Lifestyle UK

Why We’re Leaving London

I’ve hinted that I have some big news lately. It’s two-fold, really. I handed in my notice at work a few weeks ago, and we plan on leaving London. It’s something that Sam and I had been mulling over for a very long time. For a while, work was securely holding us here, but then we slowly realised that there are opportunities for us elsewhere and that London was not the be all and end all in a creative life. 

London is so exciting when you first move here. You wake up every day revitalised and full of the spirit for exploration. You’re going across Tower Bridge on the way to work! Maybe you spotted Daniel Radcliffe walking down the street! There’s always an exciting pop up, or a new restaurant to try, or a free event to attend. You can spend a lifetime perusing London’s museums and still not see everything. It’s truly the land of limitless opportunity and it’s boundless….. until it isn’t. 

We both found ourselves being priced out of areas again and again; pushed further and further out of London to cheaper rents that we can afford. Owning our own home would never happen for us in London (and that’s not a exaggeration). Sam would never be able to fully involve himself in his burgeoning photography business because he had to work another job just to keep us on an even keel financially. All the things you love about London: the excitement, the amazing restaurants, the culture – none of that seems important when you don’t have time to enjoy it. Poor Emma has been with me on multiple occasions where I’ve appeared distant or distracted by work, or had to duck out to take care of something. I was stressed all the time and felt trapped. We still managed to add to our savings, but did so by cutting out the things that we enjoy doing in London. 

For a while it seemed bleak, and I think Sam and I both resented living in London. Neither of us could understand how we could be working so hard and having so little to show for it. Part of me still feels like a spoiled child when I think about my feelings about London; I was turning up my nose at a city that many people feel so privileged to live in. I found myself getting angry and snapping at fellow commuters on the Tube; and woebetide those people who didn’t wait for those on the Tube to get off before getting on. 

When I was in my early twenties, training in drama school, London was everything. It’s where I studied abroad, it’s why I came back to England for graduate school. It’s where Sam and I met. Where we went on our first date. Where I lived in a crazy student house. Where Sam and I first lived together. So many milestones in my life revolve around this wondrously mystifying city. 6 years of my life. But Sam and I reached a point in our lives together when London being London just wasn’t enough. We started thinking about the life we could lead elsewhere if we were unshackled from our London rent; the places we might me able to travel to; the freelance jobs we wouldn’t be scared to take; the house we might be able to finally save for. We slowly realised our quality of life will actually hugely improve if we move. 

Suddenly, London just wasn’t enough anymore. The idea of being elsewhere was exciting. I harboured fears of missing the things I love most about London; the excitement, the theatre, the culture, the food, how Londoners seem to hoard the “cool” – but the more I researched the more I realised how exciting other areas of the UK are becoming, and all the things I love about London can be found elsewhere at a slightly more achievable cost. I started thinking about other things that are super important to me; being out in nature, enjoying the fresh air, not being stressed all the time.

Sam and I are both painfully aware that leaving London isn’t a magical solution to all our worries. In fact, it’s going to be particularly challenging at first as we transition our freelancing work to a new region. (Let’s not mention the terrifying job hunt, eh? I’ve managed to try to naively ignore that. Anyone elsewhere in England hiring?) But eventually, it will give us some freedom to breathe again, which is something we couldn’t get in London. Though the upcoming challenge is going to be difficult, sometimes frightening and undoubtedly stressful, recently I’ve felt that Sam and I can do anything together. That we can rise to the occasion, albeit somewhat ungracefully- at times. 

Once we’d set our minds to moving, I started to love London again. The deep seated resentment that we had been feeling started to melt away. I was able to see the city that I first feel in love with again. I was able to walk across Waterloo bridge and stop and admire the view instead of hurtling towards my next bus. And what a view it is! I started to feel something that I hadn’t felt in awhile: optimism.

Here’s the secret: London will always be here. It might be a train ride away, but I think I’ve reached the turning point in my life that I’ll love it more as a visitor, getting to relish happy memories of my previous London life. 

