Us in Central London

From London to Spain: Fears, Life Changes and Goals for the New Year

For me, a new year always brings with it a lot of reflection. While 2016 is full of promise: an exciting new life in Spain, a chance to travel in mainland Europe and explore new work opportunities, lately I’ve also been battling with some serious fears and worries about the future. We’ve spent the last few weeks cat sitting in London and while being back in my favourite city and catching up with friends has been wonderful, our time here has also brought a lot of doubts and dark feelings to the surface.

Andrew and I in Covent Garden after Christmas

Visiting Covent Garden just after Christmas

The Light side of London

I always look forward to getting back to the Big Smoke. Just being in the centre of the city, walking across Waterloo Bridge and looking out over the Thames at all the famous landmarks – the Eye, Westminster, St Paul’s Cathedral, Big Ben – exhilarates me. I love being surrounded by crowds and streets full of red buses and black cabs. Travel has made me marvel at the convenience of the Tube, which will take you within walking distance of pretty much anywhere you need to go; just hop on, then pop up like a mole in your destination.

The View from the Top of Greenwich Park

The view from the top of Greenwich park

The best thing about London is being able to catch up with the people we’ve missed while we’ve been away. We were able to see a friend’s stand-up comedy routine for the first time and host home-cooked lunches followed by hours of tea, cake and conversation on the sofa. We successfully tackled an escape room game, and then took refuge from the rain for the evening in the pub. I enjoyed afternoon tea in a hotel with my mum and took an historical, ghost-themed walking tour around Southwark. I love the fact that there’s so much history in London and there’s always something new to learn. For instance, do you know that more people have died from jumping off the Great Fire of London monument than actually died in the fire itself?

Us after a Sherlock Unlock escape room game in London

We successfully completed the Sherlock Unlock escape game

We used Christmas vouchers to make trips to the cinema and braved the bitter cold to check out the free Lumiere London winter lights festival; the streets were transformed by colourful lanterns, flying fish, floating figures, light shows projected onto famous buildings and 3D elephants. One rainy afternoon we visited Greenwich, one of the most picturesque areas of the city in my opinion. When we weren’t out and about, Andrew and I spent most of our days in a quiet routine at home, completing blog tasks and planning for Spain, cooking meals and looking after the cat; most afternoons we’d take a walk down to nearby Chiswick House and Gardens.

Flying Fish at the Lumiere London Festival

A flying fish at the Lumiere London festival

The Dark Side

Despite the good times in London, I also found myself battling my way out of a depressed funk. I was plagued by a persistent cold and the dark rainy days blackened my mood; for over a week I suffered a bout of insomnia, sleeping for several hours then waking, unable to return to slumber for the rest of the night. At the heart of it all, I think the worry over our move to Spain was getting to me. We’ve lived this strange, nomadic life for almost three years now and sometimes I underestimate just how hard the uncertainty of it can be. Continually saying goodbyes, constantly building new temporary lives in unfamiliar places with no continuous income stream can take a psychological strain on you. We certainly haven’t chosen the easiest life for ourselves and I’m aware that this isn’t a path that would suit most people.

Chiswick House and Gardens, West London

Chiswick House and Gardens, west London

While I’m away travelling or working abroad, I generally don’t feel these worries and I cherish our life of freedom, flexibility and adventure. Something about being back in London, and the UK in general, always brings questions and doubts crashing to the forefront of my mind. In London, everything is so expensive, especially housing, and you have to work so hard to afford to live here. There’s a huge focus on work, countless hours are spent commuting to and from jobs and I feel that everything is centred on what you ‘do’. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this lifestyle, I used to happily live this way myself, but travelling has changed my perspective. Although I love London, the people in it and the lifestyle perks of living in what I consider to be the best city on the planet, right now I just cannot imagine how I can ever step permanently back into this life again. The thought of it exhausts me.

