I apologize in advance for using the Olympics as a kick-start for the last two posts, because I’m going to do it again right now. But I’m going to go a slightly different direction. Hopefully that makes these three “Olympic” posts different enough to keep you (and me) interested.
I was incredibly excited when I found out that the 2012 Olympics would be held in London. Not because I thought that they would do a particularly spectacular job (although I did), but because I lived in London for part of my junior year of college. I was fortunate to go to a university with a really fabulous study-abroad program. I was able to go on an amazing trip that included a little over a month in Spain, three weeks in Poland, four months in London, and two weeks in Northern Ireland during Christmas. And I had to pay tuition for my university at home, but they took care of the rest.
I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to go abroad to study. My only regret is that I could not spend a second semester abroad because of the expense. At the time, the exchange rate was 2.2 dollars to the pound. Yeah. Crazy right? Buying a cup of coffee at a café cost $6.50. A pint at the local pub was around $8. It was draining me (and my parents) dry.
But the point I am trying to make, really, is that my time in London has had a lasting influence on me, and I am struck by a lot of nostalgia and memories as I watch the Olympics, hosted in the place outside the US that I know and love best. I see the cameras pan out over the city, showing the mix of medieval and modern, and showing familiar landmarks, and it takes me back to six years ago, which was exactly when I left home to fly overseas for the first time in my life, flying into Heathrow before getting on my connecting flight to Spain.
I still have almost a thousand pictures that I took. Here are a couple from Spain and a couple from London, just to give you a sample.
I’m sure you might be asking yourself, “ok, this is interesting, and those are cool pictures, but where is he going with this? Is this post just about his nostalgia provoked by seeing London on TV?”
Honestly, yeah, that’s how it started out. But as I wrote, I discovered the grain of truth that was hidden underneath the surface: I never imagined I would be able to have the experience of studying abroad until I actually did it. Even after I had signed up for the program and had the documents showing that I was going, it really didn’t register until I got off the airplane in Madrid and had to find my way through the city from the airport to Atocha station. I got horribly lost in the subway system. I had to stop and ask for directions from one of the transit police. The man was very kind, because my Spanish was pretty abominable at that point, but he didn’t criticize or pretend not to understand. He just kindly gave me directions and pointed out the way to go. And it was just a little while after that, after I had arrived at the train station and was sitting, waiting for my train to come in, I looked around me and thought, “wow, this is really happening, I am really here!”
This wellness quest has been a little like that experience. At first it seemed almost surreal. Like I was in a foreign country, or had temporarily stepped into an alternate universe. But a couple months into the process, I realize that yes, this is real. But I also realize that I actually did step into an alternate universe. In creating this wellness quest and choosing to completely change my lifestyle, I chose to live in a different reality – in an entirely different plane of existence – than the one where I have spent the last five years.
So I guess my nostalgia for the “foreignness” of London does relate to my wellness quest after all. It reminds me that I never know what is possible until I try. I didn’t know it would be possible for me to live in a foreign country and get around on my own. I hardly believed it was happening even once I had arrived there. I also had stopped believing that it was possible for me to make any kind of lasting change in my life. But now that I have truly embarked on this journey, I am really starting to believe that it may be possible. It might be possible for me to become a peaceful, compassionate person who lives in harmony and gratitude. It might be possible for me to contribute positively to the world.
I certainly hope so. And that is the difference – now, I have hope.
Thanks for reading, goodnight,
And Peace to you,