Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Be Still, My Travel-Loving Heart

(Photo Credits to Becca)

I've just returned from a week-long trip to Dublin and London. This past week allowed me to complete one of my three goals I set for studying abroad, which was to visit at least two other countries aside from France. Completing such a goal has been extremely rewarding! I saw the sites that both London and Dublin had to offer. I tried the food, I bought the postcards, but most importantly, I met other people as in love with life as me.

In Dublin, the two-day trip made schedules a bit rushed, and so, I wasn't able to befriend any Irish or non-Irish travelers. After returning to London, I found my way into the airport Costa coffee-shop for a much-needed coffee. It was there, in London, that I found the most friendly and outgoing Irish guy I'd ever met. We talked for over an hour of the differences between the U.S. and Ireland. He shared with me his plans for the future and told entertaining stories (one involving a large mattress and a rooftop window).

On two other separate occasions in London, I befriended groups of friends that welcomed me warmly and allowed me to tag along for the day. Seth and Becca, Boston natives, were in London and had been apart of a tour group discovering the city alongside me. When the tour ended around lunchtime, they invited myself and my traveling partner to join them for lunch. For the remainder of the day and for the whole of the next, I explored the city with them. We bonded over our love of learning and traveling. Seth, who never seems to meet a stranger, befriended others as well, and quickly, the group grew into a happy mix of student travelers.

With them, I traversed the cobbled London streets, I posed in front of world-famous landmarks, and I exposed my poor hand-eye coordination skill in a dimly-lit local ping-pong bar. Despite our identical nationalities, Seth and Becca taught me a lot. From them, I realized that even within the borders of the U.S., I have so much traveling to do. There is so much I still do not know regarding music, religion, and even Boston stereotypes!

After Seth and Becca left London, I had only one more full day to discover the hidden gems of London. While eating breakfast at the hostel, my ears prickled with the familiarity of the still-foreign language that I love so dearly: French. I turned to the two girls sitting at the table beside me and began to speak with them about my poor French-speaking skills and my current studies in Caen. We approached the topic of traveling, and it turned out that Sandrine and Marina were celebrating Marina's recent birthday only a few days before.

After hearing that I had no plans for the day, they promptly invited me to join them on an adventure to a local market where we feasted on the various products offered to us by the food stands. The smell of frying seasoned beef mixed with the strong aroma of an exotic coffee bean. Vendors called from all around us, advertising and giving samples. In awe, we took it all in. The sites, the smells, the crowds. This was London, and it was so incredibly amazing.

We took pictures of the street art as we made our way to Chinatown to try a famous new dessert from a restaurant called Bubblewrap. Though the store had only been open for one month, the popularity of the sweet treat was well-known. A line of eager customers waited outside the store. This line extended quite a distance away, but Sandrine, Marina, and I braved the crowds and withstood the test of time. Needless to say, we came out triumphant. The bubblewrap treats were Instagram-worthy, and the experience solidified our friendship.

This past week has taught me a lot. It taught me that though I prefer the structure of a schedule when in the U.S., when traveling, I yearn for the unplanned adventures and the spontaneous decisions. I relish in the idea of walking without a true destination, only keeping in mind the importance of happiness and, of course, insatiable curiosity.

I learned about others as well. Seth, with his relentless jokes, showed me that one shouldn't take themselves too seriously. Becca, always a reliable photographer, taught me to live in the moment, but make the moment so precious it's worth the picture. Sandrine, with her go-pro, made me realize that much of the beauty of a culture is in the candidness of it all: The aimless walking which gave way to lively market booths. And Marina, with her sarcastic humor, allowed me to find entertainment in the events around me, if only I pay enough attention.

This may be the longest blog I have ever written, and so, I leave you with this simple quote to sum up my entire traveling experience:
 As with any journey, who you travel with can be more important than your destination.

A bientot! -Albrianna