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  • You have to go where your heart tells you – and where you end up is going to be just as beautiful!
    Plus it means we can come visit and slake a touch of wanderlust as we go…

  • Thank you for sharing this heartfelt and well-written post :)) I am just nodding along with it because I have felt the same way a couple times in my life: one when we left Prague for the city (2 hrs away) where we live today, and another time when I realized that I may never move back to big city Seattle when this adventure is over. Both of these cities have so much glamour, excitement, and everything I wanted in my twenties, but there are other factors to consider when it comes to making the best choices in the long run. I know so well that period of falling in love again with the city AFTER you decide you are going to leave and feeling so sad and bittersweet… but it was simply the best thing. After all, living in the UK, London will never be far away. Sending you good vibes and luck as you make the transition!

    • Thank you SO much Cynthia! I know that I’ll miss London loads but there are sometimes times when you have to say goodbye even if you’re not sure that you are quite ready. We are in Northern England next week looking at flats so the next adventure is right around the corner! x

  • While I love to visit London, I don’t think I could ever live there. I have a lot of friends that have moved to London after graduating and I don’t know how they do it! While I am jealous of all the amazing opportunities they have, London is so expensive and your right I think unless you have endless pots of gold to spare, you work so hard with so little to show for it. Best of luck to wherever you move! xx

    http://www.one-more-slice.com/

    • Thank you so much Lynsey! And the charms of London totally make up for having little to show for it at first. But it’s just gotten too stressful lately, and if saying goodbye to London means greater peace of mind, then it’ll totally be worth it in the end. (I will miss it though) x

  • I can relate to this so much! As you know, I left London in June after three happy/sad/exciting/overwhelming/amazing years there.

    I loved living in London, but I didn’t love not being able to afford my own place. I looked further out, knowing I’d have to sacrifice my easy commute from Shoreditch, but I just couldn’t justify the costs of getting to work from miles away. It was such a hard decision, but ultimately I’m so glad I moved to Leeds. You have to go where your heart’s pulling you.

    People asked me if I was sad when I left London, and I was. But I also think of it in the same way I think about my time living in Sydney, or Melbourne, or Auckland: no-one’s ever going to take away the fact that I lived in those places. I’ll always have those memories, but it was time for a new adventure. I hope you and Sam are happy wherever you’re going, Amanda πŸ™‚ xx

    • This, this, this! And since we live in SouthEast London we are already living in one of the cheapest areas. So to be priced out of one of the cheapest areas was kind of a death knell for the city for us. I mean, I’m still gutted that we are leaving, but like you said, it’s the kind of sadness that comes from leaving any place. I’ve missed other places before and they still exist to go back to.

      Sam’s a Northerner so we are venturing up that way again. In fact we have some flat viewings that if they pan out wouldn’t put you and I miles apart…. πŸ˜‰ x

  • This is so well written Amanda! While I love visiting big cities all the things you mentioned (especially high costs!) would make it hard for me to stay long. And I just love nature to much. Best of luck to you both on this new adventure, looking forward to following along:)

  • This was such a good read! It sounds like you and Sam have made the right decision for you and I am so excited for you both. And I vote that you need to move north…! x
    Sophie Cliff

    • Well…since Sam’s a Yorkshireman, it doesn’t let the cat out of the bag too much to say that we have some flat viewings next week not a million miles away from you πŸ˜‰ xx

  • Good luck on the move! Do you guys have an idea of where you are moving yet? It is a terrifying jump, but you’ve already made a jump to be an expat, so you’ve got a leg up!

    • Very true! The transition between countries is miles more difficult than moving out of London. It feels like the end of an era, really. And thank you so much! We are headed North. We have a few places in mind and are viewing some flats next week, but have stayed pretty tight-lipped about exact towns just in case things don’t pan out. xx

  • Good on you for making the best decision for your happiness. You’ve got each other, so wherever you go, it’ll be wonderful. You’ll find new restaurants to love, new scenic routes to walk, new friends, and new ways to enjoy your life together. I’ve only been in London for a couple of years, but after visiting other amazing (yet less expensive/stressful) parts of the UK, I’m already planning where I should move next. Like you said, you’ve had the awesome London experience, and it’ll always be here when you want to visit πŸ˜€ (Let’s hang out before you go, though!)

