Welcome to Gypsy Wednesday! Every Wednesday, I strive to highlight all the juicy morsels related to travel and beyond.

Today’s guest post is testament to how a place can transform an individual in numerable ways. Joya Anthony articulates this sentiment with soul-baring honesty.

I love London for many reasons – the pubs, the parks, the museums, the cobblestone streets and much more. But it will always hold a special place in my heart because the six months that I spent working there changed the way I perceive myself and helped me pave a path for what is next to come for me.

Getting some perspective

My last year of college before I worked abroad in London was a confusing year for me. While I was enjoying senior year, as every college student does, I started to doubt myself. I questioned my naturally shy personality when I started hanging out with people who were the complete opposite – loud, outgoing, and not shy about anything at all. At first it was all new and shocking to me and then pretty soon I was influenced and acted in ways that were just not me. I thought I had to emulate these friends to be more acceptable to everyone or get the guy. And there was one guy, who meant a lot to me, who blamed my shyness for the reason why we could never be together and I let myself believe he was right and that something was wrong with me.

On top of all this, I was working internships in an industry that I realized wasn’t for me and was frankly filled with co-workers that couldn’t care less about my position and made me do work that taught me nothing and had no meaning. So yes, when I left L.A. I was confused, sad to leave my friends and the college life, but confused nonetheless. The only thing I was sure of and could not wait to do was move to London after graduation, a plan I had for a while. I just wanted to get away from everything in L.A. and start fresh.

Within my first week of moving there I knew immediately that I made the right decision in moving to London. I found a career that I loved. A position at a literary agency just happened to be available at the exact time I arrived in the city. I had never thought of working in publishing before I got the job but I instantly fell for it and wondered to myself why it took me this long to realize that this is the industry I should be in. I am a lover of books and now I had shelves of them around my desk that were mine for the taking. It didn’t hurt that all of my co-workers were the most genuine and caring people I could work with which was a refreshing change from my internships in L.A. At the agency I had opportunities to contribute to the tasks at hand and everyone was grateful for my work. After only a couple weeks I knew that I wanted to pursue publishing when I went back home to California.

Office Christmas party

I enjoyed going to work every morning and every night that I walked down the steps of my building and through the streets to meet my friends at a pub, I felt so empowered. Simply walking on the cobble-stoned roads by myself with my head-phones on and knowing where I was going made me feel stronger and happier than I had ever been. The moment was bigger and better than everything I left behind in L.A.

What was most important to me during my time in London were the friendships I made, new ones and improved ones, because they reminded me to be comfortable with who I am. At work, I made a new friend in Szilvia. We instantly bonded because we were the youngest in the office but over time she showed me around town and introduced me to her friends. There were times we holed up at a pub or cafe or went for walks in the parks and just talked about our jobs, men, our futures and our pasts.

I also had my friends Liz and Krissy who moved with me to London. I was close to these girls already as we went to the same college but we spent every single day together for eight months in Europe and we didn’t end up killing each other. Instead, we learned something new about each other all the time and became a family through the good and bad. Our trip was ours and ours alone and no one else would be able to understand how important it all was to us.

In these three friends I found people who laughed at the same things I laughed at and had the same insecurities as well. We shared the same values and that made me feel more comfortable with who I was. I slowly started to realize that I didn’t have to change to be more of this or more of that to please someone else. I will always be a little bit shy but there is nothing wrong with that. That is just a part of me and there will always be someone who appreciates it. I love traveling because I can encounter and converse with a variety of people who live a unique way of life, but it’s always nice to have friends who share your thinking and I was lucky enough to have those people come into my life when I thought no one else could understand.

Krissy and Liz by my side

I needed to move to London to run away. I had one friend who said that I couldn’t run away to solve all my problems but that’s not exactly true. If I didn’t run away I wouldn’t have been able to stand back from my situation in L.A. and take a breather. With a clean slate, I could think clearly away from distractions, discover a new way of living, and remind myself of the person I was before I let, as Gandhi would say, “people walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” I felt free of dirt and free in general. I became brave. I came back to the states knowing exactly the person I wanted to be, the life I wanted to live, and the people I wanted to surround myself with. I still remember all of this in the way I carry my self every single day and it’s an affirmation that London was indeed the surest and best decision I have made yet.

About the Author

After graduating from college in 2007, Joya moved to London with two friends to work abroad for 6 months and then travel through the rest of Europe for 2 months after that. She has not been the same since and if she can’t travel right now, she wants to write about it to encourage other young people to get out there and explore. Her blog Be A Travel Bee is a space to share her travel experiences and to highlight the experiences of others in the travel blog community.