Yesterday was a big day for us – the two-year anniversary of our move to London – and we weren’t even there to celebrate! Seems about right considering our travel schedule lately. I feel like we’re somewhere else more often that we’re in London, which isn’t actually the case, of course, but still…we’ve been traveling a lot. And I can definitely credit that to the unavoidable truth that we are now over halfway through our contract in the UK. I’m looking at those words, and I know they’re true, but my little pea-sized brain can’t seem to accept it. Where has the time gone??
Well, actually, I know exactly where it’s gone. It’s gone to Paris and Amsterdam and Swedish Lapland and the Scottish Highlands and about two dozen or so other places. Time well spent, certainly, but man, I didn’t realize it would all go so quickly. I can still remember planning our first trip like it was yesterday. It seemed then that we had endless opportunities for travel in front of us, but now, as I’m counting up the remaining school breaks and bank holiday weekends, I’m realizing just how limited those opportunities actually are. Hence, our 2015 goal to travel at least once every month. But that’s getting into the future, and right now I’d like to pay a few respects to the past. At least the past year anyway.
Our second year in London has been remarkably different than the first. The first was full of firsts and every day felt different than the one before. Absolutely everything felt new, both because we were in a new country and because we were living a life about as different from our rural Tennessee, chicken farmer/old home remodeler life as we could get. It was disorienting. But in a good way. We really embraced the city that first year. Hardly a weekend went by that wasn’t filled with museums or markets or tourist attractions. It felt like a year-long vacation with breaks for school, work, and other, actual, vacations. And that’s where the biggest difference lies between year one and two, because we just don’t do that anymore. Not because we ran out of things to do (ha, like that could ever happen), but a year of carrying the perma-tourist status was enough – we wanted to start feeling like residents.
In a city as big as London, it’s hard to find the small town charm I love so much, but if anywhere comes close, it’s Chiswick. I adore this part of London and am so proud to call myself a Chiswickian. (Pretty sure that’s not a real word.) But that first year, because we hardly spent any time in our own neighborhood, we just weren’t feeling that sense of belonging we’d hoped to find. It wasn’t until we stopped spending every moment away from Chiswick that it finally started feeling like home. Now, on Saturdays, instead of hopping on the tube into London, we get up and run our regular routes (Cory’s along the river, mine in Chiswick Gardens), get lunch at one of our favorite cafes, do the weekly shopping at Sainsbury’s, then head down to the river for the rest of the afternoon before ending the day getting dinner with friends somewhere on the high road. And on Sunday nights, if we don’t call in our regular order at our favorite Thai place, the ladies working there know we’re either traveling or dead. I think it’s safe to say that in our second year in the UK, we finally found our groove. It definitely feels like we’re actually living here now vs just visiting for an extended period of time. That’s not to say we never head into central London anymore to do the tourist bit, because we definitely do, but I no longer have that frantic sense of must-do-all-the-things! that characterized our first year. It’s very clear now that, even in three years, there’s no way we could do all the things, so I’m content to just do some of the things. 🙂
But here’s the deal. And I went back and forth on whether or not I’d even mention this because no one likes to listen to anyone whose life is pretty awesome complain about anything, but I’ve always been honest about my feelings through this experience, so I figure I ought not stop now. You see, the truth is, I’ve been craving a change in scenery for a good while now and I’m ready to go. Go, as in move to a totally different place, not just escape somewhere else for a few days. That sounds crazy, right? I feel like everyone I talk to here doesn’t ever want to leave, and then there’s me, pretty much ready to pack up my few possessions and hop on a plane tomorrow. There is this quote by Samuel Johnson that says something along the lines of ‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life’, but I beg to differ. I am tired of London, but I am very, very far from being tired of life.
I have always been cursed/blessed with a restless nature and, for better or worse, it affects nearly every aspect of my life. I find it very hard to work at the same job for longer than a year – I’m most certainly doomed to a life of jack of all trades, master of none – and friendships are hard when you never live anywhere for very long. But on the upside, I’ve had the opportunity to live quite a few wildly different lives. It’s like being reincarnated again and again without the whole, usually necessary, dying part. Exciting, yes, but most unfortunate when you’re ready for your next reincarnation and you’ve still got a whole year to go.
I don’t want to give the wrong impression, though. I have had a blast the last two years, and I am happy. I love our semi-settled routine and life in Chiswick, and I love even more being able to hop over to other countries almost as easily as we cross states in the US. I’m just saying that when the time comes for us to go back home or move somewhere else, especially if there are mountain or ocean views involved, you won’t have to drag me away kicking and screaming. I’ll be ready for it.
As for my feelings in regards to the “little things” that I both loved and missed when we first moved here, many are still the same. I still miss closet space and tumble dryers and the Ellen Show. (Anytime anyone shares an Ellen clip on FB, I devour it like a piece of solid food after a 21-day juice fast.) These are minor annoyances, of course, but that’s the only kind we’ve encountered moving from one English-speaking western country to another. We still love renting our home and not owning cars (or anything really) and generally avoiding any sort of responsibility for anything in any way, so I have a feeling we’ll try to keep that up wherever we move next, too. There is definitely something to be said for being in your 30’s and having nothing to your name but a few pieces of clothing and a good quality camera. 🙂
Life here at the end of our second year is good and easy. And as we’ve just signed our lease again for another year, it appears, at three years, our little flat here in Chiswick will be our longest-running address ever. The terror I felt at that realization had me spending hours on Rightmove before I accepted we were already living in the best flat in Chiswick (minus the constant disappearing act of our hot water) for our budget, so here we’ll stay until word comes where we’re going next. If it’s anything like our move over here, we’ll find out where we are going a month or less before we actually go, so as of now, anyone’s guess is as good as mine. Until then, we’re going to try our best to live in the present and make the next 365 days as memorable as the last!