Fresh upon my return from the United Kingdom I think I have shocked even myself when it comes to the amount of WRITING I have done. Usually when I hear that someone has been “writing” I assume that they are writing a novel of sorts. I wasn’t. I was quite simply writing about anything and everything that I saw; I just don’t want to forget a thing. Who knows when I’ll EVER get the opportunity to go back??
Looking back through my travel journal, which is – no joke – about 1000 pages filled of my thoughts, stories and analyzations of the trip, I wanted to put down in blog form some of those lessons that I learned from being in the UK. The first one being about “Being Present.”
It was on our fourth day in the UK when we went to the beautiful town of Bath.
I was really overwhelmed with emotion to be completely honest. Bath was the home for a brief amount of time for one of my favorite authors, Jane Austen. I just got very overwhelmed, as can happen for me, while walking around as I started to think of the gravity that Jane herself had walked these streets, smelled these trees and flowers, and watched the people as they bustled about for their shopping. That night we headed to our first pub for dinner. That, in and of itself, was a hot mess!
We walked into the pub only to be promptly and intentionally ignored by the waiters and bartenders as they bustled around. Absolutely packed, we tried to go upstairs only to see that it was packed as well. We stood around, very awkwardly, waiting for a sign or some sort of direction. Nothing came.
We tried to find another place to eat but everything was packed. Our savior came in the form of a middle-aged local who asked us if we were lost. When we explained that we were just trying to get some food, he recommended the pub that we had gone too first; The Raven. I decided to take my shot and asked him HOW we get food in the pub. He laughed, gave us step by step instructions, and we were back in with a newfound confidence.
We ordered our drinks at the bar, told them we wanted a table and didn’t care that it was going to be 30 minutes. Then we waited at the bar. Standing there, exhausted after a long day of stressful driving on the WRONG side of the road and exploring all over from the Jane Austen Centre to the Roman Baths to finding our hostel for the night.
“They must all be mad at each other,” I chance overheard one of the bartenders say to the other.
That’s the first time that I really began to pay attention to the dinner and subsequent meal habits of those in the UK. While us Americans were sitting and standing somewhat apart from each other, reading the pamphlets about the historic pub or playing games on our phones, all of the locals were deeply engaged in conversations with each other at their tables. When I say deeply engaged, I mean that they were leaned over the tables, talking earnestly, strong eye contact and I couldn’t tell you if any of them even owned a cell phone.
In the back corner was a rowdy group of what seemed like college aged students playing some sort of literary card game. I couldn’t figure out what it was but they were all laughing extremely hard and having a great time! In the front was a couple on a date; hand-in-hand, engrossed in everything the other had to say.
Paying attention the rest of the trip, I was amazed that this was a thing all over. No one cared about Instagramming a picture of their food or of them and their friends waiting to get food like they would in the states. As I didn’t have international data, I felt as if I was able to really have a clarity and pay attention to those around me.
Here in the US, that would never happen. Even at an important date or business meeting, the second the other person looks away or gets up to use the restaurant, we are immediately on our phones – engaged somewhere else. We even play “crazy games” like putting all the phones in the middle of the table and whoever checks it first has to pay.
I had tried to rationalize that first night that everyone there were locals, that they had gone out intentionally and with the purpose of being with those people for dinner whereas we were tourists and had nowhere to get food. That was just a rationalization though because, in all honesty, it seemed like everybody ate out in the UK and no one stayed home to cook.
UK Trip Takeaway #1:
Emulate the UK in their relationships in the strong and intentional effort to be present and engaged with those you are around.