    • We will definitely have to hang out more before I go, and you’ll always have a couch to crash one somewhere outside of London now! xx

  • Good luck with the move! It sounds like you’ve made the best decision for you.

    I’m one of the few people on the planet who would HATE to live in London. Yes, culturally it is AMAZING and there are nice areas, but when I think of London I think dirt, pollution, crowds, having to constantly be alert for pickpockets, busy streets. It’s okay for a visit but I could never, ever live there.

    • Haha, I am never on alert for pickpockets so I am SHOCKED that I’ve never had any trouble in London. In fact, on time I left my passport on the Tube. (I know, I’m that stupid) And someone actually tracked me down and brought my passport to me that evening. (After I had had hours of hysterical crying due to the stress of losing it.) But I’m totally with you on the crowds and pollution.

      The plan is to head North and hopefully everything will be sorted out soon! πŸ˜‰ x

      • Wow, that’s amazing that you actually got your passport back!!

        • I was so overcome that I think I surprised this very nice elderly gentleman with my gratitude. I cried on him. No shame. πŸ˜‰ x

  • I used to live in London but have never regretted moving out. I’ve now got the best of both worlds. Living in the countryside with London being less than an hour away on the train.

    • Totally! I know people that live outside of London and still have a shorter commute to work inside London than I have living at the edge of zone 3. It’s definitely the right decision, it’s just sad to say goodbye! x

  • Huge decision but ridiculously exciting. It takes a long time to be comfortable with the fact that there is life away from The Big Smoke but once you realise it it’s amazing and it really does free you up to love the city again, something I definitely found increasingly hard to do the longer I lived there.
    Wishing you all kinds of luck for your move wherever it may take you *cough* South West *cough*.
    M x

    • When you live in London you really are blinded by the “bubble” and brainwashed into thinking that life elsewhere doesn’t really exist, but of course it does! It’s taken us a but of time to come round to it, but it’s definitely the right move! xxx

  • Kourtney Reece

    While I was there, I told my co-workers and boyfriend that I would like to move to London once I finished school just to have that experience. They all told me to move to a city outside of London because it would be much cheaper. London is a good place to work and tour, but living there is pretty expensive. Some people compare it to the price of living in New York.
    Good luck with the move and the job hunting. That’s always the pain, but everything will come together.

    • It’s definitely comparable with the price of living in New York. And I still think you should go for it! I’m so grateful for all the time that I’ve had hear, and wouldn’t trade these years for anything! I think and hope you do get some extended time in London under your belt.

      But it’ll be a relief now not to worry about money so much. x

  • I spend one summer in London working. I loved every minute of it, but was always wondering how people were working so much and why nobody could afford anything. After leaving it I was depressed for a while, until I realised that I don’t really want to live a life where I cannot afford anything. I am sure your life can be even greater once you leave London and as you said, you can always go back for a visit πŸ™‚

    Lii
    https://byliil.wordpress.com/

    • Totally. And some people do work hard and absolutely able to enjoy London life. Sadly, that’s not the position that we are in, but that’s okay! I’ll always have the years I did spend here to remember (mostly) fondly. x

  • Our lives change and so our needs and desires. I’m sure you’ll find happiness in another city and you will always have the opportunity to visit London:) maybe one day in the future you even move back!:)

    • So true! We’ll definitely be back and forth all the time, we still have family and friends in London, And you are totally right – we might even move back. Who knows what will happen in the future! x

  • Oh my gosh this is so exciting! Where are you thinking of moving too??? Stephie xx

    http://www.acupofcreative.co.uk

    • Well… we haven’t announced exactly (we have some flat viewings next week and don’t want to jinx it in case we hate it.) But, as a native Yorkshireman, Sam is getting closer back to his roots. xx

