For the past two weeks I have been in London and the Netherlands with my husband, who is doing dissertation research. It feels like we're hopping from one cheap AirBnB to the next, from one train to the next, from one Underground line to the next.
Before I flew to London to meet up with him, friends back home asked me what I wanted to do. “Sit in a park and drink tea” and “just be and enjoy being” is what I replied. I haven’t been able to do either.
The crush of London—culture, people, history, expense, language—is overwhelming. And I’m the kind of traveler who wants to do it all, which doesn’t bode well for sitting in a park and being.
The first week we were in London, we walked over sixty miles. This in part to the expense of traveling on the Underground, but also because I wanted to see it all. So my way of being was being constantly on my feet walking everywhere. I loved it. I still love it. And I have my blisters to show my love. Really, get out and walk a city if you want to experience that city—the sights, sounds, smells, architecture, cats, dogs, bikes, babies, languages, music, menus, fashion. The hustle bustle pace of trains, tubes, buses, and cars don’t let us fully experience a place. And the walking pace slows us down: our minds, our senses, our paces, our thoughts. Walking reconnects you with the pavement and the grass, the sun and rain, the space and place.
Despite my inability to sit and drink tea or coffee in a park—I’m going to make it happen, believe me!—one of the ways to “just be” might seem a bit counterintuitive: I’ve been taking my laptop everywhere. You see, I also want to finish writing these two articles I’m working on, and if you’ve read my previous post on productivity, you know that finding the space to write and think, think and write, can also be a challenge. So what have I done? I’ve blended my “just be” intention with my “just write” intention.
Just being and just writing are a perfect match because I can’t write if I can’t be. And I can't be if I can't write. Being and writing happen in stimulating spaces: parks, museums, coffee shops. Too much silence shuts down my creativity. I need inspiration through color, texture, sight, sound, temperature.
I love writing in coffee shops or public spaces that have bumping tunes, just enough background noise, and the smell of coffee and pastries. Even better is a coffee shop with open windows and doors, where I can smell the waft of cigarette smoke or street food. Even better? Lots of natural light, so I can look outside and see the old brick buildings, the trees waving in the breeze, the hollyhocks and lavender growing in-between sidewalk cracks or in flower boxes. Spaces like these help me sit with my thoughts, sit with my being, and sit with the moment. They also inspire me to write.
Carrying my laptop everywhere means that, when the mood is right and the place is right, I can sit and be. I can think about my articles, revise paragraphs, look out the windows, people watch, and be. Ultimately, I’m a happier writer, and a happier traveler because I’ve allowed myself to be inspired by the space and place. Here's where I've been most inspired to be and write, write and be:
- Wellcome Collection, London
- British Library, London
- Parliament Cafe (not open to the public, unfortunately), London
- Cafe 1001, Brick Lane, London
- Anne and Max, Leiden, Netherlands
- A bench overlooking a canal, Leiden, Netherlands
In what ways are you right where you are where you can write where you are? Share you tips and thoughts with me on Twitter @GeneseaC. I’d love to hear about your being and writing experiences.