Can I let you into a little secret? We’re thinking about leaving London soon.
I know! The city I’ve made my home for the last eight years, the city I met my Husband, the city we started our life together in, the city where our friends are, the city where our work is, the city where our entire network is built, the city I love. There are many reasons for our decision, but ‘because we want to’ isn’t necessarily one of them. It’s bitter sweet, but in my heart I know it’s the right decision for us long term.
London is an amazing, all consuming, ever changing, wonderfully creative place to live. But it’s also expensive, hard edged, competitive and exhausting. It’s hard to move forward here, difficult to make a life, tough to make your mark. When you’re young that’s ok, you put up with that side of it because the rest is SO good. You don’t mind living hand to mouth, never being able to save and spending all of your earnings each month because you want to soak up every last bit of the creativity and excitement and buzz. You don’t care if you live in a tiny room in a flat with five other strangers, you happily put up with no garden, no storage and no privacy, because it’s worth it. You learn so much, you meet incredible people, you push yourself and you have opportunity on your doorstep.
Then before you know it, you’ve been in the London bubble for nearly a decade of your life and things seem a whole lot different. You’ve met someone, you’ve got married, you’ve started your own business and your priorities have changed. Suddenly a tiny one bedroom rented flat with no garden and no storage isn’t enough. You want more. You want a home office that isn’t in your living room, you want to be able to paint a wall without having to plead with your landlords first, you want somewhere to store your burgeoning shoe collection and you want a bit of green outside to hold a BBQ in. Saving money every month is now important, living hand to mouth has become frustrating and you feel like you’re stuck with no way out, while everyone around you moves forward. You realise you’re spending less and less time actually enjoying all of that creativity and excitement and buzz, and more and more time trying desperately to make a home and save for the future. You’re ready to make a life. And sadly London is an increasingly difficult place to do that.
I know it is possible, and many people do buy a house and start a family and make a life here, and honestly if we could we absolutely would but the reality is, for one reason or another, it’s just not possible for us. And frankly the constant struggle to try is making us both really unhappy, so the right thing to do is to move somewhere where it is possible, and take the pressure off of ourselves a little.
Anyway we’re hoping to make the move by the end of summer, and for now we’re not planning to go too far. As much as we both love the idea of upping sticks completely and moving back to Scotland (hello affordable rent!), that’s a pipe dream that wouldn’t be all that sensible right now. With both of our careers and networks London based, for now we’re looking at commuter towns that can offer us a better way of life.
Why am I telling you all of this? To be perfectly honest I’m not sure, I had planned to make this a simple photo diary post and suddenly I’m pouring my heart out (people constantly tell me I’m far too honest, let’s hope our landlords don’t read this hey?). I guess as a heads up that you can expect a little more UK travel on the blog over the next couple of months while we use any free weekends we have to visit some of the locations that are interesting us.
May Day in Rochester
On Monday we decided to take a little day trip to Rochester in Kent. It’s not an area I know well at all, but after seeing the lovely Cat make it look all kinds of pretty on Instagram after she moved there last year, it was somewhere that was on our radar and seemed worthy of a day out to explore.
There’s a direct train to Rochester from Kings Cross St Pancras which takes only 35 minutes so it’s a great option to get out of the city without travelling too far. In no time at all we were pulling in to the newly regenerated train station and making our way to the high street to pound those cobble streets, go in search of a good pub lunch and marvel at the sights. As it was May Day, the small town was a lot busier than we’d imagined it would be and there was plenty going on – from outdoor street food stalls, to live music and Pagan dancing.
But while the colourful bunting was lovely (maybe that’s there all the time?) we were mostly interested in doing what we always do when we visit somewhere new – wandering the streets, taking photos and getting a feel for the place (as well as a little ogling of estate agent windows for future reference) – and perhaps the throngs of people out on a sunny day made it appear slightly different than it normally would.
Because honestly, it was lovely. The sun was shining all day which definitely helped – blue skies can make even the drabbest of towns look good. But there was nothing drab about Rochester – it was bright, vibrant, with a real sense of history and full of quirky corners.
The town is a sea of gorgeous red brick houses and olde worlde (is that a real term?) touches. There’s a castle and a cathedral which made for a very picturesque landscape. There were cute little shops, tea rooms and museums lining the high street, as well as a few modern touches in Pizza Express and trendy coffee shops. And walk a little further out and you’re at the harbour with a reminder that this coastal town isn’t far from some of the UK’s best beaches.
I kept repeating the same phrase over and over as we walked through the pretty cherry blossom lined streets, ambled through the lush green park and snapped the statuesque castle; ‘What’s the catch?’.
Rent is affordable, the train into London is fast, you’re near the ocean and there’s an abundance of dreamy locations for shooting blog posts (ahem – definitely a top priority for me!).
It was mighty windy (another reminder you’re near the sea) so maybe that’s the reason Londoner’s haven’t descended on it just yet. And we did leave having not yet found a pub we could happily call our local (the pub lunch we settled on was pretty disappointing) which let’s face it, is definitely a deal breaker. But hey, this town’s definitely got potential.
Have you visited Rochester before? As a Scot, I’m still fairly new to a lot of English towns so if you have any recommendations do pass them on!