The following post was written by Global Gap Year Fellow David Gonzalez Chavez.
I’d always heard jokes about London and the UK in general being extremely gray (or rather, grey) but I really didn’t understand just how true that was until living in Belfast. During the summer it was great, with 17 hours of sunlight a day and the gorgeous colors of nature.
That didn’t last long, however, as autumn abruptly appeared and now the beginning of winter. The lush green of the mountain I live on turned lifeless. The vibrant purples and reds of the Mourne Mountains turned to a muted brown. The skies became overcast in perpetuity, with clouds covering the sun at almost all times and sporadic rain showers washing out any color that was left. Worst of all, the long hours of sunlight switched to long hours of darkness.
If I sound a bit overdramatic, it’s because that’s how dramatic this new atmosphere is to me. Every day I go into work now in the dark, and by the time I leave it’s dark; my only chance to take advantage of any light is on the weekends, but almost every single time my dreams are crushed by rain and grey skies.
My quality of sleep has decreased, I feel exhausted, I feel like my whole day is taken up by my job because I no longer have hours of light after to live my own life, and I’m starved for color (literally—my skin has never been so pale in my life). When I complain about it to locals, they laugh and agree with all of my sentiments, always saying something along the lines of “we’d probably be a lot happier as a people if we had more light and color.” I agree.
At the end of October I got a chance to take a week-long vacation, so I decided to visit some family friends in Italy. Within that week I saw more color and light and life than I’d seen in that entire month. Every market greeted me with flowers spanning the entire color spectrum, and vibrant fruits that I certainly couldn’t find in Belfast (turns out I missed good fruit too). The Italian Alps were deep into autumn, displaying gorgeous reds and oranges and yellows that captivated me. Even better, having more sunlight made me feel refreshed and got me sleeping well!
I definitely love living in Belfast, but my trip to Italy enlightened me as to how miserable the constant greyness of the city can be. I’m writing this now on a plane back to the States where I’ll spend the holidays before returning to Belfast for another 4 months. I’m obviously excited for seeing family and friends, but honestly the thing I’m most excited for is spending Christmas Eve in Florida, with plentiful sunlight to recharge me before I head back—which is surprising, as I’ve always hated Florida. I guess I now understand why everyone I speak to in Belfast seems to take every chance they get to leave for somewhere sunny.