One of my favorite things to do when I arrive to any new city is to explore its fields of green. While I am not an overly eager outdoor adventurist, I have a special place for the parks of any destination. This predisposition may be due to my need for fresh air and sunshine.
My mood is very reflective of the elements around me. The more I stay indoors, the more my mood becomes stuffy and introverted, similar to the swirls of grey dust circling around the same stale room. When I am outside, I begin to feel renewed and reinvigorated. Although, I will say that nothing feels as good as collapsing into a soft bed after coming in from the outdoors, a testament to my limit on being outdoorsy.
When I studied in London, I embraced this book I found in one of the commons areas of my building. It was a book that divulged all you needed to know on different self-guided walking tours around London neighborhoods. Each one ranged from a length of 45 minutes to 3 hours, but among those pages, I found an infinite space of solitude and healing. Arguably, my best days in London were the ones I spent all by myself.
Let me pause here and just let you, the reader, know that I am by far an introverted person. I am extremely sociable and have no problem talking to strangers. However, my time abroad in countries where I cannot speak the local language has given me enough distant that I have developed a joy in being my own guarded fortress. There is some relief that comes with being able to be “on” when you desire amiable contact and to be “off” when you just need to hide away in your flat watching Law & Order episodes. In the United States, I had to be “on” all the time in a variety of manners. A foreign city allows me more time to turn off the friendly side of myself and to just exist in my own natural state-of-being.
London has a plethora of parks but my favorite were always the tiny ones that you stumble upon when you feel absolutely lost in a crowd of neighborhood streets. These parks are really green square spaces tucked in between the middle of the buildings, possibly to keep them from overpowering one another. However, those spots of green make for the best quiet reflection and introspection. You can sit and stare into a green daze or dance like a wild child to some out-of-date pop song.
When I moved to Taipei, I found relief in much the same manner. One day I was so crossed I dashed into the alleys, figuring I would find my way out again. I ended up needing rescuing from a friend and a healthy dose of cupcakes, but I stumbled upon the first of many little hidden gems of foliage. Even the main park which I conveniently live near, Da’an Park, has given me hours of pleasure to wander and photograph, always changing with each season.
If you are planning on a move or study abroad, I urge you to find these small spaces for yourself. Spend some time of quiet (or headphone-induced noise) to simple exist in a place that balances stillness with growth. Those little shoots, blades, and swings of green can simplify the complexities that we face. It just might be what you were looking for in your feverish dash through a city’s ‘Must-Sees.’ You just might stumble upon something you did not even know you were missing.
If you live or study abroad, I would love to hear your experience. What little space in your city brings you a moment to be yourself, to exist without trying?