I don’t often write really personal posts on my blog, but I’m making an exception for this as I’ve got something on my mind and I thought it would be really therapeutic to actually write it all down so I can make sense of my thoughts and share with you all how I’m feeling. So here goes;
The title of this post is a question that I have been internally asking myself for quite some time. I’m ambitious, I love chasing after new opportunities, I am full of energy, I love trying new things, going to new places and meeting new people. Considering all of these traits about my personality, anyone would think that London would be the perfect place for a gal like me.
So why don’t I love living in London?
Before I go any further, let me set the scene for you. I decided to move to London when I was 21 after graduating from University because it was without a doubt the best place to be in the UK for a career in media and journalism. Without moving to London, I would never have met the people that helped me to get a foot into the very narrow door of travel writing. So coming to London was absolutely the right decision for me. I don’t regret it one bit.
I’m now 25 and since moving down here I have had 3 jobs in London which collectively have allowed me to experience incredible aspects of the city; from dining at Michelin star restaurants to attending events where I have met so many successful and inspiring individuals. I’ve now even managed to break away from the 9-6 office job and I am working on a freelance, self-employed basis, dedicating more time to running The Travelista. It all sounds pretty great, but the truth is I have never felt truly at home in London, and I never will.
At first, I didn’t get it and actually felt guilty for not feeling totally enamoured with the famous capital city I now lived in, so I suppose I went along and kidded myself that I loved it as much as the next optimistic, willing-to-work-for-peanuts graduate. Being surrounded by so many people who love-love-LOVED London made me feel like not loving it could even be a plausible option.
Now that I am older, wiser and much less influenced by people around me I have come to the realisation that in fact, it definitely is a plausible option to not love London, and I am glad I have finally accepted this about myself. These are a few of the reasons I have come to this conclusion;
The Illusion vs The Reality
I’m pretty sure any Londoner would back me up on this first point; that the reality of living in London is very different to the illusion portrayed in the media. No, people don’t actually sit around in trendy cafes all day drinking expensive coffee and strolling along the Thames. We’re actually commuting for at least 2-hours a day, sweating on the underground with someone’s armpit in our face and trying to construct a lunch option in Pret that actually comes to under £3. By the weekend we’re so exhausted that the thought of trekking into central London and voluntarily breathing the smoggy air of the underground on our days off becomes a fate worse than death. At the weekends when I’m in London I stay local and avoid travelling long distances as much as possible.
The Cost of Living
Everyone knows that the cost of living in London is extortionate, so I won’t bang on about this. But the reality is that the ever-inflating prices of rent, travel, food and drink make it hard to survive here, even on a relatively decent salary. Saving whilst living in London is also near enough impossible. The irony of London is that everyone moves here because there is so much excitement and so many things to do. But the fundamental cost of living in London is so expensive that most people can’t actually afford to enjoy the city they work so hard for and pay so much to live in. I often think that if I lived outside of London I would be able to enjoy it so much more.
Craving a Slower Pace
When I first moved to London I couldn’t understand why everyone rushed around so much. Was everyone actually late for something? Where were they going that was so important? Now I realise that I have become one of those people, powerwalking everywhere I go, throwing on my trainers like I am preparing for a marathon, even if it’s just to nip down to the local off-license. I don’t want that to be me anymore. It’s so easy to get caught up in the rush here and it’s not until I go to other places that I remember to slow down. I’m constantly exhausted in London and I am craving a slower pace.
Working to Live vs Living to Work
I would describe myself as a very ambitious and hard working person, and I respect everyone that puts 100% into their job. But I also believe that there is so much more to life than work. I’d rather earn less money doing what I loved than slaving away at a high-paying job that made me stressed and miserable (which is probably why I am trying so hard to pursue my career in blogging). I believe that your job is just one element of your life, it’s not your whole life. In London people place so much importance on their career that it’s easy to forget the importance of things like family, relationships, health and happiness. It’s not just your job title and bank balance that make you a successful person, but London can make you believe otherwise.
