When I am out in the world, I tend to meet people. If I for example have spent an afternoon on my own, I will more often than not have something to tell. For some reason I end up speaking to some very unique people. Throughout some train journeys, taxi trips, flights and walks in towns, I have met some strange, but wonderful people. If I talk about them to family or friends later, I will often start the conversation with something like «Do you know what? I met a new friend today». Unfortunately, I will hardly ever meet these friends again, but of all the strangers in the world, I know that amongst the crowds of unknowns, I might meet someone I can know. Even if this knowing only lasts for a couple of minutes.
Yesterday I went on an adventure to London. I have taken quite a lot of trains and flights on my own the last couple of years, and I do enjoy my own company.
This time my travel felt quite different than it normally does. Normally I am used to either reaching a known destination, having someone I know near the destination, or a schedule of some sort. This time I had neither. I was not very worried in advance, but I was aware that even though I have been at King's Cross station in London before, I had never actually seen any of London, and I had never actually been alone in a city of that size. So there I was. On my way to London, with nothing but a 1,5 hour dance class scheduled somewhere the upcoming day. Well well. At least I had my cousin Snapchat to help me prove my existence to a part of my world.
After arriving safely at King's Cross, I started my walks through London. As I got closer to Oxford Street, the crowd of unknowns became larger and larger. Everyone was busy; going somewhere, having an interview to attend, a bus to catch, some shoes to try, some friends to meet or something else to do. I was standing in the middle of it, trying to hide my uncle Google's map and pretending that I also knew where I was going. The only problem was that I was going where they were simply walking past. Staying in their way and looking like a lonely, lost tourist, did not seem like a good idea. Also, my shoulders were already hurting from the bag on my back. I had only walked for about 45 minutes, and I already wanted a break from the noise, the rush and the unknown. Well well. I went somewhere to sit and had a hot chocolate + some time to let cousin Snapchat and aunt Instagram tell my world that I now was enjoying the big city with a hot chocolate.
To be honest, it did get better from there. When I had moved myself away from Oxford street, and walked towards Buckingham Palace, I had a great time. I enjoyed seeing the beauty of the Palace, was extremely content as I walked in the sun through St. James's Park, was amazed by the great buildings of the city, was surprised by how big Big Ben was, and loved the view as I crossed the Westminster Bridge and took pictures of London Eye. When I arrived at Waterloo and managed to find my way to the West station by 6pm, I was so happy that I had managed to walk through London and seen what I wanted to see before the sun set; in less than 3,5 hours. Now I only had one 20 minutes train journey ahead, before I would be at my hotel.
The journey to my hotel ended up being more of a challenge than I thought it would be. I knew what train I should be taking and what time it left the station, but as I was a bit early, I thought I could take a different train with the same name. As it did actually have the exact same name, I was assuming it would also take the same route. This was where I was mistaken. After about 20 minutes on the train, I realized that this train was taking me the wrong direction. I left the train on the next stop, and looked out for another route on uncle Google's map. I was very aware that Mr. iPhone would not be able to stay awake for much longer. I tried not to tire him too much, just enough to confirm that there was a bus I could take to another bus stop. Without any more thought, I jumped on the first bus that stopped at the first bus stop I saw. This was not surprisingly the wrong bus. I was about to ask uncle Google if I could borrow his map for the very last time, but just as I was about to open the map, my normally friendly iPhone decided to go to bed.
Okay. It was now dark outside. I had a sleeping iPhone, no uncle Google to help, no aunt Instagram, no cousin Snapchat and no sister Facebook. What do you do? We live in a world so relying on help from the mighty Internet, and now I was on a random bus without it, too proud to ask anyone on the bus if they might be able to help me. So I just prayed that there would be a stop called something that I might have heard of before. And as I prayed, the name of the announced stop was something I had recognized from uncle Google's map earlier that day. Not exactly the same, but similar. I jumped off the bus and checked what other busses would pass the stop I was now on. Luckily the bus overview told me that one of the busses arriving shortly, would be stopping at a stop that would be nearby (ish) my hotel. I waited another 20 minutes and the bus arrived where I was waiting for it. Another 20 minutes with this bus and I was closer. When I did get off this bus at the right (ish) point, I needed help. Finally, I left my pride (at least a little bit of it) and asked a woman for directions. She explained a 10 minutes route I understood half of, and I tried using my memory to remember. It was getting cold, and I really wanted my hotel room. After 20 minutes and almost walking the wrong direction a couple of times, I ended up at my hotel. I have no clue how, but after 2 hours of being lost, it was a great feeling to find my way. After confirming that I did actually have a reservation, and spending another 7 minutes looking for my room number, I could finally take my bag of my back and wake up Mr. iPhone.
It is strange to be lost in a big city with just unknowns around you. It was a really strange feeling, also because I was not as worried as I probably should have been. I knew that I eventually would find my way to wherever I was going. To be honest, I did not really feel lost, just mistaken. I believe there is a huge difference between these two. If you have mistaken the route you are on, and you know that you are wrong, there will always be another way that leads to the same destination. If you are looking for it, you will find the way. Sooner or later. It might take 20 minutes, 2 hours or 2 years. If you are lost on the other hand, you do not necessarily know that you are lost. You might be carrying on in the wrong direction and then realize that there is no purpose to your wandering. That is when you are truly lost, when there is no direction to anything. When you realize that Mr. iPhone can help you with a lot of things, but not even uncle Google can give your heart direction.
There are a lot of reasons to worry in this world. If you ask uncle Google if you should worry about something, he will tell you that you should. I believe worrying never helped anyone. Worrying took away destinations and replaced them with signs of confusion, pointing you to all the wrong directions. The worst part of worry is that the signs of confusion does not lead to awareness of direction, but simply loss of destination. In worrying everything merges. What seemed like right and left become circles, and what seemed to be either light or dark, becomes grey.
I guess my point is that sometimes it could be a good idea to ask for direction. I waited 2 extra hours, instead of just asking before I started my journey to the hotel. So stubborn, proud and certain that I could do it on my own. It is good to be independent, and it is good to be able to manage on your own, but sometimes it is even better to be independent enough to ask someone if they know where you are going. The people I mentioned in the beginning; the friends I have met and only met once, they have given me so much, and helped me even when I did not know I needed help. We should not always underestimate other people. What about the people that surround you everyday? Maybe they have some advice that is better than your own. Next time I am unsure of where to go, I will approach someone that hopefully have more clue than I do. Regardless of how much we enjoy our own company, and regardless of how clever we might believe that we are, there are someone out there that has more knowledge and more understanding than I do. Do not take other people for granted. Do not take them for granted if you are lucky enough to have them around you when uncle Google, aunt Instagram, cousin Snapchat and sister Facebook decides to leave you on your own.