Traveling Lessons – England

What I Have Learned about Myself after Living in the UK for Three Weeks

In Russia we have a saying, “We value what we lose,” which means we frequently take things and people for granted and do not understand their true value until they are gone.

This is often the case; however, it is natural to feel pain and sadness during any kind of “separation,” even if it is something as trivial as leaving a nice vacation spot. The discomfort we all experience at the time of any “loss” might or might not mean that we did not appreciate our experience while having it.

Yesterday I returned from the UK after living there for almost three weeks, and what I’ve realized about the things we value is something entirely different. I have learned that we often do not know what is really valuable to us until we lose AND FIND it again.


I am living in Las Vegas in a nice big house. I work at a college and have some friends and acquaintances with whom I go out every once in a while. I am doing OK. Or so I thought…

Three weeks ago I was looking down at the “fabulous Las Vegas” as my London-bound plane was gaining altitude after takeoff. The British man next to me was taking pictures of the Strip hotels with his iPhone and I noticed a proud thought passing through my mind: “I LIVE in this city!” The valley with occasional trees, blue swimming pools and green golf courses beneath the plane looked very familiar and filled me with a warm feeling – “Home!” Then the desert began – brown, yellow, orange, red and gray colors of the barren land with multiple mountains, craters and ridges. “I wonder if the Moon would look the same way up close,” I thought…

Ten hours later we were approaching the destination. While flying to the UK, it is impossible not to know when you start getting close – the lush green color is everywhere! We were approaching “Blighty” from the west, so first I saw the small and big islands of Ireland, all deliciously and temptingly green. It was not the yellowish, dry and thirsty light green that I see on Las Vegas streets, but fresh, juicy, thirst-quenching emerald green of the land of many rains. Soon we were in the UK airspace. Several big cities, but mostly fields, little villages, and lots and lots of uneven rectangles of beautifully green pastures sporadically sprinkled with dozens of cows, sheep, goats and horses.

I noticed the feeling of pure happiness beginning to fill up my body. I was glad, of course, to know that I would be on the ground shortly, but there was something else going on. I got quiet, closed my eyes and listened to myself. There was the feeling of excitement, relief and rejoicing that one experiences seeing their best friend after many years apart. It almost felt like my body cells were waking up after a long sleep, regaining something long lost, recognizing something they had known before; like some kind of tanks were being refilled inside of me.

I am very visual, which means I always remember the people, places and things I come across after seeing them just once; I dream often and usually my dreams include a great number of details, such as color and texture; I learn and remember new things best while studying charts and graphs and watching visual demonstrations; and I also receive my thoughts and insights as images or “movies.”

This time I saw a flower inside me. It looked like it hadn’t been watered for a long time and barely had any life left in it; it was now being injected with all the nutrients it needed, growing quickly, gaining strength and joyfully opening its big, bright and beautiful petals.

I had never known that I missed nature so much… that it was so important for my well-being…

Las Vegas does have vegetation, but it looks very different than the rich flora with which I was surrounded growing up in Russia or that I was now seeing in England.

Desert trees and bushes have very small leaves to minimize water dependency and are usually of very light green color. There are no oak or maple trees, or any of those trees whose names you don’t even bother to know and whom you take for granted because they grow everywhere “like weeds.” Instead, Las Vegas has many cacti and palm trees as well as rocks and stones. People are encouraged to use “desert landscaping” in their yards and are offered financial incentives by the city when they get rid of grass and cut trees and bushes, to help preserve water in Lake Mead.

Even though the town does have quite a few real plants, for some reason they have always looked artificial to me. It might be their different appearance or their small numbers, or the careful, well thought out positioning of every plant, but something about them makes them look unnatural to me. Even where the landscapers seemed to have been trying to imitate the “chaos and disorganization” of natural forests and meadows, you can’t help but see the man’s hand behind it. There is no wild, vibrant and almost rebellious freedom of the plants growing where the seeds fall in such man-made landscapes.

Also, the city is surrounded by naked brown mounts, which never let you forget where you are…

On the plane back to Vegas, there were two British men sitting next to me. One of them asked, “Do you like Las Vegas?” The other man hesitated for a minute and said, “It does not have much appeal to me. Everything seems to be fake.” That is how the city appears to me as well – like some kind of movie decorations at Universal Studios…

In England my soul was on vacation. The site that greeted me every morning behind the apartment windows, and immediately recharged my batteries, was the square heads of magnificent 15-century Protestant churches and several other old buildings, almost completely swallowed by the surrounding giants of trees. The open beautiful sky above it all was alive with changing moods and emotions, just like a real person. Some days it was absolutely clear and breathtakingly azure, some days covered with cute fluffy white clouds, other days it was “frowning” with dark and low rainy clouds and still other days it was gray with heavy fog. From the apartment balcony I could also see a marina and the white sail poles of the docked boats.

While visiting beaches, meadows, little gardens, fields, small neighboring villages and marinas in Britain, I felt like something in me was finally being fed and nurtured. My heart seemed to be wide open every time I was in nature; it was almost like I could get more oxygen into my lungs and more of the world around me into my heart. I felt happy, content and satisfied. Nature made me feel alive and connected with Life Itself. I felt Love rushing through my veins and I had a strong desire to share it with everyone and everything, to give it all away…

This was my third visit to the United Kingdom in the last couple of years, and I finally gave in to the pressure of going to London and having some photos taken of me in front of some famous sites. Hyde Park was on the list of the places I had chosen to see and it happened to be the first place I visited.

