MY EXPERIENCE LEAVING LONDON TO LIVE IN THE COUNTRYSIDE
Today I am sharing with you a personal post about my move from London, the city in which I started this blog, to the English countryside, where I now live and work from home.
I hope that this post will shed some light on my decision to leave the big city, and re-settle in to a small community; a choice which, from speaking to friends and colleagues, is an option that many twenty somethings have considered, or are considering currently.
With the price of city living reach eye-watering amounts, and the pressure of a city environment causing high stress for some, I have experienced first hand how letting go of the city dream can positively impact your work and life.
Read on for my personal account of why I left the big city, and ultimately the many improvements I have felt in my life for doing so.
FALLING IN LOVE WITH LONDON
London, for me, was always the dream.
I was the girl that would sketch pictures of myself (and my best friend ofc.) holding Starbucks lattes, dashing between our very important fashion jobs, in London. In my eyes, London was magic, dipped in dazzle dust, and was “absolutely the city I was destined to live in”.
I grew up on the South coast of England, first in the beautiful Cathedral town of Winchester, and later the port-side city of Southampton.
London was a quick train journey away for us, and at every opportunity I would visit, planning my outfits for months (I mean months!) in advance, just so I looked extra fabulous for the city I loved.
When I was still at college (the UK equivalent of high school), and for two years following, I sought work experience in London, and interned until a time I decided to apply for the London College of Fashion.
To my surprise and (extreme) delight I was accepted on to the Fashion Public Relations course at the London College of Fashion, and began my first term in September 2010.
My Mum and I found a flat, I met a lovely girl at university who became my flat mate, I found a job at a pizzeria round the corner and made the best girlfriends (my fellow waitresses) I could hope for. In total I stayed in London for almost four years, and for the first three I was ecstatic with where I lived.
All of the chick flick-style notions of living in a metropolis, ‘as a young, fashion industry girl just trying to make her way in life – whilst looking great, having an adoring boyfriend, and somehow assisting a high profile editor’ are possible when you live in a beautiful, buzzing, cosmopolitan city like London. For three years I felt like I was living that story, and I was, in my own version of it.
I look back on those first three years and genuinely feel joy for everything it gave me.
. . . . AND THEN THE LOVE BROKE
I can see now that there was a cocktail of factors which contributed to me moving out of London, catalysts which pushed me over the edge.
When I graduated university in the summer of 2013, I was beyond proud. I hadn’t been an exemplary student, but I felt that ‘the university of life’ (#wanky. I tried to put it another way, but really that’s the best name I could come up with!) had taught me many valuable lessons and I knew that I had achieved a lot of what mattered to me.
However on graduating university, suddenly, inexplicably I felt like a rug had been pulled from under my feet. Although at the time I didn’t know it.
I decided that I would blog full time, knowing that the wages I made through my waitressing job during university (which I left just before I graduated), were matchable.
Blogging is a wonderful pursuit, and one which I am so grateful to have found, however every job has its drawbacks, and blogging is not exempt from this.
Blogging full time is essentially like any other role for which you work from home, for yourself. It requires motivation, confidence and an ability to network outside of the four walls of your home.
I began to feel lonely, I did not have a destination day to day to get to. I woke up, would often get out and go for a run, then come home and work on my laptop.
The girlfriends I had met through waitressing in the local pizzeria, had moved areas of London, and the community I once felt in my area no longer existed for me.
London is, as I stated above, an incredible city, but it is essentially made up of many many towns.
If you live in London, I believe you will feel happiest when you have found your ‘town’ with its own community. Maida Vale in West London was once mine, but as the years passed, the elements which made it special for me, were no longer there.
And then there was the cost. London is, like any other major city, EXPENSIVE.
My savings from university quickly went as I looked to establish the business of my blog. My parents subsidised me, and I never felt like I was earning enough to do anything I really wanted to do.
When I began blogging full time, like many freelance roles, my paid work was sporadic and unreliable. I found it difficult to anticipate my finances, and therefore manage them.
Worrying about money all the time is demoralising. My confidence was slipping and my priorities were all wrong.
What I thought I wanted was to be successful, a famous fashion blogger working the industry. I took part in the worst game of all – comparison – and never felt like I was good enough, or like I really knew what I wanted to do.
What I have come to realise now, is that many, if not all, twenty somethings go through a period of not knowing what they want.
Not knowing what job they like, what they want from life, where they want to live, who they want to spend their life with. This is NORMAL. And should not crush you under its weight, like it began to do for me.
