It has now been a little over a month that I have been in London and it seems like it’s keeps getting better and better as the days go on. Now that I have pretty much seen and done all of the tourist things that you must see and do when you come to London I feel that I have started to drift towards the more quaint and local parts of town away from all the tourism. Studying abroad is so great in so many ways but also has a negative side when it comes to immersing yourself in your host culture as well as learning more about the place you are living in. It seems as though many people treat studying abroad as if you are entirely on vacation and just do whatever you want and travel every weekend and some that are only there to go to school and that is it. From my prospective, studying abroad is meant to have a healthy balance and that is what I feel helps us to become mindful travelers.
Something that I have found myself doing recently is trying to blend in with the English culture. Trying to act similarly and to try not to stick out in the crowd as the annoying American. I thought that this would really help me to understand they way English people live and go about their day if I almost mimicked them. Slimbach mentioned in his third chapter that “most of us are creatures of habit. Our tendency is to do things on autopilot” (Slimbach, 74). This, I think, is something I have found myself doing a lot, as well as my friends, when we are out and about in London. One of the ways that I try to assimilate with the culture is to look like I know where I am going, keep up the pace, and not be aimlessly walking and getting in people’s way. After reading this quote I realized that maybe that isn’t the best way to get to know a culture because I am missing so much a long the way. I realized that if on my way to school everyday I could make my walk about twice as long if I just slowed my pace down and looked at my surroundings and window shopped and discovered more within my neighborhood that just walking with tunnel vision through the streets with my eye on one destination.
Another really cool lesson that I learned recently was it is okay to stand out as different from the typical Londoner because sometimes they are just as intrigued with my culture as I am with there’s. Earlier this week my flat mates and I went to the Somerset House which is a mansion on the Thames River with many different coffee shops and art galleries throughout it. As we were walking through one of the exhibits an English man stopped us and struck up a conversation. He must have heard our accents from a far and decided that he was going to quiz us on different terminology and cultural practices within London. He asked us what we thought different phrases would mean and why English people do certain things a certain way and we wound up learning so much from this random man that we probably never would have understood if he didn’t go out on a limb and start talking to us. From this mans quiz I leaned that I am awful at trivia and that sometimes you can have the best conversations when you just strike up a conversation with someone about something random and ask each other questions. This is what truly made me understand what I mindful traveler is.
I decided to insert a picture of the Somerset house the day that the random English man came up to us and started firing trivia at us. This was such a significant day because it really inspired me to want to go out and ask my questions and start conversations with people I normal would converse with to hopefully make me more of a mindful traveler.