Leaving the country, leaving my mark


Writing on walls is a popular way for travelers to leave their mark, for the benefit of future visitors and for their own satisfaction.

Edwin Lo, Rabbiting in London

I am now looking at not only my last week in London, but also my last week abroad. It’s crazy to think that four months have gone by while I’ve been out of America. I initially thought the time passed too slowly and that a semester abroad was almost too long, that maybe a couple weeks at a time was a more ideal time frame for traveling – but as I live out my final days in England, I have quite the opposite opinion. I feel like I’ve run out of time to fully understand the culture here.

Just the other day, I attempted to venture to the famous Abbey Road, iconic Beatles spot. There stood an overcrowded intersection flooded with tourists standing in the middle of road trying recreate the famous album cover. Quite silly really – it would have been ten times easier had the crosswalk not been in the middle of a busy street – but I guess you can’t exactly move or change history.

Also along the street I saw the famous Abbey Road Studios, which is ironically associated with the Beatles even though their time there was brief. The wall surrounding the studio is filled with tourist and fan writings, since people from all over the world come to quote the same five lines from famous songs.

This idea of leaving a mark on historic places has come up many times during my travels, and makes me wish I had taken more time to decide what kind of mark I wanted to leave. In most parts of Italy, the tourist traps are walls with words scribbled by visitors. My hostel in Florence encouraged this kind of writing; the two upper hallways were covered in messages left by passers, all of them encouraging the ideal of travel and shared experiences abroad. In Paris, there is a bridge where people lock padlocks to the side of the fence, some with messages. The bridge is now covered entirely with locks of all kinds.

People seem to have this constant need to know that their visit made an impact, that they left something there to remind themselves and others. I most certainly feel that way sometimes. Sadly enough, most of these areas get cleaned every couple years and the tradition starts all over again. I think it would be interesting to see the messages left by people over the course of a decade or even longer.

Trying to decide what to do with my last days in London has been hard; there is so much of the city I’ve seen and yet haven’t seen. My brilliant solution to this dilemma was to leave the city. In a couple days I’ll be heading to Cornwall and Brighton, small areas along the coast. Cornwall, which is technically in Wales, is home to Land’s End, the most western point in the continental United Kingdom. It is also home to St. Michael’s Mount, a castle on a hill off the coast which is accessible by footpath and boat depending on the tide and time of day. After two days in Cornwall, I will take a 12-hour train to Brighton, England’s premier night life and beach spot, where I plan to hike and bike the hills and coastlines.