I gave myself a month. 30 days to not feel like a stranger. 30 days before I had to write or reflect or do anything at all other than learn, settle and land. A 30-day self-imposed period of anti-reflection.
I’ve moved a lot in my life, and there are a couple of mantras to repeat: 30 days before the new place doesn’t feel like a vacation. One year until a place feels like home.
So this morning, I woke up and it’s day 31. I was asked for directions in a strange neighborhood, and I knew the answer. I’m no longer on vacation.
So, let’s start simply, shall we? Here’s what I’ve learned: Living here is both extremely complicated and ultimately surprisingly simple. Let’s start with the easiest way to explain this phenomenon:
(First off, I get that some of this is living in an urban environment, but much of this is also unique to London, its culture, its values, its infrastructure.) So, we don’t have a car here, which means that going places involves pre-planning, walking (even if it’s just to the bus stop) and budgeting more time to travel, but then. . . we don’t have a car! So, no parking woes. No stress from driving. Travel time can even sometimes hold magic–as it does when Hazel gets a quick reading and geography lesson when we review the day’s weather in The Metro on the tube. And walking? I forgot how much I love to walk when the urban landscape supports it, and it’s not 100 degrees. And rain? Most of the time, it’s only a bother if you’re not prepared. The best part? Though Londoners will complain about TfL (and I’ve already done a bit of that myself,) transport signage is often surprisingly clear, well-labeled and actually helpful.
So that’s a basic lesson: simplifying (grocery shopping nearly everyday, as another example) can often be counter-intuitive.
So let’s close with some less paradoxical London lessons. Here’s a list of five random things I’ve learned.
1. “Hail and Ride” is a lie! (See TfL isn’t all rainbow buses and speedy transfers.)
2. Idle chitchat among moms while kids play is NOT encouraged.
3. Bring your own toys to the sandpit, thankyouverymuch.
4. Be prepared to apologize for your credit card. (There’s often not a pen at the tills.)
5. Don’t leave the house without an umbrella. EVER.