The beauty, solemnness and stillness of the park touched my soul so much that I cried and didn’t want to go anywhere else. It felt like my soul completely dissolved in that park and its energy the minute I entered it, like all my mind’s noise and chatter suddenly disappeared and I became one with the park, with its stillness and with the whole world…

Arriving in Las Vegas two weeks later made me tear up again, but this time with hopelessness and despair. The desert stretched as far as I could see from the plane, with no life of any kind in sight. I felt a lump in my throat and huge heaviness in my heart looking at the lifeless land below. I started to feel like my water supplies have been cut off and my inner tanks were starting to run on “low” again, rapidly approaching the “empty” mark. My soul flower as well as my heart were now tightly closed and the soil around the flower was dry with inch-wide cracks in it. “Barren” was the word playing on my mind, best describing all I was observing within and without me.

This was the first time I did not enjoy getting back to my house either. I used to love that it was so big, but what I saw as “open,” “uncluttered” and “spacious” before was another representation of “empty” and “barren” to me now. That view of the open, high and alive sky, of the numerous old trees and churches that nurtured me every morning in England, was still in front of my eyes and no comfort of a big desert house could offer the same food for my soul. The live plants with which I had decorated the house trying to surround myself with nature, now had “DESERT” written all over them and looked like a petty attempt to cover up the obvious: “BARREN LAND!”

With all my knowledge and understanding of how our thoughts create our reality, I finally had to admit that nature is one of my essential needs. Nature and the people I love and who love me. No degrees, titles, big bank accounts, houses with no mortgages, good retirement plans… can make up for the connection I feel with the people with huge, open and loving hearts. I am a Russian living in the US, and I was meeting with English, Australian and Welsh people in the UK, but none of these mind-made classifications and divisions mattered. I felt bathed in the LOVE that I was feeling towards those people and that was flowing from them to me…

It is fascinating how sometimes getting far away from home brings us closer to ourselves. This is one of the reasons that I love traveling so much. In addition to seeing the beauty of this world and of the people in it, I get to learn more about myself every time I am away from home. This time I realized that two things I had freely available to me in Russia – nature and people with huge, open and loving hearts, just like mine – are among my crucial necessities.

I wonder what important things you have learned about yourself from your traveling…

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4 Comments »

  1. Hi Diana,
    What a wonderful narrative.
    I have learned more about myself when travelling than at any other times in my life. It allows me to escape the “white noise” of the “everyday” that I, unfortunately, have allowed into my usual life.
    The big lessons have been in connection. Connection to nature, with people, and the present moment. This true connection only happens when I remove the “mask” or “story” of me, who most people know me by.
    In travel its like there is nothing to lose so chuck the story and just be.
    Fortunately I am bringing this into my usual life more and more allowing alot of discovery of self and the world around.
    We are here such a short period of time its SO crazy we all wear these fascades. Im so glad in my travels i have learned to let them fall away.
    I look forward to the journey where we cross paths. Namaste.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello Brenton,
    I know exactly what you mean by “white noise.” Traveling “yanks me out” of my routines, made-up rules and all the to-do lists. When I come back home and remember what worried and preoccupied me before the trip, I am always amazed at the meaninglessness of all those so-called “problems.”
    What a beautiful insight about true connection and also about being the True You. This is where I am on my journey as well – stop hiding, pleasing, complying…! Drop the mask and express yourself freely, fully and joyously! This blog is one of the things I am doing right now to step out of my “closet.” 🙂
    Thank you very much for your comment, and it does feel like at some point we will meet finally. I’ll look forward to that.
    Meanwhile, lots of love and blessings to you.

    Like

  3. Diana Kay,

    I thought immediately of the writing of Anne Morrow Lindbergh when I was reading your work. Before I read her work, I remember thinking not unkindly that she was perhaps gaining success as a writer by way of her fame as the wife of Charles Lindbergh. I was in a used book store one day, and I picked up a copy of her Gift from the Sea. Celebrity gives us much, I think, bad writing, but something more than curiosity was motivating me. I realized quickly that she was a very great talent. I have given away many copies of that book (as I found many in used book stores). I went on to read all of her and her husband’s writing. She and her husband flew all around the world, and she writes of that extensively. Anyway I felt a kind of closeness to her thinking, and in one of her books she talks about living in Detroit for a time and taking some painting classes from the little-known but great master, Zoltan Sepeshy. I had been taken by my own painting and drawing instructor to meet Zoltan Sepeshy at the Cranbrook Academy. I spent time in his studio and his home, and as a young man I remember his asking me if I painted. I said yes I did but I was only a student. He exploded at me (ever so kindly) that as a painter I would always be a student. He wanted me to drop the “student” from my self description and be a painter and let the rest take care of itself. So as I read of her study with Zoltan Sepeshy, I realized that there was a communication in her work and my response to it that was more than imagined. We had traveled the same path in some ways in particular. I’ll keep my eyes open for a copy for you.

    Jerry

    Liked by 1 person

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