London is HUGE. HUGE. There is always a cultural festival happening, a new restaurant to try, or a new art exhibit to see. I absolutely love the hype, and the anonomynity that comes from weaving through crowds of people on Oxford street… but sometimes it’s nice to get away too!
In an effort to become more involved with my university, I joined the University of Westminster’s Catholic Society. When the opportunity arose recently for a quick weekend retreat to the Isle of Wight, I jumped on the offer. A coach bus trip down and a relaxing ferry ride got us across to the quaint island.
Although you probably wouldn’t believe it, in 1970, the Isle of Wight held the largest music festival of its time- yes, even bigger than Woodstock- and it was reported an estimated 700,000 people flooded the island to hear many of the best! Chicago, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors… I can hardly imagine what it was like for the locals to see their population temporarily swell from 100,000 to 700,000 over the course of that weekend!
Getting yourself out into a more natural setting can be always be a good thing. Our retreat center was secluded and quiet. There were no trains roaring by. No ambulance sirens. Just serenity. I remember looking up at the inky black sky, appreciating the stars, and breathing in the crisp island air. I was grateful for the peacefulness.
The weekend was packed and great- we sang songs of worship, we played games in the yard like little kids, and we even lit sparklers in honor of Guy Fawkes Night. And would it really be an English retreat if we didn’t stop to have tea and biscuits four times a day? I can dig it.
One of the coolest aspects of going on a retreat in England was that there were kids from all kinds of backgrounds. There were people from Poland, Slovakia, Thailand, Belgium, and Belize and Malaysia and Dominica and so much more. In fact, only a handful of kids came from England itself. Seeing all these people bound by the same faith was really incredible to witness. The weekend theme was Free to be me, and I really had to self-reflect on what I want it to mean for me and my current journey. I left the retreat feeling much more re-centered, focused, and ready to seize what lies ahead.
And naturally, we also walked to the local castle. What would a weekend escape be without a local tour of the thousand year old neighborhood castle?
Welp. It’s official. I love it here.