The best place to be in London is lost.
Let me be the first to tell you that the experience is not for everyone, that it is stressful, intimidating, and frustrating beyond all reason. Then, on the other hand, we have people blessed with enough experience and directional ability that they no longer can get lost in London. The city is simply a memorized map of streets for them, a collection of “well, we should have gone that way, but this way is fine too” conversations.
Unfortunately, I am most definitely not that latter type of navigational person. But after only two weeks of a schedule so packed in a city so busy, I shouldn’t have to be. There is something so special in being lost that to skip the experience entirely by never venturing outside comfortable boundaries should be regarded as a missed opportunity, no matter how aggravating being lost can seem at times. In that moment of confusion, when the wide open streets make me feel so insignificant as I look up at unfamiliar signs, that is when my eyes are truly open to London. No longer am I just glancing over the architecture or admiring a quaint shop window, but I find myself memorizing the turns that I make and taking note of any important memorials and locations to gather a sense of where exactly I am wandering. I begin to take in London as the significant city that it is, not just as a bullet point on a casual tourist’s bucket list.
As I see London for London itself, it only makes sense that I appreciate the city more, that I come to love the streets in which I lose myself. So much of the city resides beneath its famous façade, and it has been a true adventure to discover the London which so many other travelers overlook. The Wonderland fantasy in Twinings teashop, the small daisies surrounding the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Garden, and the small stationary stores that dot the inner roads all appear just as poignant as the Elizabeth Tower in the moment; they all are London to me.
In seeing London for the city that it currently is, I am inspired to do the same for my own across the Atlantic. It’s rather difficult to be lost in my hometown, having grown up being guided by my parents down every road, so I have never had the opportunity to truly face the same confusion and frustration that currently allows me to embrace the streets with which I am unfamiliar. Always comfortable in my home surroundings, I just accepted my home as it appeared to me throughout my childhood. And although we still have a week left in this trip, I know that I must return home at some point, to a place where I can no longer be easily lost. Still, in coming on this adventure, I have learned the importance of the sentiments behind wandering aimlessly in a city, and when my plane lands in Baltimore, it will be time to “lose myself” once again.