life abroad with syd | weekly finds
I must admit, Columbia Road Flower Market is not for the weak of heart. It takes a lot of patience to zig zag through the crowds and to remain calm when the claustrophobic in me begins to flare up... It wasn't till one day when I popped into a shop off of the main road and found the last copy of a lovely little photo book called "Columbia Road" by Johanna Neurath that I began to find beauty in the chaos and crowds. She describes the market experience as "a Sunday ritual, a weekly 'walking and looking' meditation on chance, chaos and chrysanthemums." There is something so dizzying about the whole experience, and Neurath captures this quite well through her abstract photos. It's pictured below and highly recommended....along with its pretty neighbors!
A few weeks back, Sydney made the trek back to London and we decided to brave the cold and the crowds. It was well worth it, especially since it's the holiday season and most of the market is simply a maze of sweet smelling Christmas trees. London during the holidays is outrageously busy but nonetheless magical (I must admit that I am not a fan of the traditional English mince pies, however the mulled wine is an absolute dream). Over a hearty brunch and a couple of cappuccinos we began to reflect on our past few months of travel, and Sydney has once again written some beautiful reflections which you can read below!
Before she begins...here's a few things I'd like to share.
reading on beauty & being just by elaine scarry
attempting a website overhaul/re-brand...any suggestions? anything you'd like me to post about? i'm all ears!
Take it away, Syd!
FINDING JOY IN UNEXPECTED PLACES
SB: The biggest lesson I’ve learned during the last four months is that the best adventures happen when you stop searching and become more willing to venture off your usual path. I typically thrive off of an organized schedule: I know when and where I’ll eat my meals (because food is so incredibly important!), how much time I need, what places I enjoy the most, and who I want to spend my time with. Gianna and I are very similar in this regard. It wasn’t until the second half of my abroad experience that I began traveling alone, signing up for trips I initially had no interest in going on, tagging along with other people’s plans, staying out longer than anticipated, and having the courage to introduce myself to new people. I let the reigns entirely go and found it to be incredibly rewarding.
Life is a map and we’re all routes leading to each other
SB: It wasn’t until I embarked on a three day trip through the Scotland highlands that I realized this statement couldn’t be more true. I had very little expectations for this trip. My four months abroad started slowing down, I was constantly being reminded of Christmas, and overall exhaustion set in. Meeting a group of Aussie travelers was a breath of fresh air—I also wasn’t complaining about that accent! ;) Within a day I felt more connected with a group of strangers than I have with people I’ve known for years. It amazed me how each of us were in such different places in our lives, yet were somehow brought to that specific trip. Some people were in between semesters at Uni, others just graduated, and some were just up for an adventure. Goodbyes are never easy especially when you feel particularly connected with someone. I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that I could have missed any of those people by mere seconds. There’s a reason we are put in each other’s lives and if you refuse to acknowledge that, I think you’re missing something pretty significant. Since meeting this group (I’m convinced Aussies are the coolest people in the entire world), I haven’t taken for granted even a simple conversation in a coffee shop. Pull out your head phones, look up to the person in front of you, and acknowledge the fact you’ve been put in that place at that exact moment. Start connecting the dots, because there’s definitely a greater purpose. My time in Scotland was every beautiful emotion in one trip and I haven’t taken that for granted.
NO PHONE, NO PROBLEM
SB: Call me crazy, but I actually didn’t get a phone while abroad. It certainly wasn’t always easy, but it required me to test my navigation skills (the very little I have) and pay more attention to my surroundings. I had to Google map destinations before leaving wifi, buy maps from bookstores, and become comfortable asking people directions on the street. I always rolled my eyes at people walking through the streets of New York with big maps, but now I understand how uncomfortable they must be: a new city, different language, cars driving on the opposite side of the road, and crowds of people rushing past you. It’s all so overwhelming. Not purchasing an international phone plan was a personal challenge. I wanted to test my navigation abilities in a time where our phones and internet access are in our DNA. Sure, I had a few breakdowns in Lisbon, but nothing I couldn’t handle. It’s a matter of being okay with the fact that you don’t know every little detail about the new place and enjoy being lost. It’s definitely not for everyone, but I encourage everyone to at least give it a try. Part of the success in my experiences is due to the fact that I became confident in the uncomfortable.
SOLO TRAVELING IS SOME OF THE BEST TRAVELING
SB: I always told my parents that I could never travel alone—it would be way too lonely. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I enjoyed several trips with friends around Europe, but I wanted something new and challenging. There was something so appealing about calling the shots. I have always been an incredibly independent person, so I’m not sure why I avoided solo traveling for so long. Lisbon, Portugal was my first solo trip and now will always be a special destination for me. I had always dreamt of traveling there after working for a Portuguese family. I had heard it’s incredibly underrated and super affordable—a college kid’s dream. The first day I nearly forgot I was alone. I had the chance to think more than I ever had before. I observed my surroundings so much more closely and found myself entirely wrapped up in the culture. I enjoyed choosing the restaurants, spending as long as I wanted in museums, and having time to self reflect. I took a Lisbon Walking Tour my final day and met three solo travelers: a woman from Amsterdam who lives in Italy, a man from France, and a woman from Spain. These were all countries I had visited just weeks earlier and fallen in love with. It was hard to contain my passion for each of their homes. Becoming confident in your abilities, insecurities, and the unknown became my biggest takeaways from the trip. It’s okay to be alone, in fact I embrace it. Learn something new about yourself.
SB: Traveling is the most rewarding, yet most exhausting experience. In between the quick flights, late nights, and sight seeing are classes. Yes, people that go abroad actually do go to classes. I lucked out having most of my classes fall on Tuesdays. This helped boost me to travel every week and take advantage of practically every second abroad. I didn’t like the idea of having Europe at my finger tips and not exploring it. I successfully visited 14 countries in 4 months. I’ve never ran a marathon, but I can say I did a European travel marathon! I can touch down on American soil knowing that I used absolutely every day I could have throughout my semester. Balancing your studies and travels are important—they feed off of each other. I never let my grades slip for the sake of a trip, because after all, I came to England to study at Lancaster University. I balanced my passions for my studies in English Literature and Writing with the new cultures I encountered. If anything, I can walk away from my four months knowing that my travels have inspired me to pursue a very specific kind of creative and adventurous work in the future.
Gianna: sweater (j.crew, find similar here), suede jacket (vintage from florence), culottes (le poème firenze), shoes (monki), scarf (vintage burberry from nordic poetry), watch (oozoo vintage series), bag (kate spade, find similar here). Sydney: turtleneck (nordstrom), jacket (anne taylor), necklace (j.crew), skirt (new look), shoes (stan smith), bag (louis vitton), hat (j.crew)
Happy Holidays! Stay tuned for our next adventure...
Gi & Syd