As I enter my last two weeks of life abroad, the harsh reality that I may in fact not get to see everything in London slowly sets in. As determined as I was before, I have decided to accept this fate and embrace the insight it has given me (yet another change of heart under the influence of European life, no surprises here.) Sure, I could technically “do” everything. I could hop double-decker buses all day from Westminster Abbey and Trafalgar Square to Shakespeare’s Globe and the Tower of London, but what would be the point? Where would the logic lie in rushing through the things I truly wanted to see just to make it to other destinations purely for the sake of travelers’ bragging rights? How would I be able to appreciate the British Museum’s classical Greek art collection if I knew I had a date with Big Ben in one hour?
The worst thing you can do is to expect to accomplish too many things in one day (as goes for anything in life.) If you find yourself enjoying a particular place, then stay and admire it! If I hadn’t taken the time to explore Covent Garden, then I would have never discovered the vibrantly painted organic cafes of Neal’s Yard. If I had plans for lunch, then I wouldn’t have stayed the full 45 minutes for the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace and would have missed the guards marching right past me. And perhaps if I had devoted my entire day to shivering at the Alice in Wonderland premiere in Leicester Square, then I would have gotten Johnny Depp’s autograph, but that’s a different story entirely… My point is this: I think I would regret more not having had the patience to appreciate something that will become truly memorable for me, then having every tourist attraction in the city starred on my map.
I do believe that one should pause and honor the architecture and historical significance of a city, but one should seek out the destinations that interest them most. History doesn’t have to involve kings and queens and ancient buildings. What about London’s swinging ‘60s era? Not only have I visited multiple medieval churches with my History of London class, I have also seen the Beatles’ favorite nightclub and the spot of Led Zeppelin’s first gig. I believe those have historical qualifications as well, perhaps ones that are a bit more relevant to my interests. You can personalize a tour of any city; it is up to you go off on your own and seek out what you want to see.
For instance, although I was told the Tate Britain has a wonderful collection of historic British art, I spent more money to see the Tate Modern’s pop art exhibit, I had more fun crossing Abbey road than I did London Bridge, and I spent more time scouring the vintage jewelry at Portobello Road then I did the luxury items at Harrods. You see, just because everyone says, “You must go here,” doesn’t mean you have to. Of course, you will (thus lies the allure of traveling), but it doesn’t have to involve draining your camera batteries or spending hours staring at historical sites waiting to have an epiphany. See it, appreciate it, and if it doesn’t pique your interest, move on and devote your time to something that does. In every city there’s something for everyone, so go out and find that thing.