London is a city full of history and sights to see. I could spend every free minute touring the city and still fall short of seeing everything. For weeks I worried about coming back to the States and reporting to people that I didn’t make it to the Tate Modern or I never got to take pictures with a guard at Buckingham Palace. I felt like I had to spend my last days in London rushing around to all the sights I hadn’t made it to yet, but I knew I’d be sacrificing enjoying my time at each and enjoying my last weeks in this beautiful city.
That’s why I’ve adopted a new philosophy about the last of my time here—don’t see everything and don’t worry about it. It’s not about collecting dozens of pictures at tourist stops to prove how cultured I got, it’s about actually feeling a part of London and that’s not something you can capture in an image.
Going abroad is about experiencing another culture, learning about another city, learning about yourself and growing into a citizen on the world. I didn’t realize that you didn’t need to rack up a long list of museum visits or have a huge Facebook album full of tourist pictures to achieve that. But now I know it’s the small things, like walking through the St. Paul’s churchyard every day on the way home from work or the sense of nostalgia that washes over me when I get back home to Liverpool Street station after a night out, which makes me feel like I’ve achieved a sense of culture from being abroad. I’m comfortable in London; it feels like home now.
In a few months, when I’m sitting in class missing London, I probably won’t think back to the few hours we spent in the British Museum for a fleeting moment of nostalgia, but I will think back to the day we saw the naked bike ride outside of Buckingham Palace while we were eating dinner in the park. That’s not a moment to capture on camera (trust me, I don’t want to see that again), but I will recall how hard we all laughed and how genuinely happy we were. Those are the moments that define this experience to me. Those are the moments that make me feel like London is our home.
I’m coming up on my last weekend here in London and I have mixed emotions about it. I’m excited to see my family so soon, but I’m also torn up about leaving this place. Saturday will be full of touristy things—museums, monuments, cafes—the whole nine yards. But true to form, we will be taking Sunday as a day to ourselves. No sight seeing, just being together and enjoying our city that has come to be a home for us and a place that has turned strangers into family and forged bonds between us that will last long after our planes land in the USA.