26 Jul Life in London
Back in 2013 I shed many tears when we said goodbye to our lives in London. Although we were leaving by choice to fulfil our dreams of travelling the world, it was still painful to dismantle the lives we had spent almost four years building in a city we absolutely loved. Back then I had no idea when we’d return to London and I was worried that travel would spoil the city for me; that my love for it would fade. Now we’re back after over 15 months of travel and I’m relieved to say that my fears dissolved the moment I stepped off the train at Waterloo station – I felt like I’d finally arrived home.
Life in London, but not as we knew it
We’ve spent the last few weeks relishing London life again while house and pet sitting for the first time. We’ve been to the theatre and our favourite cinemas; we’ve visited parks and museums, pubs, markets and festivals. We’ve caught up with old friends and revisited favourite haunts like the Southbank, Borough Market, Greenwich and Dulwich Park. We’ve also had the pleasure of meeting up with fellow travel bloggers and some of our fantastic blog readers. As a quick aside, when I started this site nearly two years ago I had no idea it would lead us to meet so many different and amazing people who’d inspire and support us on our journey – I’m so grateful for that.
The best thing is that we’ve enjoyed this time in London without the pressures we had when we lived here. In the old days we’d squeeze in the things we loved around our hectic work schedules and commutes; a quick drink with a friend after work or a walk in the park on a Sunday afternoon after our chores and errands had been completed. We were often exhausted and dreaded Monday mornings; I’d join the crowds of commuters at the station and see my own zombified face reflected in theirs. When we lived in London it was normal to have bags under our eyes, to drink a million cups of tea to get through the day and to see each other for just a couple of hours in the evening before falling into bed exhausted. That was the price we paid for living in London.
It’s been a revelation to revisit London this time around on our own terms. Sure, we’re a lot poorer now than we used to be and we have the responsibility of house and pet sitting but we have been extremely rich in time, which was something seriously lacking in our old lives. Now, as well as getting out and about we’ve had the luxury of just relaxing in London, of sitting in the park for hours on end or even just cooking our favourite meals at home and curling up on the sofa to watch Masterchef.
One of my favourite days here involved a Sunday morning walk in Dulwich Park with Boo, the cute puppy we were looking after, and my friend Jo. This was followed by a drink at the pub, a homemade brunch and an afternoon on the sofa napping and reading the newspaper while Andrew watched the Wimbledon final and Boo snuggled up next to us – heaven.
Leaving London Again
We have loved this taste of life in London. While the city remains as heaving, exhilarating and magical as I remembered, we’ve been able to enjoy it in a way we couldn’t when we lived and worked here full-time. A part of us longs to have our own house in South-East London and a cute dog of our own but we know what that dream would cost, in terms of money and freedom. We’d have to work full-time again to get a mortgage and continue in that routine for decades to pay it off. We’d basically have to return to the lives we were living before we left to travel the world and I’m not prepared to do that.
There’s still so much of the world we want to see, so many adventures we long to have. We want to teach in Vietnam, road-trip through Canada and the US, backpack through South America and take Spanish classes in Mexico. We want to house sit in Europe and return to New Zealand and Australia. We have the chance to do all of these things over the next few years and I don’t want to give that up – right now our freedom is the most precious thing we have.
Despite all that, when I leave London this time around, I’ll do so with a smile instead of tears. Even though we’re not giving up our nomadic travelling lifestyle I know that the city will always be here waiting and that one day we’ll have the tools and experience to carve out a new, more balanced lifestyle here. For now though, tomorrow I’ll dust off my backpack, bid farewell to London and board a bus to our next adventure.
Stefan ArestisPosted at 11:01h, 26 July
This is the part I am dreading next year when we return home to visit family – what to do next. We are currently in Mongolia and pretty much following your footsteps through Asia and looking to go to South America after our return next year (if we can find a way to fund it of course).
So – where is your next destination to?
AmyPosted at 19:28h, 26 July
Hi Stefan, we’re off to Scotland in a couple of weeks and then on to Vietnam to teach for nine months and save up for a new adventure! You will find a way to continue on your path like we did, it may take a while to figure it out though.
Stefan ArestisPosted at 17:24h, 28 July
Nice! Did you do a TEFL for the teaching? I was thinking of doing something similar after our big year completes.
AmyPosted at 22:10h, 28 July
Yes I did an online TEFL and a weekend course too, I will get a bit of training from the school in Vietnam too. It’s a definitely a good option for earning while travelling I think.