Like I said, a cocktail of factors contributed to me leaving London – ultimately that cocktail made me sick.
I was unhappy, demoralised, I didn’t know what I wanted, I made choices I wasn’t happy with in a bid to progress in my career. I felt lonely, and constantly anxious. I felt completely hollow.
THE TURNING POINT
I can’t quite recall what exactly triggered me to reach out, but one day I called my Mum and it all came to a head. I realised I was miserable. We talked about it. She visited me in London and stayed for a few days. I finally saw how unhappy I was, and knew I needed to make a change.
. COUNTRYSIDE LIVING .
???? The hills are alive . . . ????!
Moving to the countryside did not happen overnight. I wanted to see out my lease in London, and so I stayed until the beginning of 2014. Weirdly I enjoyed the city so much more knowing that our time together was limited. I began exploring it more, walking everywhere, and generally feeling all of those gorgeous feelings I once had.
I was re-educating myself on what was important to me, I was in touch with friends I hadn’t seen for months and was shocked that they understood completely. I am naturally quite private, and sharing my harder times has never come easily to me. By reaching out to people close to me, and people I admired from the blogging community, I came to realise that the ‘unknowingness’ which had caused me so much anxiety was something which many people empathised with.
It is a familiar saying “a problem shared, is a problem halved” but it couldn’t be more true.
When the time came to move I packed a white van and headed back to my parents house.
And here is where I introduce you to Oli.
That’s him ☝????!
Oli often pops up here in the blog, regular readers will know him as my long term boyfriend. Oli and I have been together for almost seven years, and so everything I am sharing with you today, he has been by my side for. Oli was a huge factor in my decision to ultimately relocate to the countryside.
After a month back home with my parents in Southampton, Oli and I were actively looking for a home together.
We explored a few towns in Hampshire, but settled on Oli’s home town which we both love and know well.
After a few failed viewings, we stumbled across a listing with no images, a rather elusive description, but a location we were familiar with.
One February day we visited this mystery flat and immediately fell in love. A two bedroom maisonette, with exposed beams, large rooms, and more uneven floors than flat ones. It was one of a kind and we adored it. Immediately after our viewing we sought a pub, drank a round for dutch courage, and returned to the estate agent to sign up immediately.
This was the beginning of a new chapter, and I am so excited to share all of the incredible, great things that I have experienced since moving to the countryside.
I know many of you will question how leaving London, or your equivalent city could affect your work. This was my number one hesitation in leaving the city.
Could I continue to take meetings with the brands I work with, all of which are based in London? Would I still be deemed relevant by my contemporaries? Would it affect the way my readers perceived me?
Let me tell you this, since moving to the countryside my work has never been better. I work more often, more effectively, and fortunately make a better income, than I ever have before.
I truly believe that every area of your life will thrive to its greatest extent, when you are happy. If you work on your personal happiness, it will radiate through to every area of your life – your relationships, your body, and your work.
As a creative person, for me, feeling happy equates to feeling inspired. Inspiration is what this blog lives off of.
When it comes to making contacts in the industry, I know that I have more to give when I feel good about myself. I am a nicer person to sit down and have a meeting with. When I lived in London, during my most exasperated times, I was crippled with anxiety, and often felt vacant throughout my meetings. Having changed my living environment for the better, I am more engaged – I feel passionately about the conversation I am having with the person opposite me.
One of the biggest benefits of living outside of London is the space we can afford at home, I now have a home office which I have set up and decorated to work for me. I feel happy and productive working from here, every day I am genuinely excited to sit down and work. It also affords me a focus, which I found difficult to obtain when working from random spots around my flat in London.
If you are thinking about moving out of a big city, but your work is still based there, then moving within comfortable commuting distance is a given.
The south of England has many beautiful towns which are within commuting distance from London. A journey of 90 minutes or under, in to a central London station, is manageable in my experience.
I commuted to London full time for internships prior to living there, and I can attest to the ‘commuters rhythm’ you get in to.
I found that I enjoyed my quiet time on the train, and was super awake and productive by the time I got to work. I often felt more alert than my colleagues that had made their way across London, but as the day wore on I knew that I would have a long journey ahead of me before I would get home.
The down side of commuting full time, I found, was not being able to socialise after work during the week, and tiredness attributed to the long journey.
If you are thinking about moving outside of the city you work in, and commuting, I would suggest opening a conversation with your employer about flexible working. Perhaps you could work in the city office four days a week, and work from home for one? Or you could work from home more often, and attend meetings in the city?
