The man who can dominate a London dinner-table can dominate the world. ~ Oscar Wilde As a follow-up to my post about my top 10 things to do in London, I also want to talk about food! You’ll need to … Continue reading
You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.
~ Samuel Johnson
The above quote is cliche, I know, but I find it so true. After having lived in London for a year, I’m just completely smitten with the city and will gladly talk the head off of anyone who wants to hear all about it and attempt to convince them they need to visit. I’ve been back in the States since late 2014, and this love for the city still hasn’t worn off! So I’ve decided to write down my favorite places I recommend in London for anyone who decides to go. I recommend taking a minimum of a few days in London and checking out at least one thing in each category, and use Google Maps to pinpoint and group them by location and save time. However, it is a massive city, I lived there for a year, and there were still things I didn’t see, so that gives you some idea! Just whatever you do, drink it all in and enjoy it!
1) View from up high: London Eye or The Shard
These are two ways to see the city from above, and I enjoy different things about each of them. The Eye is very iconic to London, and is right across from Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, so it’s a great area to walk around, but the Shard is a more recently added icon (just completed in 2013) that is also the tallest viewing platform in Europe! I recommend scheduling either one ahead of time around sunset, as the city is extra beautiful at dusk.
2) City Tours: Cruise or Walking Tour
Usually for every city I visit briefly, I go on a guided tour of some sort to give me a big picture idea of what the city looks like, the history, and a general feel for the place that you would not get by exploring on your own. The only overall city tour I did in London was a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. It was good, but I feel like London is too big for a short bus tour to do it much justice – it may just be overwhelming. A couple of visiting friends did a river cruise, which I think would be a great way to take in the skyline and most iconic sights and history. There are also a lot of walking tours you can do in central London, some free. For more independence, I love the free walking tours through Rick Steve’s Audio Europe app, which will show you parts of the city in a reasonable walking distance at your own pace. If you can only do one, I recommend the Westminster Walk, which is short but will show you several of the must-see sights of historic London!
3) Markets: Old Spitalfields, Borough, or Camden
One of my favorite things is a good market, whether it’s food, goods, art, or all of the above. I usually just walk around and absorb each markets’ feast for the eyes, only occasionally buying an item or two. And so I checked out all of London’s major weekly markets. Old Spitalfields is actually more modern than it sounds – is my favorite and mostly focuses on quality handmade crafts and goods. I bought a shirt, a scratch map of the UK & Ireland, and a handmade card holder from a map (for my transport cards, mainly, and yeah, I like maps). They also have some great food stands and restaurants there at the market.
Borough Market, right next to the original London Bridge, is a big and crowded, but fantastic, food market every Saturday morning. Fresh produce, seafood, cheeses, baked goods, sandwiches, jams, fudge… if you’re a foodie, just go check it out. And come hungry.
Finally, Camden Market, not far from where I lived for about 8 months, is a collection of several markets next to each other – funkier kinds of markets with both food and goods (handmade and not). A great place to find a gift, get yourself a corset or steampunk necklace, or eat a fresh, hot doughnut. Depending on what you’re most interested in, I recommend checking out at least one of these to get the full London experience. And check ahead of time to make sure your market will be open when you want to go, as they all have seasonal hours.
4) Well-groomed Nature: Regent’s Park or Hyde Park
London is one of the most green cities per capita in the world. This may not be immediately obvious when you’re just seeing the most famous sites, but there are several huge parks in the city, and I made a point to visit all of them. My favorite (though I love them all) is Regent’s Park. It has everything for a park: a blooming, statue-filled, manicured English garden, a beautiful pond, mini-forests of trees, huge fields full of running, laughing crowds in the summer, wide paths to stroll or bike along, the Queen’s garden with couple little waterfalls, a big hill to overlook the rest of the park… it’s easy to spend hours just walking around here. There’s a zoo there as well, but it’s tiny and sad and not worth the time and expense, in my opinion, so I tend to ignore its existence – there’s much more to enjoy elsewhere in the park.
Hyde Park, another great option, has many of these amenities, but also is more iconic and a bit more central to the sites. It’s next to Kensington Gardens and Palace, has the Serpentine pond, and modern Princess Diane memorial fountain. It’s so central that there are a lot of other sights you might want to see right nearby, as well!
5) History: Tower of London and Tower Bridge
The Tower of London is one of the oldest buildings in the city, a royal palace, and the heart of the history of London. There is plenty to see for all ages, including the actual Crown Jewels, the ravens that guard the Tower, statues representing the wild animals once chained in various areas for the entertainment of the king, a chapel built on the graves of thousands of executed assumed traitors, and the spot where Ann Boleyn was decapitated. A short stroll away is the beautiful Tower Bridge (not the London Bridge as many think – that bridge is much older but not as striking), which is at least worth a photograph or two, as one of the most recognizable London landmarks.
6) Art: V&A or Tate Britain
London is one of the best cities in the world for art, and the most amazing part is that almost all the museums are free! There’s really something for every art lover, but my personal favorites are the V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum) and the Tate Britain. The V&A was founded by Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert, and its collections span two thousand years of art in virtually every medium: paintings, sculpture, photography, glass, furniture, clothes, ironwork, everything! It’s a beautiful museum to stroll around casually, take a free tour, or head straight to your favorite medium’s section and drink it in.
Tate Britain is a much more traditional kind of museum, dedicated to paintings by British artists, but it is so well planned and curated that it bounded above my expectations. I used their free mobile walking tour with my phone and headphones, and spent most of a day here. But even with more limited time, Tate Britain is a worthwhile stop for art lovers.