Leicester Square lit up in the Lumiere London Festival

Leicester Square lit up in the Lumiere London Festival

Lately, more and more I’ve been thinking of what my ideal life would be. Andrew and I have spent hours discussing what has come to be termed: The Simple Life. This roughly translates as a life that is time rather than money rich, where we work on projects and in jobs we enjoy but work isn’t the main focus of our lives. Perhaps one day we return to a traditional job for several days a week but also develop passive and other income streams, say renting a room out through Airbnb. It’s a life where we have a dog and a home base but also the flexibility to travel, a life where we see family and friends regularly but continue to have new experiences and meet new people.

Greenwich Market Food Stalls

Food stalls at Greenwich market

Achieving this lifestyle balance is a long way off. We’ll probably spend the next few years as we have been, balancing bouts of work and stability in new places, like Spain, with periods of intense travel and visits home to the UK. But defining The Simple Life has helped me battle my way through the black moods I’ve been struggling with lately. I know what I’m aiming towards and while I don’t yet know how to get there, I at least know what I’m searching for.

Travelling on the London Underground escalator

Travelling on the Tube

Spain Plans and Goals for the New Year

So far, 2016 is a bit of an unknown beast, and I’m sure our lack of concrete plans for the year has been one of things dragging down my mood. So, I decided to get my shit together. I revamped my CV, contacted some teachers who have worked or are currently working in Madrid for advice and researched other types of job opportunities in the city. We planned the itinerary for our initial month-long road trip around the country and sorted out admin tasks such as ordering E111 cards and getting new police checks. We’ve also booked summer family holidays in Italy and Spain and  a short visit back the UK during the Easter break.

Spain guidebook, Spanish study book & CDs

Getting ready for departure!

I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions because I don’t like setting myself up for failure, but I’ve also found that writing a list of things I want to achieve this year has helped to focus my mind:

  • Get some more freelance travel articles published
  • Learn some basic Spanish
  • Do some volunteering in Madrid
  • Visit a new country (unbelievably, I haven’t been to a brand-new country since Taiwan in May 2014!)

I’ve already made headway on the list, as South East Asia Backpacker have just accepted one of my articles and I’ve ordered a Spanish study book and CDs so that I can begin learning the lingo. It’s all a work in progress but I’m now feeling positive about things. I know that, just as when we moved to Hanoi, there will be road-blocks ahead and that settling into life in Madrid won’t be an easy process. Crucially though, I’m beginning to feel excitement about the move and I’m looking forward to building a new life in sun.

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27 Comments
  • Gilda Baxter
    Posted at 10:27h, 24 January Reply

    London is a fabulous capital city, I have lived there for 5 years and I always enjoy my short visits, but I am not sure I would want to live there again. It is so expensive and there is a lack of personal space. Since living in Dorset I have fallen in love with the character and friendliness of the little villages and hamlets, it is old England at it’s best and I also love being by the sea. The life you have chosen might not be the easiest but who wants easy when you can have exciting, fresh, new challenges and opportunities? The road blocks will be overcome since you have each other and you are young and very resourceful. What can possibly go wrong???

    • Amy
      Posted at 22:26h, 25 January Reply

      Dorset is beautiful, you’ve definitely chosen a lovely place to live; Andrew and I lived in Bournemouth for a year while I was studying for my Masters and my family are in nearby Hampshire. So I guess we are both lucky that we’re close to London as it makes visiting easy 🙂 You’re right, nothing worth doing is easy. Thanks, as always for the support Gilda.

  • Katie
    Posted at 11:44h, 24 January Reply

    Good luck guys! This next phase seems very different again to your last few years of travel with new culture and countries again; I think it’s quite understandable to be nervous about the uncertainty. Whatever happens though, it’s sure to be a great adventure and I look forward to following!