Many businesses offer flexible working arrangements now, it is worth exploring. Ultimately you want to find a solution for yourself and your employer, where you are able to be the best version of yourself at work.
For me personally, I commute in to London on average one day a week. I dedicate one full day to meetings and appointments, and make sure to see people I want to see.
I maximise my one city day by heading up early, scheduling meetings one after another, and seeing a friend for a catchup drink or dinner at the end of the day.
I do not feel guilty about the amount of time I spend in the city. I make sure to do everything I have to do, and then I head home.
Finance is a huge factor in making any decision about where you live and where you work.
Unsurprisingly the financial benefit of moving out of London is one of the largest advantages.
The rent I now pay is a quarter of what I paid in London. The flat I live in now is bigger, it is in the centre of town, and it is a home I would chose to live in, rather than settling for a ‘street off a street I kind of want to live in because the rent is cheaper.’
As I touched upon earlier, it is not easy to predict your finances when you work for yourself. One month can be very lucrative, and others less so.
I felt freedom in alleviating myself of the burden of London rent, allowing me to focus and grow my business without pressure. I know that I can have a slow month, and still meet my overheads. If I have a good month I can save, or spend on something special. I never had that financial freedom in London.
My parents helped me out financially when I lived in London, I disliked relying on them and felt embarrassed about not being able to support myself. Now I am really proud that now I am totally self sufficient. I know it would have taken me much longer to get there if I still lived in the city.
This release of pressure since reducing my overheads, coupled with increased productivity, has led me to more work than ever. I have the energy to invest in my business, and in so doing, I have fortunately had the best financial year to date.
This is the section of this post I am most excited to share with you! And thank you for reading all the way till down here, I know this is
possibly probably the longest blog post in the history of blog posts ever.
The environment I now live in is the number one reason I love it so much.
I can BREATHE here. And it is COSMOPOLITAN, and (although I was hesitant to believe it before I experienced it for myself) COOL.
All ages live in our town, and so many more people in their twenties and early thirties than I would have thought. Small towns surrounding London are cool, and young, and as more twenty somethings and young professionals move here, they are increasingly so.
I have grown to know, and befriend, other couples and professionals, including designers, actresses and city workers, who have left London to pursue their lives in a smaller setting.
We live a stone’s throw from a shop that sells Anya Hindmarch (dangerous), and another that stocks Red Valentino. We can get a killer G&T from a beautiful ‘could be in Soho’ tapas bar that just opened. I get my coffee fix from an awesome local coffee bar, that matches the standard of Monmouth coffee.
Oli and I live in a traditional English market town. We live above one of the stores in the centre where we have pubs, cafes, restaurants, gift shops, a fresh fruit & veg store, butchers, a fishmonger and even a lavender farm all within walking distance. We shop well and locally.
All of the houses in our town are painted pastel shades, and I wake up every morning so happy to be a part of our community.
Community – there it is!
Oli and I live opposite our closest couple friends, and a stone’s throw away from many more. It is possible to have spontaneous trips to the pub, and girly brunches with no organisation and no travel time.
And the COUNTRYSIDE. The namesake of this post. I am not a qualified enough wordsmith to accurately explain how wonderful it is to walk for ten minutes and find yourself in a golden field. Each and every day I take a walk to the fields, or down to our local river, or to watch the swans on the lake near us.
The energy that comes from being so close to nature, and so many beautiful sites day in day out is unparalleled for me.
ULTIMATELY . . .
Ultimately the happiness you will find, in where you are living is unique to you. I am sharing my story with you today, to reassure any twenty, or thirty (or forty, fifty, sixty) somethings, that are considering leaving London to live in the countryside that it IS possible to continue your career and feel contented living the rural life.
On leaving London my anxiety became a non-starter, my skin cleared, I slept better and my overall happiness increased ten fold. My work became more productive, and my business has grown. My relationships with my friends has improved, and my relationship with Oli has grown to strengths I never knew were possible.
And London has its magic back again for me! I love visiting and appreciating it beauty, I thrive off of the buzz of conducting meetings in town, I love love love London again ❤️ yay! And I adore hopping on a train and coming back to my countryside home.
This post has been many months in the making. It is a topic which feels close to my heart, and I hope that you will take something away from it.
I would love to hear any thoughts you have about this! Or any questions you’d like to ask me about my experience.
Love, Monica x