Travel makes me consider other options
Travelling regularly and seeing new places around the world has definitely played a big part in helping me to realise that London isn’t the place for me. I realised that one of the reasons I love travelling so much is because as well as seeing somewhere new, I get to escape London for a little while. I get to witness different cultures and ways of life and I get to spend time in places that feel so much more like home to me than London, even if it is only for a few days. My trip to Bali in January was a real turning point for me and it was here that I truly realised that it was time for me to get away from the relentless, exhausting and unhealthy lifestyle that London inevitably brings. I blogged about my experience here.
My goals for The Travelista
You’ll also notice that even though I live in London, I don’t really blog very much about it. There is so much going on here and there are endless things that I could be blogging about, but because of how I feel about the city I don’t feel like I could write about London with as much passion and excitement as I do for the international destinations that I feature. My long-term goal is to run The Travelista full time and turn it into an online magazine. The great thing is that I can do this from anywhere in the world, and I can take the contacts I have built up in London with me.
Meeting my Boyfriend
Meeting my boyfriend back in 2014 also has another part to play in finally realising that London isn’t the place for me anymore. Scott is also from up North and as two Northerners in London we hit it off immediately and had so much in common. After time he also voiced his reservations about London and his desire to move away, which was a huge relief for me. We both miss the North and want to be closer to our families eventually, so to be on the same page long term is a great feeling and it has definitely brought us closer together.
Whilst I have been quite negative about London in this blog post, I could also list 100 reasons why London is great. It’s one of the most diverse and captivating cities on earth and it has been a pleasure to be part of this. I’m not saying we should all give up on London and bugger off to a deserted island, but for me personally, the positives of London no longer outweigh the negatives. I feel like my time here is coming to an end, and I’m OK with that.
I have had some of the best years of my life in London and I will always look back on it fondly. It’s where I started my career, met the love of my life, learned to toughen up and ultimately grew into the woman I am today. I will be able to look back on my time in London and know that I made the most of it.
So what’s next?
The tenancy on my flat comes to an end in July, which brings the question, where to go next? Whilst my plans aren’t set in stone yet, but I can confirm there are some big changes on the horizon and I can’t wait to share them with you.
What did you think of my personal London post? Can you relate to it in anyway or have you had similar feelings about London? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave me a comment in the box below x
Bina - Small lady, big world! says
I’ve been living here for 10 years now (moving down from Liverpool), and for the first 3 years I definitely didn’t like London at all. Now I’ve settled here I have become rather fond of it. Yes it helped that my salary increased and my husband is from London, but even when I was younger and skint there was always something to do or something going on. Loads of free stuff, more free museums and galleries here than any other city in the world.
I love that London is basically lots of areas/villages all smushed together, which means there is an area for everyone. I can identify with some of the things you’ve said though, I hate the tube so I decided my commute would be on overground only. It just takes some life adjustments and getting used to, though it isn’t for everyone!
Great blog Jess – a real pleasure to read.
I grew up ‘dahn sarf’ and like everyone else, commuted to work in London by car or train – losing 3 hours of my life every day travelling. But at least I had the beautiful Hertfordshire countryside to enjoy at the weekend. This seems to be the way to do working in the big smoke. But you need to earn £60k MINIMUM (which I didn’t) otherwise the rent or mortgage is unaffordable.
Now, many years later I live near Holmfirth, in God’s Own County. I work freelance, charge London rates but pay Yorkshire prices! and the air is SO much cleaner. I’m in London every couple of weeks or so for client meetings. I only wish I had ‘got out’ earlier in life when I was younger!
I was very much a northern child and what is clear is the educational difference and access to cultural knowledge that is lacking up here (it could be just me that’s a bit fick like). I go to London often and feel overwhelmed by the people and my clients which makes me want to stay to lessen these feelings over time by learning a little myself (different to a book or net based info). What keeps me in Yorkshire is what I feel is a sense of greater emotional intelligence and good feeling towards others that seems present. As I battle with the thoughts your post was quite reassuring Tim. Thank you
Great post! I moved to London in 2012 from NZ, but worked out very quickly that I was never going to earn enough money to enjoy it or travel further around Europe while I was there. I also hated the commute and the rush people were also in, I wasn’t there long but I found myself rushing everywhere as well. But love London as a city and definitely would pass up the opportunity to visit again!