Kendra (the Escapologist)Posted at 11:45h, 26 July
Thank you for sharing. I feel terrified about leaving New York–a city that I love (most days), but is bringing me down. I believe it is a lot like living in London. I have to work too hard to make the money I need just to pay rent and “get by.” I love the City, but I know I can’t stay if I want to keep my sanity! I’ve been here for three years now, but in January, I leave for Thailand.
AmyPosted at 19:25h, 26 July
New York life sounds very familiar Kendra, amazing but hard to sustain. You will have an amazing time in Thailand, it’s such a contrast!
LaurenPosted at 15:24h, 26 July
Amazing amazing post. Can I admit it left me a little teary? My husband and I will be spending 6 months in London on a short term tourist visa next year. It’s our favorite city in the world and your post gave me goosebumps 🙂
AmyPosted at 19:23h, 26 July
Hi Lauren, thanks for reading and commenting, I’m glad you could relate! London is such an addictive city and it’s hard to quit; I hope you have a great time there and make the most of it.
Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)Posted at 14:48h, 27 July
London is an awesome city, perhaps one of my favorites in the entire world. I too felt a bit nervous when Tony & I were preparing for our visit as it had been nearly TEN years since I had last been there and I wondered if the magic would be gone, if I had changed so much or seen so much of the world that London no longer appealed to me as it once did. But it was brilliant as ever and I relished our 9 days there (only scratching the surface of all there is to see and do!).
I do know what you mean too about feeling like you are home in London, but knowing you are meant to be living your life elsewhere right now. While we were there, initially I said to Tony that I wished so badly we could live there… but as the week wore on, I said that I don’t think I would actually be so happy to do so because I wouldn’t be prepared to make all the sacrifices in time to make the money required to do so. I feel the same way about Toronto (though I don’t love Toronto as I do London)—maybe one day we will wind up living here “forever”, but for now, it’s just a visit because we can’t afford to live the life we want to here. Maybe someday that will change, but for now, it’s enough to know we can always pop by for a visit and then move on!
AmyPosted at 10:21h, 28 July
Exactly Steph, it’s such a dilemma! I know that London will always be there for us to return to one day though and I’m reassured that I’ll still love it no matter what. However I am happy to carry on travelling now before we get rooted back there again. I’m looking forward to visiting Toronto too!
TashPosted at 11:39h, 28 July
We have just returned to London after a years backpacking and have found new appreciation for the city again especially with the good weather. Can I ask what sites do you use for housesitting? We’re doing this at the moment but with family and they are coming back in a few weeks!
Good luck with the next part of the trip!
AmyPosted at 22:14h, 28 July
Thanks! We used Trusted Housesitters, which seems to be the best website. We did have to apply for a lot of sits before we found any but it was worth it. Good luck 🙂
TylerPosted at 10:00h, 29 July
Looking forward to hearing more about your housesitting experience and Trusted Housesitters. A lot of posts have come across our feed recently about it and while our travel pace will probably preclude sitting for a bit, it looks like a great way to get into the more suburban areas and get to know life as residents do and not just travelers avoiding touts in the backpacker areas!
AmyPosted at 21:29h, 29 July
There’s a post coming up very soon about our house sitting experiences Tyler; we found it a brilliant way to settle for a while and feel at home, it’s just like stepping into another life for a while. It’s takes some persistence but once you land a house sit the effort is well worth it!
CharliePosted at 20:58h, 30 July
Ah, off on a new adventure – exciting! Glad you’ve enjoyed your time at home, UK and London. Although I couldn’t ever go back to living in London (I don’t think) I’ll never stop loving the city. It’s an incredible place. Every time I go visit friends there I’m totally entranced by the atmosphere, the bustling, and that feeling that there’s a million amazing things happening all over city all at once. But you’re right, London will always be there if you decide it’s time to settle down 🙂
AmyPosted at 12:14h, 31 July
I love the atmosphere in London too Charlie; Melbourne and Hanoi are the only cities where I felt something similar while travelling. I’m definitely more at ease now that I know I still feel the same way about London even after all our time away, one day I’m sure we’ll settle there.
KatiePosted at 21:01h, 30 July
It’s awesome that you had a great visit home. I find that it usually has something to do with a positive mindset to begin with. 🙂 Good luck on the next adventure! I’m excited to see how you like teaching in Vietnam!!
AmyPosted at 12:12h, 31 July
True Katie, a positive mindset and a brand new nephew has really made our time in the UK amazing. I’m excited (and also a little nervous) about starting our new life in Vietnam 🙂