Reflecting on beautiful moments in Cologne Germany, and Bath, England.
Sometimes the whirlwind of life crowds the mind with endless thoughts and ambitions that seek to detach us from the present moment.
We often neglect to stop and admire their surroundings because future plans and past regrets cling to our attention and distract us from the simple beauty of life.
Living in a busy city while constantly making new travel plans, I often feel overwhelmed with schedules, deadlines, budgets, and to-do lists. But every time I decide to give my mind a break and just absorb the present moment, I’m amazed by how much inner peace and happiness I feel.
As Jean Jacques Rousseau explains in his Second Discourse, a huge problem of civilization is that society distracts humans from the simplicity of life. A person in the state of nature has few needs and basic desires, therefore he devotes all his emotions to the present moment and rejects materialism. Obviously we shouldn’t all live like uncivilized beings, but we can all definitely learn something from the happiness that results from simple, pure living.
I have three recent noteworthy moments where focusing on the present moment has brought me immense happiness.
1. Cologne, Germany
My Dad and I ventured to this lovely city last month, and we had absolutely nothing scheduled. Rather than researching the nearby attractions and creating an itinerary, we spent most of our time meandering the crowded streets and absorbing the culture. We made a spontaneous stop into a history museum and saw incredible remnants of past civilizations. We ate Indian curry, Lebanese falafels and hummus, and Belgian chocolate, thus indulging in the multiculturalism of modern Germany.
One night we randomly found ourselves in a ‘political cult’ restaurant/bar, where the newspaper clippings and photographs on the wall taught me more about the history of Cologne than a textbook ever did. Throughout the whole trip we planned nothing and had minimal expectations, which led to a greater appreciation for the city’s atmosphere.
2. Bath, England
This trip was organized by my study abroad program, and aside from a guided walking tour, I had nothing planned for the day. I found myself pleasantly surprised by the peaceful energy of the historic town, and amazed by the gorgeous and symmetrical architecture.
While many students spent the afternoon with their faces glued to their smartphones searching for restaurants or things to do, I just followed my senses and walked around aimlessly, which allowed me to enjoy the rickety cobblestone streets filled with antique markets and unique shops.
Without following a schedule or relying on recommendations from the internet, Bath’s humble antiquity entertained me for hours, and all I had to do was walk around and admire my surroundings.
3. An average day in London
Another moment of simple beauty surprised me last week during the middle of a hectic day. After power-walking to school and attending three classes, then running to the gym to workout in the two hour break before my fourth class, I stood outside on the terrace of the King’s building when I noticed how bright the sun was. The whole day had been overcast and misty, but when I felt the warmth on my frozen face, I couldn’t help but stop and absorb the much needed Vitamin-D.
I ended up standing outside overlooking the Thames for about 20 minutes, and this spontaneous break from the rushed pace of my busy day allowed me to reflect on how lucky I am.
Simply watching the city life around me and admiring the massive cultural metropolis that is London reminded me how much I love where I live and how excited I am to have the opportunity to travel, learn, and experience life.
So no matter where you are or what you have going on, I highly recommend taking a moment to absorb the present moment and think about the simple aspects of life. Be thankful for good health, respect your peers, admire the earth.
As Van Gogh said, ‘Admire as much as you can–Most people do not admire enough’.