This week we spent three days in London. Laura and I have both visited the city before, so we didn’t schedule a lot of time there. However as we’ve walked around the streets we’ve been surprised and reminded of just how incredibly pleasant the city is.
On our first night we bought some food from a grocery store and had a picnic in Hyde Park. The weather was fantastic and there were people everywhere enjoying themselves. Because London is so far north it also stays light really late here, so we’ve been staying out a lot later than we were in Brazil. (It’s also obviously safer than many parts of Brazil and these factors have combined to make it increasingly difficult to stay caught up on this blog.)
On our second day in London I went to the Tate Britain, which is an art museum located along the Thames. It showcases British artists and was fantastic. Unfortunately, Laura still had a cold so she took a nap while I went.
After the museum we walked around the city and eventually decided to go see a play. We bought the magazine Time Out and found a production of a play called “Stairway to Heaven.” It has nothing to do with Led Zeppelin, but rather is a piece about a guy on a work crew building the great pyramid. It was a fringe play (like off off broadway in the U.S.) and was in a theater on the south side of town. Because it was a smaller production, it was much more intimate and we made up a significant portion of the audience.
Our susequent activies in London have included visiting the Tate Modern, a superb and renown art museum, strolling along the river, and an assortment of other things. And it’s been fantastic.
Yet, while Laura and I have both enjoyed London, we’ve also both noticed that we’re significantly less awed by it. When I first came to the city several years ago I remember walking along a street and suddenly looking up to see Big Ben on my left and Westminster Abbey on my right. It was an astonishing and evocatively sublime moment.
Yet during this trip, London has evoked fewer (if any) moments of ineffable wonder. Laura has commented that she feels similarly, and we’ve both noticed this throughout this trip as well. (Sao Paulo was another example of a place that was less awe-some this time around.)
For us at least, the way locations signify differently over time has been facinating. Part of it probably has to do with the fact that we’re slightly older and more exposed to the world on each subsequent trip we take. But that can’t be all of it because on this trip at least, even places we’ve never been before (like Rio de Janeiro, for example) haven’t stunned us the way that exotic new places did even a few years ago.
As Laura and I have considered it, one of the biggest reasons traveling might be less obviously sublime is because we put so much effort into planning. When I came to England before it was with school, and the trip was mostly planned for me. That meant that when I suddenly walked through a Scottish field for the first time, for example, it had a kind of magical quality because I just suddenly appeared there without really ever thinking about it before.
This time, on the other hand, I’ve thought extensively about each day of the trip. Though there are still moments when we encounter exquisite beauty; they’re somehow different or less magical.
This all isn’t to say that traveling is any less enjoyable. It’s simply less sublime. That shift has also given rise to other opportunities, many of which are even more rewarding. While I might have been content to stare, drooling no doubt, at London or Sao Paulo all day long in the past, now I find myself wanting deeper, more meaningful experiences. In Brazil, at least, that desire has prompted Laura and I to meet new people and forge new friendships where we might otherwise have been content without them.
I’m not sure if the psycological impact of travelng changes for other people over time, but it definitely does for both Laura and I. There are probably a lot of other reasons, and there’s more I’d like to say, but our train is pulling into Harwich (where we’re taking a boat across the English Channel) so I’ll have to save that for later.