Laura herbert says
Great blog post Jess. I initially read it when you first posted it and it helped confirm to me that I was also over London. I’ve lived in the city only 2 years but after deep soul searching about what I want to achieve as I approach 30, I’ve decided to move to Manchester next month to get a better work life balance and save money to explore the world and your blog post helped me make a decision I’ve been pondering for a few months!
I do love London, but there’s more to life than commuting, working crazy hours and dating loser boys (in which there are plenty of in London ha!). Keep up the awesome posts Jess!
Thank you so much for this comment Laura! I’m so pleased it helped you to make your decision. The response to this post has been amazing and just shows a little bit of honesty goes a long way, there will be so many people feeling this way but thinking they’re on their own. writing this post also helped me make my decision to move to Leeds in September with my boyfriend 🙂 good luck with your move! London will always be here for visits 🙂 xxx
I’m totally with you. I grew up in London and worked there at the beginning of my career but I couldn’t deal with the ridiculous commute and could never afford any of the cool events. I ended up moving to Milton Keynes of all places but I bloody love it. Suck it, London.
Great post! 🙂
Viola Levy says
Hey Catherine, small world – nice to see you here!
Great post Jess. Although I’m someone who loves London, growing up constantly being told “London is where it’s at” it’s nice to read an alternative point of view on the matter. Especially if I decide to start a family which will probably mean moving out of London…!
Ladies – do both of you check out my new site when you have a chance. Cheers x http://scentsandthecitylondon.com
Catherine Lux* (@luxlifeblog) says
YAASSS. So happy I’m not the only one! I love London, but I could never live there. I’m so happy living in my little commuter belt and commuting in so I can sleep in the peace and quiet and get away from work and the city at the end of the day if need be.
Anastasia (@Natbeesfashion) says
I can totally relate to all of your thoughts!
I lived in London back in 2012 and experienced the Olympic games madness first hand. While everything seemed perfect the first days, reality hit me hard after I realised life was not the same…
I was spending most of my time commuting, it was so difficult to be on time and I was spending so much money on food and drinks on the go that my salary wasn’t enough by the end of the month!
The only positive thing was that the biggest airports are so close, you can escape anytime with very cheap deals.
I have been living in Scotland for three years now and despite the fact that I feel isolated sometimes, it is one of the best things I’ve ever done!
Weekends are weekends and I do feel there is so much life quality to appreciate. Life is less of a survival and more of a joy!
Mrs Ayla's Adventures says
Sounds like some exciting things are planned for you Jess! I’ve lived in London my whole life, and while it is a great city, I completely agree with you. I don’t love it here like other Londoners do, I don’t feel like it’s my home and I don’t see myself living here forever. Maybe Mr Ayla and I will come join you and Scott on a deserted island somewhere! 🙂
Hi Jess, I am originally from the South Coast, Bournemouth to be exact. Myself and my wife moved up to West Molesey, near Hampton Court in October 2014. We adore the location because it is a sliwer place than Central London, but so easy to get there when we want. Totally get your points on why you hate it, personally I love it. As you say though, at present your career could be achieved anywhere in the world. Enjoy wherever you go, and whatever you do. Loving your blog, really inspiring. We have just come back from South Africa, which was our 60th country visited but so many more to go yet!
Great post. I’m a born and bred Londoner and while i loved it as a kid and spent my teenage years wandering the streets on a weekend. Once i finished school i only looked at unis over a 100 miles away. By 18 i was ready to leave and live somewhere else…that being Swansea! When i came back and worked in central London i also hated the thought of spending any more time in the centre than i needed to. I craved the countryside by the weekend! I don’t think some of my friends who aren’t from London understand why i don’t love it like i used to. To top it off you have to have the money to live in it and it can be the loneliest place if you can’t afford to enjoy all it has to offer. Now living in Cambridge i don’t mind going back on weekends occasionally and enjoying it in small doses. That said London will always be my home so i think i’ll always be drawn back.
Rachel Gault (@rachelgault) says
I totally get what you’re saying. I felt the same way when I lived in New York and had crazy commutes in NYC! I ultimately decided to move elsewhere and now I’m able to save so much money and travel a lot more.
