Today marks my second full week living in London. I’ve been abstaining from my keyboard for a little while to let myself settle into a routine before I attempt to express in words the whirlwind of sensations I’ve experienced during my transition here.
At the end of our ten days in Iceland, I was pretty tired. I was ready to sleep in the same bed more than two nights in a row, I was starting to run dangerously low on clean clothes, and I was eager for the convenience that I perceived in urban living. But despite the coffee shops on every corner and the endless stores, museums, theaters, and restaurants no more than a Tube ride away, living in the city can present its own variety of challenges and adjustments.
Sometimes, strutting headfirst down the crowded street into my next adventure or barreling through the underground in pursuit of shopping and sightseeing is the most truly thrilling experience I’ve ever had. Other times, I make a disappointing trip to the tiny grocery store down the block in pursuit of cheap, decent food and then lug my loaded shopping bags up six flights of stairs to my flat only to collapse on the floor in exhaustion.
Sometimes the cacophony of accents and the screech of tires mingles with street guitarists serenading the whole city, and the overwhelming beauty of momentarily intertwining lives washes over me. Other times I find myself suffocating beneath the weight of sensory overload as too many bodies and voices fight for the same tiny spaces.
There are moments where, if I really concentrate on where I’m going, I start to feel really comfortable with the London Underground. There was also a moment recently where I concentrated too hard on my cell phone and ran smack into a lamp post on the crowded sidewalk.
Settling into our new lives here has been a bigger hurdle than I ever anticipated, but with each passing day it becomes more and more worth the climb. (Literally and figuratively climbing—did I mention the six flights of stairs?)
With each new experience, whether it be a big bucket list item like riding in the London Eye, or a small victory like brewing the perfect cup of tea, this once foreign place starts to feel a little bit more like home.
I haven’t yet decided which are sweeter: the major moments, like laying eyes on Big Ben for the first time while tears escape onto my cheeks, or the little ones, like an unexpected cup of coffee from my thoughtful roommate, a good laugh shared between new friends sampling strange food, a well-timed photograph snapped just before the frame fills back up with swarms of human bodies.
Although we often focus most on the incredible things we get to see and experience every day, I think there is a surprising amount of beauty to be found in the ordinary. It’s things like flipping through a copy of The Evening Standard after dinner, or figuring out which grocery store has the best bargain on bananas, or foregoing a night out to snuggle on the couch and watch a good movie that slowly transform us from mere tourists into true locals. Getting a glimpse of Stonehenge or gazing up at the gilded halls of Buckingham Palace might be the reason we’re here, but the ordinary, seemingly mundane moments are what allow us to truly belong.