Places To Go, People To See

According to my sociology class on cross-cultural relations, I should now be in the midst of the “adjustment crisis” stage of culture shock.  This is the point where I apparently should be feeling very helpless, lonely, and homesick.  Considering that returning home is the last thought on my mind right now, I would have to assume I either prematurely advanced through to the enlightenment stage or have followed my own path of adaptation.  Priding myself on being the girl who often finds her own way, I would say the latter is highly possible.  You see, just because there are sociological prescribed stages of adaptation for studying abroad doesn’t mean they will be followed.  As I previously wrote, I was able to rapidly take such an avid liking to my host country because of my decision to engage in novel cultural surroundings, rather than to avoid them.  While I would love nothing more than to take credit for that theory, I recently learned of a study in my sociology class that confirms my method is not madness.  I should have known; there’s always an explanation for everything.  The study theorized that the extent to which one chooses to interact with their new culture determines the level of culture shock they will experience.  Thus, how I avoided it altogether.  Phew!  So now that I have arisen from the sociological theories of culture shock unscathed, I feel ready to tackle anything—including London!

I must admit that I am a bit relieved to have satisfied my traveling urges early on and plan to remain solely in London until the end of my stay.  Of course, visiting other countries over the weekends accounted for some of the most wonderful experiences imaginable.  How many times do you get to say, “Oh, I’m just jetting off to Rome for the weekend”?  In the past five weeks I really have done it all.  I have climbed to the top of the duomo of Florence, learned how Guinness is brewed in Dublin, been awed by Michelangelo’s ceilings in the Sistine Chapel in Rome, seen where Anne Frank was hidden in Amsterdam, and spent the remainder of my Euros on Belgian chocolate in Bruges.  Yes I have done all those things (and much, much more) and am utterly thankful for the memories each place gave me!  Ideally, I would love to travel more, but continuously hopping on and off planes and keeping a permanently packed suitcase in my room hardly gives me the sense I am living in London.  I have the rest of my life to be a tourist; I’m not so sure how many times I will experience life here again.

The London Eye (which I plan to ride soon)
I know I will look back on my time abroad and regret not having seen everything, which is why I really do plan to do it all.  No longer will I be held back.  Money, time constraints, and London weather—they’re all irrelevant to me now.  How devastating would it feel to admit that the reason I didn’t see the view of the city from atop the London Eye was because I found the tickets to be a bit pricey?  In the end, the thought of “wasting” money on these opportunities will not even resonate in my mind; I would much rather go home able to say “I went there” and “I did that.”  The tourist-y attractions aren’t the only “to dos” on my list, however.  As someone savvy enough to find her way around the city via the tube line, a skill which should practically make me a resident of London, I feel an obligation to get out there and see where the Piccadilly line takes me.

When you are actually living in a foreign place, you have much more freedom to walk around and explore.  My decision to swap my transportation card money for a new chic pair of boots has been my best one yet; all the things that had passed me by when I was riding the bus to class!  Previously, I spoke about my desire to fall into routine.  How naive I was just a few weeks ago.  When you are living abroad, the last thing you want to do is lock yourself into routine.  I won’t even let my afternoon runs grow mundane.  En route to The Regent’s Park today, I discovered neighborhoods with rows of the most adorable houses I had ever seen and a hill that overlooks the entire city.  Had I stuck to my daily schedule, I may have never seen such places. Life is too short, especially here, to fall prey to ordinary days.  You miss a lot when you become too accustomed to your way of life.  Another great piece of advice my mom gave me is that I should go out and get myself lost.  It is only this way that you will learn the area you are living in and discover the hidden secrets you would have missed had you stuck to your guidebook, she told me.

My list is looking a bit intimidating at the moment, but I never was one to back down from commitment.  Already I can cross an item off: today I went out by myself and saw “The Real Van Gogh: The Artist and His Letters” exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts.  I wasn’t letting the fact that I had no idea where the museum was hold me back, or that my friends were away for the day.  There is nothing wrong with venturing out on your own.  Another great thing about cities is that there are so many opportunities unique to the area you are in.  For instance, would I have gotten to attend the premiere for the movie Valentine’s Day (and see Ashton Kutcher) in the US as I did yesterday?  Definitely no.  There are so many more things that can only be done here that I have got to do before I leave.  I will cheer on England at a football match, find out how the Ice Bar manages to stay frozen, get dressed up just to go “shopping” in Harrods, make the guards laugh as they are changing in front of Buckingham Palace, brush shoulders with celebrities on Oxford Street (hello Kate Moss and Madonna!), admire the Queen’s fabulous jewelry collection, vintage shop at Portobello Market, sit in on a session at Parliament, reenact the Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover, sneak a look at some of the designers’ collections at London Fashion Week, and have afternoon tea and crumpets.  Cheers mates!

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