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This week’s guest post for the ‘Day-to-Day’ series comes from Brenna who’s currently working, studying and living in London. Are you an expat? I’m always looking for more ‘day-to-day’ stories to share – shoot me a message at paperplanesblog @ gmail . com.
I moved to London last September, and I am totally head over heels in love with this city. Originally from Canada, I’ve travelled and lived abroad for eight years, and I finally decided to take the plunge and move to one of the most exciting cities in the world. Full of art, music, fashion, food, history, and just about every mish-mash of cultures you can imagine, I find every day inspiring.
There were many factors for wanting to move here, but the main one was to study. I am currently a full-time Master’s student, and my degree is in Creative Writing (non-fiction); I’m working on a book about travelling. On top of that, I am a Community Manager and Content Creator for Expedia, working on a very cool new travel blogging platform. I also blog a few times a week, and have other freelance gigs on the side. Basically, I’m writing all the time, but London is the kind of place that really inspires creativity.
On a typical day, I wake up around 9 or 10am. I’d love to be an early riser, but I find I work best at night, so I’ve adapted my schedule accordingly (three guesses as to what time it is as I write this). I live in a great flat right on Regent’s Canal in London; I share with two guys, one from California and one from Isle of Man. They’re out of the flat by the time I wake up, so I have the place to myself. Initially I was worried about sharing with people (strangers, in the beginning!), but it is really common in London, and I love living with them. My rent is surprisingly cheap for the area and the size of the flat, and I’m so thankful for finding it.
The first thing I do in the morning is set up my laptop on the kitchen table; this becomes my mini-office for the day, or at least part of the day. On weekends I stock up on lots of local fruit, vegetables, eggs, bread, and cheese from either Broadway Market or Borough Market, so I make a big breakfast to eat while I’m checking emails and social media.
My schedule is not in any way set day to day; sometimes I focus exclusively on my Master’s, sometimes on work, sometimes on blogging, but mostly on a mix of the three. In between I always try to read other travel blogs and stay on top of travel news, all the while updating my social media. I never thought that I would be someone who so heavily relies on the Internet, nor did I think that I’d be someone who works from home, but I love the freedom and flexibility it gives me. I’m lucky enough that I make a decent salary from writing, and that the money I earn affords me the chance to experience London to the fullest.
Even if I don’t have classes or meetings, I try to get out of the house. This usually involves a walk along the canal or a walk to Shoreditch; I then either find a great café (my favourites at the moment are Hackney Bureau, The Market Café, Nude Espresso, or Ziferblat) or chill out at Expedia HQ to do some more writing. For my course I also have to do a lot of reading, so I tell myself that drinking coffee and reading for the entire afternoon is completely rational. I still haven’t found a gym I like in the area, so for now I try to walk every day for an hour, or exercise at home.
If I’m feeling particularly adventurous, or if I want a little break from the norm, I visit a new part of town or a museum. There is never a shortage of things to do in London, and I hope to take full advantage of that while I live here. My favourites are the Tate Modern, the Saatchi Gallery, and exploring the areas of Stoke Newington, Dalston, Brixton, or Chelsea. I love all of the history in London, and that around each corner lies something new.
I go out almost every night with friends, as London is an incredibly social city. Although I love to cook, I usually eat out three times a week, and find myself out for drinks or a show many nights. My favourite haunts are Pizza East, Well and Bucket, and basically any pub that serves a pint and great bangers and mash (so, every pub in the city). While the UK gets a bad rap for having terrible food, I’ve found quite the opposite in London; restaurants here are so varied, and you can find almost any cuisine. I also eat at a lot of markets, including the ones already mentioned and Brick Lane. This has been a totally luxury for me, as I’ve often limited my social life in order to save money for travelling. In moving to London, however, I decided that I wanted to experience everything the city had to offer, and spend as much time with friends as possible. Because I move around so much, it’s been wonderful to become a part of different social groups, to make friends I can hang out with again and again. Even though there are over eight million people in London, I still seem to hang out with other travellers and/or travel bloggers! Many of my social events revolve around travel blogging, and I’ve been involved in all of the meet-ups and conferences in the UK since moving here. When I get home, I tend to do another few hours of writing, and then go to bed around 2 or 3am.
Another huge reason I moved to London was because of its proximity to continental Europe. Although I travelled through Europe quite extensively in the past, I wanted to revisit old favourites, and travel to new destinations. I am repeatedly shocked at how cheap flights are from London. Since moving here, I’ve already visited Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Austria, and I have trips to Portugal, Poland, and the Netherlands planned. For the summer I plan to travel around the Balkans for a few months, and it’s nice to know that I won’t have to factor an expensive flight into my budget. I’ve also travelled around the UK a lot; it’s so easy to get to Windsor or Oxford for the day, and cities like Brighton, Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Cardiff are only short flights or train rides away.
What I love most about London is how diverse it is. People come from all over the world to live here, and the city reflects that. While the common complaints include gloomy weather, a high cost of living, and annoying public transport (I swear the Overground is shut every weekend), for me, the city redeems itself in the sheer volume of things to do, things to eat, and things to see. I also don’t agree with the stereotype that Londoners are rude; I’ve experienced nothing but kindness and friendliness since moving here.
Samuel Johnson once famously said, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” I don’t know if I will live in London permanently, but for now, with my rose-coloured glasses on, I absolutely love my life here.