeks of my life (moving out of The Netherlands, back to Germany, only to say goodbye to H in Bremen hours before), had no one and nothing familiar around, but I was in London. And I had a bed to sleep in.
Always Use the Free Resources
During my complimentary breakfast at the hostel (yes!), I read on the complementary maps Sandeman’s New Europe provided a free guided tour of London, where I could see all the major things I wanted to cross of my list. Perfect.
I planned out my two days alone – which made me feel much better to have a schedule. I could pick and choose exactly what I wanted to do – Harry Potter sites? Obviously. British Library? A must.
Of course, my phone didn’t sink up to the local time and I arrived an hour early to the tour, but then had the opportunity to wander the posh streets in Convent Gardens.
The tour provided some friendly faces and supplied me with amazing stories of the city. I highly recommend them for anyone traveling alone or cheaply.
Wander the Streets By Yourself
Inspired by the posters in the hostel to see Kings Cross Harry Potter Platform 9 3/4, I took the bite. A cute couple took my picture for me:
I spent a lovely amount of time wandering around the British Library – never realizing how wonderful it was to go through the gift shop and museum artifacts alone, at my own pace.
I viewed The Beatles songs scratched on paper, Bibles and Korans thousands of years old with beautiful gold inlaid pages.
I even took part in a study by a grad student that tracked me down – it was about positivity, and I realized my outlook was stronger and more positive than ever. Despite my circumstances of starting anew in life.
Day 3 – London to Southampton
I continued to wander and then arrived early back to the train station to get my train to Southampton. They don’t announce the platform departures until minutes before, so I ended up running to the opposite end of the train station, and
glided stumbled on my train.
Only to realize this train had cars that eventually separate down the tack, so you need to be in the correct train car in order to continue to the correct place.
glided stumbled off that train (suitcases and all) and ran down alongside the train cars to the correct carriage, 30 seconds before the departure whistle. The British are SERIOUS about their departure train whistle.
Takeaway – always listen to the train announcements (there are a million of them in London).
Breathing awkwardly heavy and smushed to the woman next to me, I was excited and ready for my Southampton adventure.
What about you? Any new life adventures of your own or favorite spots to visit alone in London? Let’s connect on Instagram