  • Oh wow did not expect that, but good for you! I can totally imagine that life in London can get quite difficult. Seeing it from afar and coming to visit, it always looks like the land of dreams, so much culture and arts and amazing food, but we own our house in Scotland and that would be difficult to down-size and then not be able to afford it to live in London. I can totally understand why you’re a bit scared of the future, job applications are the worst, but I’m sure it will go uphill from now since you seem to be doing this for such good reasons, to follow your heart. Best of luck with all the changes and the move!xx

    • Thanks so much Camila! If we had lived anywhere else, we would be home owners by now (the difference we would have saved in rent would have been enough savings for a downpayment on a home.) So the plan is to start having rent savings, and then we’ll finally be able to start thinking about being homeowners in the future. But we live in one of the most affordable sections of London and a 1-bed flat can go for around Β£400,000 here. Just no. Nope. Ha! It’s scary but it’s definitely the right choice for us now. It feels like a very grownup decision, and luckily Sam works remotely so there’s only one job hunt needed! xx

  • I wish you the best of luck for your move! And I completely understand your frustration. It’s similiar for me here in Tromso. I always get emails from people telling me that it’s their dream to live here and it definitely seems amazing at first, Northern Lights and everything. But it’s incredibly expensive and why should I accept living in a tiny one bedroom apartment when the boyfriend and I could practically rent a whole house to ourselves in Southern Norway? So we’re going to make the move next summer and I totally can’t wait!

    • I’m still trying to guess your mystery moving location. (And I completely understand why you guys are moving too!) In some ways for me, it is still a dream to live in London. But I just can’t cope with all the financial anxieties that come with it anymore. I’m so glad that we are both moving on and going to be having new, exciting adventures! xxx

  • Ashley Angle

    This change can really help your relationship grow stronger. You’re in it together! I’m excited for you and your new journey! Best wishes!
    Ashley // acutelifestyle.blogspot.com // A Cute Angle

    • Thank you so, so much for your kind words Ashley! I really appreciate them. It’s a stressful, but ultimately exciting time. πŸ˜€ xx

  • Wait… but how far away are you moving? Like, Dartford? Yorkshire? Deepest, darkest Scotland? Paris? All of these are a train ride away! I’ve thought about this… it’s just being able to find work elsewhere and I’m a big scaredy cat…

    • Yea, the work thing is terrifying. Luckily Sam has his work situation straightened out so it’s just me to sort mine. We haven’t finalised anything yet but we are headed Yorkshire way (but still in a city) x

  • Jenn Sie

    I like visiting London but not living there. Unfortunately, I struggled finding jobs in what I do outside London so I’ve had to move between zone 5 and 6 (still ridiculous but I am lucky to afford it). I’ve nearly been here a year but commuting daily from Hampshire was killing me. I’m envious. http://Jenikya.com/blog

    • I totally get it. I commuted about 1 hour and 15 minutes (each way). I was paying a fortune to get to work, and was relying on Southern trains that never showed, or were always delayed. After we pay our rent we just don’t have a whole lot to show for it, and I have to hold my hands up and admit defeat. London:1 Amanda: 0. But I can always come back and visit. I hope you are able to find a solution to your work/commuting problem soon! x

  • Ellie

    I grew up in London and although I will always have a soft spot for it, I can definitely see where you are coming from, it’s so expensive to live here, and the tube travel as well as rent and bills and all that stuff. there are so many other wonderful parts of the uk to explore and I’m sure a little bit of absence will make the heart grow fonder in London’s case! πŸ™‚

    • Absolutely! I’ve lived in Stratford-upon-Avon before and had a 2 month stay in Newcastle, so logically I know that we’ll still be happy outside of London. But London is London and just seems irreplaceable when contemplating such big move. Luckily, It’s not going anywhere and I can always come back to visit! πŸ™‚ xx

      • Oooh what did you think of Stratford upon Avon? Such a pretty place : )

        • It was gorgeous! We were there because Sam was on an actor’s contract with the Royal Shakespeare Company so it was a bit full-on! The town can feel really tiny and insular in the “off” season, but it’s such a pretty place to be! We lived in a little flat right behind Holy Trinity Church (where Shakespeare was buried) right up against the river and weir. That was pretty magical. xx

          • Wow, dude! I love to visit Stratford whenever I’m in the UK, such a great atmosphere and of course, you can’t beat the theatres there!

