I’m not a big sandwich gal.
I mean don’t get me wrong, they’re great. I just can’t seem to finish a whole one. I always find myself dissecting the second half and pulling out the pieces that I like and leaving the other bits mutilated on the plate.
I don’t know why I do that. That’s kind of weird.
Anyway, the reason I tell you this is because a sandwich changed my life.
This past March I spent a week in Spain and a day in England. This was truly a magical week of visiting breathtaking cathedrals, eating yummy Marzipan shaped like cathedrals, and long walks around ancient architecture.
And while this was surely life changing, the most memorable part of this trip was actually something very simple. Eating a sandwich.
Let me provide some context.
After spending an amazing six days with my best friend Kristen and her lovely family (and becoming quite smitten with her 4-year old son), I took off on a plane and landed myself in London, England for a 16-hour layover.
I landed around 9PM and grabbed a cab to my hotel. I still had stars in my eyes from Spain and just hearing the British accents in the airport plastered a giant smile on my face.
The cabbie pulled up (on the opposite side of the street) and asked me where I was headed.
“Hayes!” I said. The town where my hotel was located was called Hayes.
As we drove around and out of the Heathrow Airport, I looked out into the night, my gigantic travel bag sitting next to me like a supportive friend. It was fun feeling like a world traveler. Me and this bag had seen a lot of amazing things the past week.
We arrived at The easyHotel and I pulled 30 Pounds from my worn Wells Fargo envelope for my cab driver.
When I stepped into my hotel room I felt like I was actually in Tokyo, Japan. It was like a little capsule and the bathroom door looked like the entrance to a spaceship. It wasn’t extravagant or expensive. It was simple and clean and would do the job nicely.
In the early morning I showered in the spaceship and took a cab to Windsor to see the Windsor Castle. It wasn’t open for tours until 9:30AM but because I had to check out of the hotel by 10AM I decided to go early. Plus they didn’t allow bags. My travel pack could not accompany me on this adventure.
So, there I was at 7:30 in the morning, stepping out of another cab in front of a castle. It was chilly and I’d only packed a light sweater, but the glow of the sun peaking out from behind the castle brought warmth to my soul.
I mean kind of. It was still really fucking cold.
I walked all around Windsor, seeing the castle from all angles. I took “The Long Walk” down from the castle and contemplated life. Tomorrow I’d be back in my classroom with my students. I loved my kids, but I was already feeling depressed about checking my school email, lesson planning, and grading things I should have graded weeks ago.
But for now I could just walk. Down this cold and open path. It was too early for tourists. It was just me, my footsteps, and a long walk.
Like really long. I must have walked a mile down that thing. (Editor’s note: The Long Walk is 2.65 miles or 4.26 kilometers if you’re British)
I walked back to the front of the castle, meandering down side streets and getting a little lost (it’s okay, Ma. I have a smart phone!). I got back to a coffee shop, ordered an English Breakfast tea cuz’ that sounded like a proper English thing to do, and booked an Uber to pick me up (cuz’ British people like Uber too).
When I got back to the hotel I packed up my human-sized bag, checked out, strapped it to my back, and headed down the street. I didn’t know where I was going or how I’d get there. It didn’t really matter. I still had a few hours to kill before I needed to be at the airport.
So I walked some more. And some more. And some more.
I didn’t stress myself out about where I was or where I needed to be.
But I was getting hungry from all this walking.
At this point I could go for a beer, but it was still only noon and I wanted to have my wits about me maneuvering the Heathrow Airport.
This is where the sandwich comes in.
I bet you were wondering. It’s been a very long build up. Get it. Because I was walking The Long Walk.
Okay, sorry. Back to the sandwich.
I decided to walk myself into a little grocery store to find some food. It was like a 7-Eleven except classier.
I was feeling rather European so I found a baguette, some cheese, prosciutto, and a handful of mustard packets. And a Red Bull. Because that bag is like 40 pounds (and I mean weight not price) and I’d easily walked 10 miles (16.093 kilometers) by now.
I brought my goodies to a park bench by an open courtyard and began to assemble my sandwich.
I sat there in that small courtyard and ate that whole sandwich, my bag and I taking up the entire park bench.
And as weird as this is about to sound: that was the happiest moment of my life.
It was the purest bliss I’d ever experienced. It was so simple. I was eating a sandwich. Granted, the fact that I was in a beautiful part of the world didn’t hurt, but I wasn’t taking pictures at Big Ben or any other tourist site. I wasn’t hitting the town for an exciting live band or salsa dancing with a sexy foreigner.
I was just eating a sandwich.
Time stopped being time. It was just place. Here on this bench with a mouthful of cheap bread and cheese with my travel bag sitting next to me quietly.
I stopped worrying about my upcoming existential crisis of quitting my job. I wasn’t looking at my phone. I wasn’t sending cute travel snapchats to my friends or panicking about how much money I had left in my little envelope.
I was just there. Truly in the moment. Slobbering all over myself with a giant smile on my face for absolutely no one to see but myself.
Transcendence. Mindfulness. Bliss. Whatever you want to call it, I was doing it.
For the first time ever I realized that happiness doesn’t just happen to you, you have to make it happen yourself. In every small and insignificant moment.
I’d traveled the world, seen beautiful things, yet I was still content to stress myself out about things that I couldn’t control. I felt burdened by my thoughts, feelings, and circumstance. And in that moment I let go. I let go of everything and allowed myself to be present in the simplest of events.
It’s not easy.
I’m not saying the next time you eat a sandwich you can’t transcend like I did, hey, maybe you eat a lot of bomb-ass sandwiches. But it might not happen that way for you. Everyone is different.
But I do know that bliss and happiness is possible. In the everyday and tiny moments that we can consciously choose to be present for and enjoy.
So show up for your life. Know when to pay attention to the small details and when to let yourself be in the moment. Travel the world and eat as many sandwiches as you can.
You only have this one life.