    Happy New Year! X

    • Amy
      Posted at 22:27h, 25 January Reply

      Thanks Katie! Yes, this next phase does feel like a completely different type of adventure, we’re so glad to have you following along 🙂

  • Analucia
    Posted at 12:16h, 24 January Reply

    Hi guys!
    Firsr of all, Congrats for the new challenge! Spain is an amazing and full of things to do country, cheaper than others in Europa, sunny even in winter and food… Mmm! Amazing!
    I’ve been traveling around the world as a solo-traveler for 1 year, and now I challenge myself with a new goal: ‘Live in London!” Sounds familiar? Haha so, it looks lime we are taking opposite paths and would love to be in touch to help each other with decisions we have taken.
    What do you think?
    Wishing you the best, I would be a couple of days more in Madrid, so, if you come, just let me know and we go for some “cañas and tapas”, the best way to start getting inside spanish culture 😉

    Analucia
    http://Www.viajarparavivir.com

    • Amy
      Posted at 22:32h, 25 January Reply

      Hi Analucia, thanks so much for reading and commenting. You have a great goal, London is an amazing city despite being very expensive. I would still one day like to return there to live if I can figure out a way to do so without having to work in an office full-time again! It would be great to keep in touch and help each other with the transition; let me know any questions you have about London. Unfortunately we won’t be in Madrid until 22nd February, so I think we’ll miss you? When are you arriving in London?

      • Analucia Rodriguez
        Posted at 16:06h, 17 February Reply

        Just found your message 🙁
        I arrived 2 weekes ago to London, and I’m loving it.
        Let me know if you are around here, so we can catch up and would help you with anything you need about Spain.
        Write me an email so it would be easier to know about you.
        Regards, Analucia

        • Amy
          Posted at 09:51h, 18 February Reply

          Glad you’re having a great time in London! We are in Alicante at the moment, moving on to Madrid next week!

  • Alyson
    Posted at 13:07h, 24 January Reply

    Hi guys!
    Looks like you and I have very similar needs. Y’know, we bought a house in Romania, even called the new website Simple Life Romania and both of us love London with a passion.
    We have doubts too, well,I do, Chef is always happy, but sleepless nights are something I too suffer. I put it down to menopause 😉
    Good luck, hope Spain works out and maybe there’s a house in Romania with your name on it 😉
    By the way, if you can teach me how to get paid freelance work I’d be forever grateful.

    • Amy
      Posted at 22:42h, 25 January Reply

      Hi Alyson, yes! You guys definitely inspired our long-term plans with your simple life in Romania and work-life-travel balance; we also met some people living similar lifestyles in rural Vermont in the US which inspired us. Like Chef, Andrew doesn’t tend to worry but I do have infrequent bouts of sleeplessness when I’m about to make big changes in life; I’m feeling better about things now but it’s in my nature to doubt myself and second-guess my decisions. We would love to go to Romania and check it out one day, perhaps a simple life there awaits us!
      The freelance work is a tricky one as much of it is very low-paid, the best stuff I got at the beginning of my trip was from contacts I used to work with in London. Now I tend to just search for travel publications, check their submission guidelines and then pitch/write them a story I think they might like – if it’s paid, then all the better! Generally I’m just trying to boost up my travel writing portfolio at the moment though.

  • Patti
    Posted at 17:15h, 24 January Reply

    Everything happens when it is supposed to Amy, just keep taking one day at a time. You and Andrew are defining your path and that is such a gift and such an adventure. It’s understandable that some days weigh heavier than others. I experienced something similar a couple of months ago once we had settled in to our new home. I had a lot of “now what” days until I finally got sick of saying, “Now what?” and got on with the business of living. Like you I asked myself what exactly is it that you want to do and then I got busy making it happen. It’s sometimes hard to shake off those feelings, but it sounds as if you’re well on your way and you have such an amazing year(s) ahead of you. I look forward to watching (reading) it all unfold before you. Safe travels my friends!

    • Amy
      Posted at 22:45h, 25 January Reply

      Thanks so much for the wise, kind words Patti and I’m sorry to hear you’ve also been suffering something similar lately. I am now trying to take things one day at a time and now we’re in Spain, it feels less daunting. I will feel a whole lot better when we get an apartment sorted in Madrid and find some work, hopefully that will help us find our path.

