When I lived in London, UK, I brought my camera on every weekend getaway or school vacation.
Looking through my travel photos, I have hundreds of pictures of my adventures in Europe: celebrating my 25th birthday with the Mona Lisa, cycling with my Dad in Spain and Italy, and journeying through Eastern Europe by rail.
But I have very few pictures of London itself. In fact, I don’t have a single photo of the places cinco minutos de mi casa (five minutes from my house) that I saw every day and developed a connection with.
No photos of the old Victorian buildings.
Or of the cobblestone alleyways.
Or of the artsy cafés & bars (where I’d go to write my blog, inspired that Oscar Wilde may have once sat down to write in the same places).
Or of the designer consignment stores, like the one where I bought a funky shirt-dress for five pounds, which my students decided was a hideous fashion blunder and claimed made me look like a cupcake/sumo wrestler.
Or of the many electronic shops on Tottenham Court Road that I walked by every day but never stepped inside.
Or of my favourite pub, the King & Queen.
Maybe I didn’t take as many pictures at “home” because it’s harder to look at the parts of my life that go deeper than tourist shots. I started to see a London that captured all of the joys and heartaches that come with living.
In my neighbourhood of Fitzrovia, I developed strategies for coping with struggles at work, like rainy runs in Regent’s Park, or a Turkish Wrap at the Camden Lock Market, as well as rituals for celebrating success, like pints at the neighbourhood pub, or spontaneous dance parties followed by late-night Korean food.
I learned to feel the pulse and beat of the city (“Do you hear that sound? It’s London, calling…”, an old man whispered to me after last call at a pub he’d been frequenting every night for the last 40 years).
I discovered the most efficient routes for navigating public transit (don’t fall asleep on the last train from Clapham Junction and avoid night buses at all costs!) and the etiquette for using it (avoid eye contact, keep to yourself, become as stressed out as possible, and most importantly, “mind the gap”).
My relationship with London was definitely love-hate. It inspired me to live wildly and deliberately. It broke me down and drained my bank account. It’s a city that brought out the best and worst in me. It’s left me with a hopeful yearning that, perhaps, if we’re lucky, our stars will eventually align and we might have another shot at each other sometime in the future.
My passionate affair with London pushed me to those moments of agony and ecstasy that sometimes get lost in the monotonous grind of daily life. Ultimately, it forced me to grow and become stronger than I was before because I wouldn’t have survived if I’d stayed the same. That’s what the best relationships do: they change you.
My relationship with Manizales, Colombia, is still fresh–I moved here in October 2015. So, it’s too soon to know which parts of it will stay in my heart and which parts I’ll want to leave behind. But with all of its cafés, vibrant culture, and easy access to the outdoors, I can easily see how it’s been voted as Colombia’s best city to live in.
In light of my regret about not documenting my life in London, here are some photos of places in my new neighbourhood in Manizales: spots that are all cinco minutos de mi casa. I’m still in tourist mode, though, so let’s see how intimately I come to know them in the future.