I’m Leaving London, Again
Goodbye. Again. I know, I can’t believe it either. In 2010, I left London for Chicago for a job opportunity and promotion.
(BACKSTORY: For those of you who have arrived via the interwebs…born in NY, transferred to the UK, love love love London, transferred back to the US and now keep reading to catch up…)
Moving back to the US made sense at the time, and it was nice to catch up with my Chicago friends — I lived in Chicago from 1996 to 2004 — but it wasn’t London. Everything in the US had become so much more expensive ($60 at Jewel Osco and I had no food!), and I don’t particularly like sports. (Except for soccer and basketball occasionally.) Hah…one Sunday after I moved back in 2010, I asked a bunch of guys at a bar in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood why they were all wearing the same shirt and they all looked at me like I was crazy. (Da Bears.) Plus THE SNOW and the cold! I hate the snow and the cold. Within just a few months being back in Chicago, I knew that I needed to get back to London. (Plus, I’m not originally from Chicago so the only thing that kept me there was my job.)
It took me four years to get out of Chicago but I did it and returned to London in 2014. So if I’ve learned anything, you can do anything you put your mind to. Really you can!
But nothing is ever easy. When I made the decision to move back, friends would ask me “Are you sure you’re going to be able to get a job?” They were well-intentioned but another learning: when making a big life change, tell only a very very small number of people of your plans, if I learned anything at all in 2010 it’s that there are no secrets and because most people can’t imagine what you are about to do — change countries! change jobs! — not everyone is as supportive as you would hope. (This is why I am a big believer in doing things that make YOU happy; forget seeking advice and approval from others. Also, when you need career advice, focus on the people who have made similar jumps before.)
In the end, I had not one but FOUR excellent job offers to choose from. All were more money than I had made before and all were excellent firms with great reputations. So have confidence in yourself and your own abilities.
Through this all, I’ve learned that you have to put yourself out there. You’ll never know what you are capable of otherwise.
Oddly, the people who were most supportive of my return to London were my parents. “You have to get out of Chicago,” they both told me, separately. (NOTE: THEY ARE DIVORCED AND DON’T TALK TO EACH OTHER.) Also, taxi and Uber drivers (all Arsenal fans, strangely) totally seemed to get it too. (I took a lot of taxis and Ubers at the end, when I was getting rid of everything. Culminating in my last night in Chicago when my taxi driver was arrested WHILE I WAS IN THE BACK SEAT and I was threatened with jail myself for talking firmly and politely to the cop. Way to leave the country, Krista.)
The job that I originally took in 2014 lasted about a year. The amazing business leader who hired me — the reason why I chose this one offer of the four — left soon after I joined the firm, and I found that I had no control over my personal time. (Towards the end of my tenure, they asked me to cancel my dinner plans ON MY BIRTHDAY. No.) This time around, as I contemplated my next move, I told no one of my plans except my parents and a very small number of specific friends. I left the one job on a Friday and started the new job on the Monday.
So remember you always have options. We forget that sometimes. (Employers forget it too. Especially in this job market right now, where we are pretty much at full employment. If there was ever a time to look for a new job, it’s NOW.)
(Aside: If you are considering a job change and need some resume/CV help, email me!! I LOVE helping people with their CVs. I am awesome at it (seriously) and I love it. And honestly, I am pretty sure I made it to the interview rounds with so many companies because I wrote KICK ASS cover letters that were personal and interesting and WELL RESEARCHED so let me help you. We can figure out payment later.)
I digress as always. Now, four years after my return, I am restless. I still love London — I will always love London because it is the best and the most beautiful — but I love the rest of the world too. I have a job that allows me to work from anywhere with an Internet connection and I am going to take advantage of that. I want to spend more time in Thailand and China and Vietnam, and then there’s so much of the Caribbean and Africa and South America still to be explored. (I’d like to visit 100 countries before I turn 50, which isn’t that far away sadly!! I am no longer the 30-year-old I was when I started this blog.)
I’ve also started to think of home as a fluid concept. Why do I have to live any ONE place? Can’t I live in multiple places? With sites like Booking.com and Airbnb, I can find a home practically anywhere I want, at any time I want. So I imagine myself spending a few months in London each year, and a few months in Florida each year (where my parents are), but the rest of the time will be elsewhere. Until I’m ready to stop moving for a while.
And as my friend Eugene said to me over a particularly philosophical and helpful lunch in Hong Kong a few years ago,
“London will always be there for you.”
Also, I’m leaving London because I really want to get on the property ladder here and I CAN’T. Options in my price range are fairly limited and being self-employed doesn’t really help. Whereas I can get a great place close to the beach in West Palm Beach or Fort Lauderdale, Florida for less than $300,000. (And I’m also learning that as a 40-something-year-old woman, 30-year mortgages are only going to get harder to get. Need to buy something soon. And hey, you know what? F*ck the patriarchy.)
Related to getting onto the property ladder, I also want to save more. Retirement looms. I’d like to have more money set aside for this and I can’t easily do that in London right now.
Lastly, my parents are nearly 80. My dad has already lost one kidney to cancer and my mom has Parkinson’s Disease. They are more or less fine mentally (thank god) but they need some adult supervision (not kidding). In short, I need to see them more often. And living the life of a digital nomad will let me do that but not keep me trapped in the Sunshine State, where everyone is old, owns guns, and votes Republican. (Jeezus.)
Leaving London: Things I’ll Miss
When I left London last time, I wrote up a big list of things I would miss. That list sorta still stands during my 2nd go at leaving London, but I will also add the following:
- Maltby Street Market
- My 200 Mbps home Internet connection. 200 Mbps!! Words cannot describe how much I will miss my Internet connection.
