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.