#PaxAbroad: Being True to You and Flying Solo

“Some walks you have to take alone”- Suzanne Collins

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Ice skating at the Canary Wharf Ice Rink. Highly, highly recommend it for my fellow Londoners!

Hello again from London!

I found some quiet time today to sit down and reflect on these past five weeks. Wow, has it really been five weeks? It feels as if I’ve been living in this city forever…

Over the course of my time here, I’ve been in touch with many of my amazing family and friends. Of course I ask them about how their lives are back in the States, but then the subject turns towards how I am doing abroad.

“How is everything?” “What have you been up to?” “What has been your favorite part of studying abroad in London so far?!”

More often than not, I draw a blank at how to answer these, which is ridiculous considering how incredible my experience has been thus far. I always leave these conversations feeling like the one moment that encapsulates London is lodged in the depths of my mind, waiting to be expressed.

One day, as I was sitting on the Tube trying to figure out what I would write this post about, I realized: it’s not about one singular moment, but the way I have approached creating moments that matter.

Most of the time, I make decisions based on what I want to do.

 Now, I know what you’re thinking: shouldn’t that be an obvious part of life, choosing to do things that interest you? Well, yes and no.

In theory, you participate in activities because you want to, but life presents lots of obstacles; friends who want to go to another place, unpopular opinion that something doesn’t sound like fun, or pre-existing bucket lists only allocating for Options A and B, not Option Z.

I’m not saying that I’m antisocial and totally ignore the opinions of my friends. I am certainly not saying I am not taking external factors like cost and safety into account when I go on adventures. I have simply learned that another reality of studying abroad is you have limited time to make a place your home- so you need to make sure you’re never held back from making it yours.

I have learned that sometimes I need to decide I am going to travel somewhere without the company of my friends. I need to pick places I want to go to and go there while inviting others to join me if they wish. I need to take solitary journeys around this breathtaking city because you discover the best secrets of London through becoming immersed in the sights and sounds surrounding you. In getting a little bit lost in this place I call my home, I find parts of myself I never knew existed.

Because I have done I wanted to do, I’ve accomplished the following since being in London:

  • Traveled to Interlaken, Switzerland by myself and explored what can only be described as a winter wonderland
  • Booked a weeklong spring break trip to Italy for half the normal price, without any plans for friends to join me (until they did)
  • Took a walk in the city of Bath, allowing me to experience a unique place all on my own
  • Made plans to go to the Canary Wharf Ice Rink, a little-known attraction in London, that led to a group of seven of my favorite people in my program accompanying me

Finally, the most important thing that has happened because of my putting-myself-first mindset, and I realize now my favorite part of London thus far (there we go, family and friends, I put it into words!) has been this:

I have become extremely comfortable with being completely and totally alone.

So I guess that’s my answer, friends and family.  The best of part of London so far is learning to explore it, listening to my gut, and loving every second.

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