  • DLR
    Posted at 18:04h, 24 January Reply

    I look forward to “going to Spain” with you. I’m a planner too, so the unknown can definitely be scary. When I look back on my life, though, it’s getting through the scary times that are so empowering – those are the times you remember.

    So, good luck to you both. Hang in there.

    • Amy
      Posted at 22:46h, 25 January Reply

      Hi Donna, thanks for the good wishes and words of encouragement. We’re on our second day in Spain now and so far, so good 🙂

  • Nathalie
    Posted at 21:23h, 24 January Reply

    Good luck with your new adventure guys! Hope you enjoy Spain and learning Spanish. If you’re ever around the Basque country, write me a line.

    • Amy
      Posted at 22:48h, 25 January Reply

      Thanks Nathalie, I really hope I can learn some Spanish fairly quickly as it will make me feel much more settled. So far Spain is looking good!

  • Mel
    Posted at 00:31h, 25 January Reply

    I really enjoy your blog Amy, and can so relate to your simple life concept. I’m heading towards it with a part time job that allows me to take a few months off each year to travel but I’m trying to move towards passive income streams rather than trading my time for $. Good luck with Spain, I visited a few years ago but would love to spend more time there.

    • Amy
      Posted at 22:50h, 25 January Reply

      Hi Mel, thanks so much for reading and taking the time to leave a comment. It sounds like you have a great plan and are taking some real steps towards achieving your ideal lifestyle. Good luck with it all and thanks for following our journey 🙂

  • Jade
    Posted at 15:44h, 25 January Reply

    I’ve been back in the UK now for over a year and throughout that time I’ve bounced between these feelings. After experiencing the freedom of an expat life, I think it’s normal.

    Don’t be too hard on yourself and just remember that you don’t have to have things figured out, you just need to be happy!

    • Amy
      Posted at 22:53h, 25 January Reply

      Thanks Jade, you’re right, I do get bogged down in trying to plan everything out. Hopefully if I relax a bit things will fall into place here in Spain 🙂

  • Jo
    Posted at 21:17h, 25 January Reply

    Beautifully written, honest and thought-provoking. I’m so with you on the resolution thing – much better to list goals you wish to achieve throughout the year. All the very best with the next wave of your adventure – you’ll ride it!

    • Amy
      Posted at 22:55h, 25 January Reply

      Thanks so much for the support Jo, I’m feeling more positive about things now. Hopefully you can come and visit sometime this year and check out our new lifestyle 🙂

      • Jo
        Posted at 17:15h, 27 January Reply

        Ah, that’s great to hear. Will do. Looking forward to it! X

  • Louisa Klimentos
    Posted at 23:07h, 01 February Reply

    It isn’t easy when you have been travelling for so long and then your back in London where you have to work hard and life can be hectic.One thing i must say is that both you and Andrew have achieved so much together.It is not just experiencing other countries natural beauty,cities,culture and people,it is all about the experiences you both have done together.To me that is the most beautiful thing.You both seem to have quite alot in common,especially travelling the world.Please continue your dream Amy, as you have done it before and you can do it again.You are a passionate person in which your passion is reflected through your great writing skills.You know,i never have met you in person,but I feel that I have known you for a long time.Maybe i will be lucky enough to meet you one day.So please continue your travels in Europe,because that is what you and Andrew wanted to do.Well ,see you in Spain ,love Louisa

    • Amy
      Posted at 11:11h, 02 February Reply

      Hi Louisa, thanks for reading and for the support. You’re right, it has been great for Andrew and I to share these adventures together. Hopefully we will meet some day, I look forward to it 🙂

      • Louisa Klimentos
        Posted at 21:54h, 02 February Reply

        You are definately a most beautiful Sweat Pea and if you return o Australia ,i will love to meet you and go some where nice ,maybe a coastal walk or a beautiful bush walk I am definately looking forwad to your experiences in Spain,and i will always support

        • Amy
          Posted at 13:45h, 03 February Reply

          Sounds great, thanks Louisa 🙂

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