Hi Jessica, I like reading your post about living in london, especially your frank statements. As being in Istanbulian, I love my city aswell, however I feel great when I am in London, I love it, cheers
Love this post! I’m originally from London but haven’t moved back since leaving for university, purely becuase I have so many reservations about what it will actually be like to live and work in London as opposed to just hopping on the bus to school everyday. London is such a love-hate place and it brings up so many thoughts and feelings for me – it’s so hard to know what the next step should be haha! xx
Taylor Hearts Travel says
As much as I love London for all the opportunities and a good day (and night!) out, I can’t say that I’ve been tempted to live there. You’ve given it a good try and there are so many lovely places in the world that it makes sense to try somewhere else. Exciting times!
P.S. I can still remember when you mentioned about moving there. Seems like only yesterday and a lifetime ago all at once!
Lauren Meshkin @BonVoyageLauren says
I love London but only lived there for a year as a student and aupair, which is a completely different and more sheltered experience! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and I hope you get the chance to relocate soon. Happy travels 🙂
Adriana Kupresak says
Funny I stumbled across this, i literally had the same revelation last week while I was gazing out my hotel room in Ljubljana. As much as I love London and am grateful for everything that I have here, I just don’t connect with it the way I once did. I always say, London isn’t life, London is a lesson. Like you said, where to next….
Feet Meet World says
My best friends LOVES the London life. So much so that every now and then I always consider whether or not to make the move, then I think of all the above and remember it’s not for me.
I do love visiting London, it’s great for short bursts but I couldn’t do it full time! Plus, how will I ever save up for travels?! xx
The Classy Explorer - Mirela says
Dear Jess! I am totally new blogger in travel and wannabe cabin crew niche markets and I love reading your posts – you actually inspired me to start it to be honest. I associate with how you feel living in a vibrant city such as London, but I believe living in most of the big cities brings you eventually into that mood – to live and see something new as a local, especially if you are naturally adventurous. I am from Serbia, but lived 8 years in Budapest and 3 years in Dubai, and I would recommend you both places as very international and interesting cities. I didn’t see yet if you were in Dubai, probably yes, but that is a good place to spend few years, especially for a luxury travel blogger such as yourself :-). Good luck with the decision and I will follow what happens next 🙂
the Classy Explorer
my blog : http://www.theclassyexplorer.com
I understand. I have similar feeling about Prague (Of course the situation there is not like it is in London) but I know that I dont wanna live there anymore (for this time). And for me – the last step was break up with bf. So I have decided to use Erasmus exhcange for my last year of UNI studies and take a break in company where I work. And then? Maybe I will come back to my hometown – Liberec – or maybe I will settle in Prague and I will be ok with that or I will work abroad. And I know several people who live or lived in London and they do not like it too.
I lived in London for about three years, and worked around Oxford Circus. I can only assure all you have said. We moved to Surrey a year ago, now we are moving to the sea side and I can say that changed our lives. I do not rush anymore. Onky when I have to go to London. In the first few month we used to argue with my boyfirend everytine we went back to London and only calmed down on the train back.
Now we enjoy nature on our days off, we do not look for lunch under £3 pounds and we are far less stressed. Even an hour difference from London makes a huge difference! Sometimes I miss the Soho and some of my favourite places, but I can still go there and to be honest I do not do it too often.
Up North is lovely, we used to live in Manchester, will always miss the friendliness from that area.
Keep on blogging and fullfilling your dream 🙂
Emma (@LondonKiwiEmma) says
London is a cantankerous mistress, you’re very correct!
