Initially, I did not plan to visit London during my recent Euro trip. My younger brother, Jason, lives in London; however, he opted to meet me in Paris and Amsterdam. Why did I change my mind and end up finishing my European tour in London? I was in Germany for an industry event, and I ran into a friend. We joked about how we only saw each other once per year, so it’s crazy that this is the second time this year we spent time together. It dawned on me that I can make a third chance happen. Thus, I changed my itinerary to include London as my last stop.
London feels like one of many "second homes." Initially, the city may seem too similar to the US as English-speaking countries. After all, an unfortunate effect of globalization is that the cities of the world start to have similar amenities, points of interests and skylines. Once I started to expand my horizons outside the bustling Oxford Street shopping zones and mainstay attractions like Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, I started to slowly to warm up to London's charm.
A common myth I've had is that British food is uninspiring, bland and boring. Subsequent visits have proved me wrong. Soon, I found an overwhelmingly rich, expansive and dynamic music, arts and food scene that seems to change every time I visit the city. I am not really THAT surprised. After all, Britain was one of the world's biggest imperialist superpowers, so a variety of cultures, languages and people consequently influenced and shaped London over centuries.
Since I already visited almost all of the tourist attractions at least once, I didn't have an agenda outside of "hanging out with brother and friend" and "sunrise photo shoot" for my 48 hours in London. Being able to experience a place through a local lens is one of my favorite ways to travel. Going to the usual tourist attractions always felt a little superficial to me no matter where I am. I travel because I want to step into someone's shoes and experience the day-to-day at that moment.
Being a "local" (or at least trying really hard to be like one) allows one to really feel a neighborhood and make authentic connections with the people who live there. It also opens you up to serendipitous events. While spending an afternoon with the friend, we browsed through the flower market on Columbia Road, watched a gentleman cricket match in the park, ran into a Caribbean cultural parade and got lost in a park nestled high above the city. There was no set agenda. All I needed was an open mind to "see" the city and an open heart to "feel" its offerings. I've adopted this approach even in my everyday life. Sometimes the best things in life are not planned, so be open and spontaneous. The next serendipitous moment could just be around the corner.
London, you really do have the "global cosmopolitan city" on pat. Until next time <3