- My small but perfect flat in Clerkenwell. Seriously, I love this flat even though it is half the size of (but the same price as) the two flats I lived in previously. If I could buy it, I would! But I believe the going rate is £800,000. I make a decent living, but a £160,000 deposit is impossible. (And here’s the thing, if I had the zillions I deserve, I wouldn’t buy this flat. I’d buy something bigger. So I think London is in a really weird position where really small places are just way too expensive for the people who would normally consider living in them.)
- JustEat and getting pork dumplings from Kung Food on Clerkenwell Road delivered.
- Kin on Leather Lane. Excellent, excellent Thai food.
- My surly Russian porter, who takes all my Amazon packages for me. EVEN THOUGH HE VOTED TO LEAVE because he thinks it’s better for immigrants to go back to their home countries and contribute to their home economies. (But honestly, I don’t think I can ever live in a building without a porter again.)
- Heathrow Express. Seriously…so many cities have no public transport from the airport and we have so many options. And I like how they’ve made it so much cheaper if you book in advance.
- Modern Nails on Whitecross Street and Lily Nails on Clerkenwell Road. (You can take the girl out of Long Island but…)
- The bar at St John
- The maze art in all the tube stations
- The lovely people at La Forchetta on Cowcross Street just north of Smithfield. This is an old school Italian(ish) deli and I just love it. Their breakfast sandwiches are ace and they are SO SO NICE.
- Ask for Janice on Long Lane, just south of Smithfield. Again, a place that I think hires on niceness. They are so friendly!! I love them. I’ve spent a lot of time here, either drinking coffee and working or meeting up with friends for drinks and snacks. (I’m not into gin but the gin list is very comprehensive.)
- My glam squad: Hannah at Easton Regal in Clerkenwell for cuts, Emma at Harrington’s in Soho for color. Maintaining my hair is, luckily, the only thing I am stressed about in making this life change.
- BBC iPlayer (OMG this new show, The Bodyguard??!!)
Now I am going to totally dork out for a second. In leaving London, I am sad to miss the opening of Crossrail (or at least Crossrail Farringdon) in um
December 2018 August 2019. I think this is going to totally change the City of London and I can’t wait to see what it looks like. (Although they say it will make Farringdon the busiest station in London so maybe it’s good that I’m leaving London now because maybe I don’t want to live in the middle of this.)
That’s one thing I used to love about coming back to London during my time in Chicago…London was always changing. We are too. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Leaving London: Things I Won’t Miss
- I’m not going to miss the shitshow that will be Brexit. (I mean, physically I will miss it because I will not be here but I will not feel bad about missing it because BREXIT IS STUPID and I will never understand why people vote against themselves just because they are scared of immigrants.) How will the government pay for Brexit?? All the new civil servants that will be necessary. Labor is always the biggest cost. And hey let me tell you — every American company who has had an office in London over the last 20 years has ALWAYS complained about 1. the cost of London real estate and 2. the cost of London labor. So buh-bye jobs with and tax revenue from American companies because Brexit and immigration changes just provided the best possible reason for every finance team at a Fortune 500 company to do what they have always dreamed of doing and move resources out of the UK. To Germany where it’s cheap and the beer is tasty. (Remember these are 40-year old finance dudes making these decisions.) Deep breath. Sigh.
- No air conditioning. This summer has been terrible. I was hot all the time. And no A/C!! And I always seemed to have those Uber drivers who think that AC is bad for you. WHICH CAUSED MY UBER RATING TO GO DOWN BECAUSE I COMPLAINED. I am looking forward to spending time in hot countries that understand A/C.
- Hard water. I can’t wait for my hair to feel all soft and nice again.
- London rents. I’m pretty good at managing my money but seriously…the rent is too goddamn high.
I’m trying to keep my plans pretty open and flexible but visas require some advance planning so I’ve booked some flights and um, some dinner reservations. (So far, I’ve booked here and here.) Here’s my tentative plan so far but flights are only booked through my arrival in Vietnam and then the rest is mostly TBD…
Month 1: Thailand to relax and recharge my bank account.
Month 2: CHINA. I am so excited for this. I am going to take a Chinese class in Shanghai for two weeks (hit me up with your restaurant tips) and then I’m going to take a Yangtze River Cruise and see the Three Gorges Damn and I CAN’T WAIT because I um love massive engineering projects and water and boats. There will also be pandas and spicy food (afterwards).
Month 3: Vietnam. Mainly the beaches. And Halong Bay. And recharging my bank account some more.
Month 4: TBD but possible suspects include Taipei, Macau, and back to Bali to LEARN HOW TO SURF.
Month 5: Egypt? Cruise down the Nile? (I just want to go there so I can say “Denial is not a river in Egypt.”) Also, I have this thing…I want to go to Austria and go skiing. I went skiing in Kitzbuhel when I was 20 and had an amazing time and I want to do it again.
Leaving London: I Hate Goodbyes
So…the flat is packed and my stuff is in a warehouse in North London somewhere until I decide what to do with it. I’ve got a one way plane ticket to Thailand and um about 75 lbs in luggage. (I am really trying to reduce this but because I have to pack for hot and cold, it’s hard.) I need to defrost the fridge and get one of those end-of-tenancy deep cleans, and then I’m out of here — I’m leaving London.
When I left Chicago, I did a bit of an Irish goodbye and got a lot of flak for it but I hate goodbyes. And I’ll be back!! So in leaving London, it’s not like “Goodbye.” It’s like “see you soon” which for those of you in London means like in December or January!. If you want to follow my adventures, stay tuned on Instagram. I’ve decided not to change my handle because it’s been my handle for so long — wherever I am, I will always be kristainlondon.
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