I loved working a few days a month in London, whilst living up North. The train journey isn’t too far and I made the most of my time there,doing touristy things in the evenings. (I also didn’t have to pay London house prices!). Make the move and I hope you get you love London as a tourist once again X
Hey Nat! That’s so lovely thank you. You’re exactly right, it’s only a train ride away and then you can actually afford to do the shows and the touristy stuff. Xx
Rachel Kershaw says
I’ve never lived in London but I whole-heartily agree with everything you’ve said about the work life balance. I have found the perfect place to call home in Newcastle upon Tyne. It’s a relatively small city but with a huge heart! My commute to work is ten minutes and within 15 minutes I can be on a beautiful beach or in the peaceful countryside. My other half is a geordie so we have family nearby and the cost of living means we can afford to enjoy everything north east has to offer, there’s always something going on and it’s certainly not grim up north! Hope you find somewhere that makes you as happy as Newcastle has made me x
Hi Rachel! Thanks for commenting, this is so interesting to hear. I went to Uni in Newcastle and absolutely loved it. I definitely felt at home there and could easily move back. The city is always buzzing and there is always something going on as you say. Absolutely love that Tynemouth is so close too. Sounds like a fab place to call home for you. Hopefully I feel as settled somewhere one day 🙂 xx
Chérie City (@cheriecity) says
I’m from Newcastle too and have lived in London for eight years now. I love what London has to offer, but it’s a tough city that can really wear you down at times. It’s good to have regulars breaks and travel 🙂
Hi Jess – I love this post!!! I am a northerner also and moved to London 10 years ago to start my career as you put it, a willing-to-work-for-peanuts graduate. 5 months ago I made a very brave and spur of the moment last minute decision to up sticks and move to Switzerland. I now lead a much healthier, stress free lifestyle and don’t regret my move for one minute. Whilst I still do work in London, it’s nice not to be based here full time. It’s actually made me appreciate the city I called home for the last 10 years even more and I now get excited being here but I didn’t feel the same way when I lived here full time. I’m also now back to walking at a normal pace again 🙂
Good luck with your next move and I’m sure it will be the right decision for you! Maggie xx
Hi Maggie, thanks so much for your comment! Wow what an exciting move you made to Switzerland and interesting to hear you feel healthier and stress free. This is what I’m hoping for and I’m confident it’s the right decision 🙂 xx
Tengku Zahasman says
I can totally relate to most of the points. I work for a company in London but I live further away from it and have asked my employer that I’d be working home-based for exactly the reasons you listed above. That way I’d have a slower paced life and if I needed some dosage of London it’ll be just a train ride away.
That’s comforting to hear Tengku! Sounds like you have the perfect set up 🙂 I would love to return to London as a visited and enjoy a regular dosage of the crazy city life xx
Good post and good points; it’s the same with any major city like Paris where I worked. We have high expectations that somehow don’t fit with reality. I, myself, prefer medium size towns like Versailles ::) And now living in a much smaller town is dull lol!
Thanks for your comment! Yes you’re right I think it is definitely the same for any major city, and everyone tells me New York is even more fast paced. Medium sized towns are the place to be! 🙂 x
used to lived across from NYC for 13 yrs so can attest to that comment ::)
What a lovely, honest post. Thank you for sharing. I think people always make out – online and in person – how amazing and incredible London is, when actually it can be tough! I’ve grown up in and around London and still live here. And there are still more positives than negatives for me to stay, but I definitely agree with lots of your points above. The cost of London and the pace of London is beginning to tire me. I love the idea of living abroad but not sure I have the guts to just do it! Can’t wait to hear your plans!!xx
Thanks for your comment Vicky, that means a lot! Yes exactly, nobody sees the rough side of London in the media which is why i wanted to share this. If you have family around I think that would make a huge difference in London feeling like home, so you’re lucky in that sense 🙂 xx
I love London so much… to visit… 🙂
Yes absolutely! This why I think I’ll enjoy it more when I live elsewhere so I can come back as a tourist and make the most of it X
Ive lived in London all my life but I can definitely relate to some of the things you said. The reality is it takes for ever to go anywhere via tube or car (takes forever to find parking). I’m tired of buying £6 fancy teas/coffees and sometimes it’s all much too busy and fast paced.
With that being said, I just escaped to the countryside. Living in Essex- means I get the best of both worlds. I wouldn’t give up London for anything, but as I have friends who are also moving on out and going further north or south- I totally get where you’re coming from!
Thanks for your comment Jo! I think it’s slightly different for people that have lived in London all their life, the adjustment is harder coming in. Sounds like you’ve found the perfect balance in Essex 🙂 xx