  • That’s the great thing about Great Britain…it’s so small that London is always a day trip away!

  • I’m excited for you! But sad you’re leaving, but totally understand why – London can definitely do that to you. Looking forward to hearing about your moving adventures!

    • Thanks Jasmin! And even though we’re moving, of course I’d be back to London in a heartbeat for all blogger shenanigans! xx

  • Miu

    Wow, that’s big news! I really love London, but only thinking about actually living there makes me go anxious. I know what my parents paid for my flat share room in Outer London and then I always wonder: How on earth does anyone actually afford having a family in this city?

    • Oh my goodness, the family question is so tricky. A lot of our friends who’ve started having families have had to move away already for that very reason. But timing was good for a few others (they managed to get a foot on the property ladder before prices exploded.) I’m sad to leave, but the UK is small, so we’ll never be too far away from London! x

  • As someone who is also plotting a move out of London, I can totally understand where you’re coming from! While I’m still very much in love with this city, my boyfriend who has lived here a lot longer is ready to make a move – we’re both up for adventure so are really excited about our next home! Best of luck with yours!

    • Sam’s lived here a lot longer than I have too, so he’s definitely ready! Do you have an area in mind that you two might escape to? All the best with your planning! x

  • TravelWithNanoB

    I’m just catching up on all my blogging reads and finally got read this! This is truly huge, and moving and starting life anew is stressful, but I’m sure you’ll do great. Wish you the best of luck at your new home and look forward to hearing more updates. πŸ™‚ xoxo, nano

  • Angie SilverSpoon

    Lots of luck on your next adventures πŸ™‚

  • For me, London was SUCH a magical place at first, but I think I appreciated it more when I only visited every now and again. Living in Bristol instead of London was the best decision I made when I originally moved to England. I enjoyed living in a city that was smaller, quieter, cheaper, and still had SO much to do! I wish y’all all the best and I can’t wait to see where y’all end up!

    • Totally. And the great thing about a place like Bristol is that you get the best of both worlds – Bristol is a cool city with a lot going on, but you get the English countryside as well! x

  • Glad that you’ve made this decision and it seems to be the right move for you! I can totally relate to how you are more excited about London now that you’ve decided to leave. I wasn’t sure myself what I’d be doing once I finished the PhD, especially since my student visa expires next May. I’ve decided I’m going back to New York in about 2 months and I’m excited about that!

    Best of luck with figuring out the job stuff and everything else for the move!

    • Making that post- study decision can be tough. It sounds like you’ve made the right decision for yourself though and that New York will be a great adventure!

  • What a huge decision! I love love love London, but I cannot imagine the cost of living there on a permanent basis. Like you said, it’s only a train ride away for y’all, and there’s always more to discover in England! I can’t wait to see what the future holds!

    • It’s too much and the benefits just don’t outweigh the negatives anymore. It was a hard decision to come to, but I’m excited about the future! x

  • Wow I can’t believe you’re leaving! Sounds like the best decision for you two though, best of luck and can’t wait to see what the future holds for you! πŸ™‚ xo

  • When are y’all leaving?! I so want to meet up with you in November!!!!!! <3

  • ES!! This is everything Alex and I went through and had thought of. It’s been a year now and there are some days I miss London so so much. More than I thought but that’s when we book a trip up there and all is right again. I now love visiting and knowing there is no pressure of the high rents and life stresses but we can go and enjoy the city for what it is and why we originally loved it so. Good luck with your move; I hope it brings you everything you want.

