This post is by Abby Hollingsworth, our May Pilgrim in Residence. Each week this month, Abby’s been sharing about a recent journey she never wanted to take and how she turned it into a journey of intention. This is her final post, and I couldn’t be more excited that she’s finishing in London, one of my favorite places. I knew it would work its magic on her soul! Be sure to send Abby some love in the comments below for sharing about her unexpected journey in such a vulnerable way. I’m so grateful to have hosted this (re)telling of her journey here. -Lacy
It wasn’t until the last moving box found a home under my bed in Nashville, that I felt myself begin to exhale. August to August and over 5,000 miles between—my year of transition was finally over.
My greatest fear in those fumbling first steps towards regular life was that I would find complacency too agreeable a companion. A tired traveler might be tempted to trade all she found on her journey for the promise of safety after so much unknown. I knew I had more than clothes and dishes to unpack, and I didn’t want to hide from the hard things ahead. I wanted to seal the experience of the past year in my memory so that whatever came next, I’d be sure not to forget what I learned.
So I turned again to travel and booked a trip to London that September—a long overdue visit to see a dear friend and my very first trip abroad. London would be the intentional capstone to the unpredictable travels of the past year—a trip without vague agenda or veiled intentions.
I was the agenda. Self-discovery was the intention.
I set out to simply pay attention—to the sights, smells, and tastes around me, but most of all to my own feelings. So much of what I discovered on walkabout was a numbness I’d ignored for far too long. I wanted to discover what it felt like to be myself—whoever she might be, at this very moment in time.
It turned out to be a great moment to be me. London and I got along just fine.
Day after day, we set out from Allie’s flat to find adventure in her beautiful city. We saw Parliament from the River Thames and wandered the gorgeous gardens at Kensington Palace. We drove to the countryside in the world’s smallest, most yellow car to roam the ruins of a 14th-century castle and cause trouble in Rudyard Kipling’s lavish study. We took every wrong turn on the way home, and it was just as well. We had nowhere to be. We were already there.
In London, I learned the healing power of a walk. I walked with Allie and I walked alone—through parks and markets and along winding canals. I felt myself grow taller, bolder, and more alive with every step. From Westminster Abbey to the top of Primrose Hill—I was picking up mementos and leaving behind old pieces of myself. Lies. Misdirections. Things I didn’t really believe I believed until I spoke them for the last time over Sunday Roast at the Crown and Goose. It was over feasts like these that my priceless friend Allie gave me the space to share the half-truths still hanging on in my heart and mind. She listened well and told me the truth. She saw my brokenness and believed that I could heal. She walked by my side all week just for sake of taking each step as it came. In my time in her city and home, Allie was truly the crown jewel of friends, and her words of love and truth at such a crucial capstone in my journey are my most precious London souvenir.
When the dreaded day finally came, I boarded a plane at Heathrow with tired feet, a happy heart, and a new perspective on my walkabout metaphor. What began as a way for me to reframe a journey I didn’t want to take had become the physical expression of my own self-discovery. I headed west for the answers to questions I didn’t want to ask and ended up on the other side of the Atlantic, intentionally looking for more.
London was surely some kind of magic, and will always be my proof of concept. I am capable of navigating the journey ahead, towards the person—and the life—I want to call my own. If I need her, I can call on London Abby, lighting candles at Westminster, and she will always remember well what I tend so easily to forget.
But it wasn’t London that made me whole—or Nashville or Fayetteville or anywhere else in between. These places simply proved witness to my journey, like the good people who loved me along the way. The unsteadying power of travel is what freed me from my well-laid plans, shook the cobwebs from my heavy head, and gave my heart a familiar beat to help keep time when my own internal rhythm grew faint.
I’m so grateful for the unpredictable winds that pushed me to sea on this accidental pilgrimage. And even more so to you, for coming along on the journey. It’s really only in the retelling that any story has power. It’s only when I see the pieces laid out like so many dominoes that I can celebrate the magic of watching them fall.
How can you reframe a difficult season in your journey as a walkabout?