Learning to explore

Sometimes, it’s good to get outside for a bit and blow away the cobwebs. It gives me time to refocus and regroup so that I can better collect my thoughts so I can create pieces I’m more happy with. That said, with my condition, and being stuck in a bustling urban environment, it’s hard to seek out nature. Still there’s beauty to be found, if you know where to look.

When I went to Cardiff at the beginning of the year, for a gig, I hopped on an earlier train. I wanted more time to explore considering I’d only have the day. The rest of the evening would be getting ready, queues and listening to great bands. Besides, it was somewhere I’d never been before, and I knew I’d regret not having a glimpse of it before leaving.

I checked in and headed into the city centre, already greeted by two guys serenading each other with a love song, as they walked in different directions; for the record, they had great voices and it made me laugh. In my city, this sort of thing would be ignored or mistaken for busking. Here, it was different. People laughed and watched with a smile, which I liked. It was like we all shared that moment.

It almost made me forget the chilly sea breeze, and fine drizzle that had greeted us – even the hint of brine that lingered in the air couldn’t distract me. I wished I’d brought my winter jacket though, I don’t know why I’d insisted a hoodie would be fine!

When you’re by the coast, no amounts of shops or buildings would protect you. You are exposed to all the elements, and that cold air knows exactly how to creep into your bones. I remember my feet and hands stinging with the cold, screaming bright red, that only really got the feeling back to them once we’d got to the gig.

One thing that really stood out was how Cardiff was a complete polar opposite to where I live. I’m so used to crowds of people, at any time of day, wandering through shops and sitting on benches with a sandwich.

But the town I walked through was bare. A few shoppers dotted around in cafés and shops, and I suppose that was natural for a weekday. I’d just never seen a town so quiet in the day, usually my bustling city was filled with people until the early hours.

The whole atmosphere seemed more relaxed, there was less rushing about and time seemed to slow. At one point, I remember checking my phone to see how long I had before heading back to the hotel to start getting ready. It felt like I’d been plucked out of a busy city to a quieter town, there was hardly any noise; I couldn’t even hear the sea, and I were only a ten minute walk from the bay.

It was a shame I didn’t wander down to it, but I suppose with the weather being quite misty and miserable, I wouldn’t be able to see much. I could have explored more of the castle that sat at the end of the high street, but there was no time. Maybe an excuse to come back?

I found everyone to be quite friendly. There were offers of help on and off trains, people gave me directions and offered to walk with me. Everywhere I went, people seemed to offer kind deeds to others.

I’ll be honest, it’s rare I see that kind of generosity in my town. I suppose, in my normal routine, I’m in my own bubble. Either working, writing or reading (or the odd adventure). I should perhaps look a little closer at the culture and kindness surrounding me in day to day life; and it’s easier to see things clearer as an outsider looking in.

It started to rub off on me, their kind acts. I helped a young man out, by opening a door for him so he could push his elderly father out in his wheelchair. Normally, I’ll help where I can, even if it’s small, anyway.

I usually did good deeds because it’s always been a ‘done thing’ in my family. Here, I felt more akin to them, it wasn’t just second nature, it felt almost like it was a part of local custom. It felt more relatable to me and my childhood.

As a side note, I will say there is always kindness and good deeds wherever you may be; but often we become so focused on ourselves that I don’t believe we truly see our environment better – just what we need or want. I think we could all benefit from looking deeper and finding that richness, and enjoying it.

There were a few home comforts though, good food and a cup of tea to warm you up; but it was just a nice break city, and from my routine. I liked the slower pace and here, I did feel like I could didn’t have to rush. If I could, in hindsight, I wished I’d had more time. I feel like I barely scratched the surface – visiting a local gift shop does not, in my opinion, count.

There’s always a balance, of good and bad. I believe by focusing on the positives, it can bring a certain enjoyment to our lives. By taking a break to enjoy my surroundings, rather than a screen, I felt happier and less irritable.

I also showed more appreciation for what was there. Now that’s something I could use to apply at home, giving more appreciation to what I have and where I live. With that, I might find better care for myself as well as what lies outside of my silos.

In part, I suppose taking a break in a new environment, helped me become more aware and appreciate what I do have. By exploring, it’s shown me how to view my own. I could admire the peace and kind locals of Cardiff, but I could also appreciate the hidden gems nestled in my city’s side streets and the different cultures that lay within them.

It’s not about picking one over another, each have their merits and are different to each other. Much like we are. I suppose by exploring and becoming aware of my environment, it’s helped me appreciate all the little parts that make a bigger picture.

I just need to appreciate the small things that create me.

~ E

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