    K.

    http://www.wonderingthrough.co.uk

    • Thank you so so much Kelsey! It’s a relief to know that so many other people have felt similarly and gone on to make very similar decisions xx

  • London is nice, but there deffo are nicer places. I’m just outside Cambridge, which can be as expensive as London, but has (I think) a lot better quality of life. When I lived just outside London I was shocked with the attitude of the people my age there – everything is about what you are; what brand watch you have, whether you have seen the latest pop-up place etc. I’m a lot more chill than that, so I like Cambridge. I can’t wait to follow you with your move!

    • Totally! I agree that the quality of life can be better elsewhere. I’ll miss London, but I *think* it’s the best decision in the long run. x

  • Good on you for following your heart, Amanda – I’m a Londoner by birth, but even I harbour a deep-seated resentment for how ridiculously packed and overpriced everything in London is, and dream of escaping to other cities or towns with a slower, sweeter way of life, like Cambridge, where I went to uni, or Liverpool, where my boyfriend is from. I totally sympathise, and wish you and Sam all the best of luck with your move! xx

    • Thank you so much Tamsin. There are huge sweeping aspects of London that I will deeply miss but it will be better for us in the long run (I think) x

  • Having money to be able to afford to do things in London is a definite plus of not living there! I get so excited every time I catch the train there and pack in loads of fun things. I think you’ll love having a new adventure!

    • I think so too. It’s just a bit scary to leave somewhere we are so comfortable with, and it feels a bit like admitting defeat, like London won. (Well London housing prices won anyways) x

  • What can I say, it’s like words taken out of my mouth. Rob and I have been thinking long and hard about our own plans, with a likely move on the horizon next year before the summer. I’m a little ashamed to say this has been a conversation we’ve had open for two years now, which sounds crazy. Like you said, it’s because career-wise we’re both doing great here but there is that feeling of being trapped, overwhelmed by the fact we can never buy here, friends leaving one after the other, and well, being slightly resentful of the city and creeping prices across the board. The hardest part is narrowing down where to go next, we have like 10 destinations with their own Pros & Cons list (!)

    • I can’t wait to find our where your next adventure takes you! We were in the same boat. We went back and forth for a few years. But once we set our minds to our decision it feels really, really right. I still have a little twinge here and there at the thought of leaving London, but my mind feels at peace with it. xx

  • i can feel you.

  • I can’t believe I missed this post, but wow. I have so many similar feelings that you do about London … and I feel like we have similar shared experience (studying abroad in England, completing a MA here, working here, etc.). I often think about leaving London, but I’m just not sure yet whether that means a move back to the States, or a move to the countryside here. It’s difficult! But it is so comforting and refreshing to know that you’re *doing it* and I can’t wait to follow along as you do. x

    • Thanks so much for your kind words! We’ve also spoken about moving to America. But after all the money (and time) that I’ve invested in visas so far, we decided to at least stay until I qualify for English citizenship. Ultimately, I probably don’t see us moving to the States in the future, but it’s always an option. Then it would be poor Sam’s turn to be subjected to the miserable visa process! Sam’s from Yorkshire originally and a lot of his family are still there (with one of his brothers in York) so it’s a move that makes sense. I still feel a bit of anxiety about it, but that’s normal, right?!

  • p.s. I studied for my MA in York, so I would DEFINITELY consider moving there. I’ve often said that it’s my favorite city in England!!

  • Ah such an exciting new chapter (yet no doubt nerve wracking!!). Just remember that you’re in it together and if you try seeing it as a big adventure, (easier said than done at times), you might see more opportunities than resentment and most importantly enjoy exploring somewhere shiny and new! : )

    Gemma
    http://www.fadedwindmills.com

    • Thanks so much for your kind words, Gemma! This is actually somewhat of an old post. (From about this time last year – but we went through all the things that you mentioned above.) I’m so glad that we made the leap in the end! xxx

      • Well that shows my level of concentration these days… ooops! Hahaha! What a wally! Anyway, I’m still glad you guys braved it and made a success of the unknown : )