Reflections, Travel

When London Felt Like Home

I looked at the date and this photo and I can’t believe this time five years ago I was jumping on a plane to return home after living in London for three and a half years. This post made me feel all nostalgic.

While I didn’t have to eat canned beans, or couch surf for months there were many things that I will be forever grateful for my time spent living overseas.

I had lived in the safety of Mum and Dads nest for eternity and moving across the other side of the word was to be the biggest learning curve of my life.

I met my ex in Sydney, and was so grateful (and a bit too excited) that I had someone who wanted to travel with me. So I thought that he would do, and off we moved to the other side of the world.

London is like an amazing treadmill. You either get on it. Or it spits you out. (And it nearly spat me out. Twice.)

Life lesson 1. When you move overseas, move with LOTS of money.

I did not go with ANY money, despite the warning of my parents. Maybe about $2000 AUD. (Not worth much at all in 2006.) I stepped off the plane, a qualified social worker with a couple of years practice up my belt, imagining that I would be headhunted and out working the next day.

This didn’t happen.

Instead, I was pulling coffees at an art fair for FOUR pounds and hour. It took me three months to get a job, and six months to get back on my feet financially. (I did make a coffee for Cindy Crawford though!)

Eventually I got a job. And it is true what they say. Once you have that illusive ‘UK’ experience then other doors start to open.

A few things happened in the first year that I thought that if one more thing goes wrong then straight home to Mummy and Daddy I go.

The new job was not in London. It was in Surry. So after a long train ride out of London on the first day of my new job I had a minor car accident. THEN my bag and wallet with all its entirety was stolen in the same week. Then we realised our flatmates were paying HALF the rent that we were for the same sized room as us, because said flatmate had gradually bumped the prices of the other rooms up when people had moved out.

This is too bloody hard I thought. AND I wasn’t alone. I was with my ex.

Anyway, a major fight ensued with said flatmates (on my ex’s instigation) and we moved up north.

Then things changed. I got a job in London. I learnt to run. We had money to travel. The world seemed brighter.

I made new friends and reconnected with old ones. I traveled. I started learning peoples names at the gym and having drinks with people from work.

Life was starting to feel full.

I knew I had made London home when I broke up with my ex. I found that I had true friends who would accept me on their doorstep late at night with a suitcase in hand and no questions asked. It was at this time that it dawned on me. London was my home now. I didn’t want to run straight home to my parents. I wanted to stay and deal with it. In my new world with the life and friends that I had made.

It was the hardest year of my life. I remember looking for a new flatshare after leaving my ex, and bursting into tears in a complete strangers lounge room. (Needless to say I didn’t get offered that room.) I remember walking around in the cold thinking that this is all to hard. But I knew it was right.

As it happened, London didn’t spit me out. It took care of me through one of the hardest times of my life. I filled a room at a pub for my 28th Birthday and marveled at the life that I had created.

I miss it a lot sometimes. I miss my friends that are still there. I miss laughing with my work colleagues and hearing people speaking different languages in the office. I miss the weekend trips to Europe. I miss the pubs. I miss going to music festivals where people of all ages are mixed together. I miss being able to walk to my friends house. I miss how free we all were, with no mortgages or responsibility. I miss weekend picnics in the heath. I miss the body attack instructor at Finchley Road. (She was AWESOME.) I miss running through Regents Park and along the Thames. I miss my flatmates and the airy light kitchen we had at Lyncroft Gardens. I miss the food at the Multicutural Centre in Hounslow and being the only person on the bus to West Middlesex Hospital with blonde hair. I miss my social work team and the asylum seekers I worked with, who reminded me how bloody lucky I was every single day.

Hats off to you, London. I hope to see you soon.

Have you ever lived abroad?

Did it ever feel like home?

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