7) Entertainment: A West End or Globe Theatre Show
London is one of the world’s top cities for live theatre, I dare say, and I saw a bunch of shows while I was there in London’s theatre district, the West End. My very favorite West End show was Billy Elliot, which I highly recommend if you haven’t seen it! Whatever you’re interested in, buy a ticket ahead of time online – and on a limited budget, you can get cheap tickets for terrible seats. I’ve done this a few times, but enjoy a show much more in better seats. Completely up to you, but if you like theatre, make sure to see a show while you’re in the city.
Besides the dozens of West End shows at any given time, there’s also Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, a recreation of the original in the same spot! They run a series of shows throughout the spring-autumn, so check out which show is playing during your trip; tickets sell out quickly. I was lucky enough to see the Comedy of Errors, and it was brilliant! Globe actors are clearly talented and passionate. I also recommend taking the informative tour of the theatre, giving you its background and history, which you can do whether you have tickets to a play or not.
8) Royalty: Buckingham Palace and St. James’s Park
Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s workplace and residence during the week, is a British icon. It’s beautiful to visit the outside of any time, and you’ll see a couple of fuzzy-hatted guards in front of the palace, but depending on the time of year, there are a couple other things you can do. For about two months in late July-September (when Her Majesty is on holiday), you can tour the State Rooms inside the palace, which are very extravagant; everything is ornate and gilded. Or, during the off-season, you could see the changing of the guard, with lots of pomp, horses, and official looking Brits in a marching band. Check on the guard-changing times ahead of time, as they are seasonal. It’s pretty exciting, but I went in April, and it was super crowded and involved a lot of waiting around even after I showed up and got a decent spot – I’m sure it’s really crazy in the middle of the summer, when most of the tourists come, and you may not be able to see much. Tip: Many people crowd up to the fence of Buckingham Palace, but most of the marching happens in the roads in front of the palace, so I recommend picking a spot there – you won’t see much peeking through that big black fence. While you’re there, walk around the lovely and relaxing St. James’s Park in front of the palace. It’s especially beautiful in the springtime, when the many trees and flowers are in bloom!
8) Grand Churches: Westminster Abbey or St. Paul’s Cathedral
London, and England in general, has countless huge, beautiful cathedrals and churches. These are the two most famous and iconic in London, but they’re very different. St. Paul’s Cathedral has one of the best views of the city from the top of its tallest tower, but be prepared to walk up the 550 exhausting steps to the top if you want to see that (and I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re short on time – instead do the Shard or Eye for other great views). It was designed by the famous architect Christopher Wren, and famously survived the Blitz of WWII that devastated so much of the city.
Westminster Abbey is older and holds tons of history, including the last 1000 years or so of royal coronations. Crowded with hundreds of graves of royalty and historically significant Brits, the church is not technically a cathedral (a different nearby church has the title of Westminster Cathedral), but is certainly as grand as one. I recommend taking a tour if you go to either church, as you will learn a lot about the history and significance that you wouldn’t get otherwise from just looking around.
10) Historic London Underground: The Tube
Whatever you do, make sure to ride the Tube (Londoners’ nickname for the London Underground, the under- AND over-ground city transit system) at some point to get from place to place. It was the first underground train in the world, and for some inexplicable reason I fell in love with it, and stayed in love even when commuting to/from work on it every day! To me it’s very easy to navigate, especially considering the number of lines and size of the city. I found that you can get anywhere within central London within 30 minutes. Get an Oyster Card for easy travel by both tube and bus, either online beforehand or from a London tube station when you arrive. The downside of the tube is that you don’t see any of the city while you’re down there, it’s a different world! So I recommend taking the tube at least once or twice, especially for any longer distance trips, and walking or taking the bus the rest of the time. If you’re as fascinated by the history of the tube as I am (or transportation in general), I highly recommend the Transport Museum in the Covent Garden neighborhood if you have time!
And that wraps up my Top 10 list of things to do in London! I have a few other tips that I’ll elaborate on in a second post, as well as an upcoming post on day trips from London. As always, please let me know if you have any questions or feedback! I shall leave you with this…
I like the spirit of this great London which I feel around me. Who but a coward would pass his whole life in hamlets; and for ever abandon his faculties to the eating rust of obscurity?
~ Charlotte Brontë
I’ve just spent three full days in Barcelona, Spain, and absolutely loved it. Vibrant, sunny, relaxed, happy, and delicious. Out of all I did, these were my five favorites:
1. La Sagrada Familia
This is the most beautiful church I’ve ever seen. Brits often call it “the cathedral” when talking about places to see in Barcelona, which is a bit confusing since there is an actual, quite pretty Barcelona Cathedral (only one cathedral per city allowed, and it’s older), and La Sagrada Familia (The Sacred Family) is officially a basilica – so just keep that in mind, I had a bit of confusion when talking about where I went. :-)
The genius madman architect Gaudi designed it, and I spent hours inside it wandering around with an audio guide. I just couldn’t get over the colorful stained glass windows and the vast simplicity of the amazing space.
There is a line perpetually wrapped halfway around the church for tickets, so to avoid it I highly recommend buying your tickets online ahead of time. You pick a time slot, and you can buy a live guided tour (more limited timeslots), a good audio guide (what I did, gives you plenty of time to see it on your own), and/or ride to the top of one of the bell towers (which I’m sure is lovely, but I didn’t do that). You don’t even have to print the tickets out – I bought mine the night before I went and showed the ticket from the email on my phone to get in.
On a recommendation from a fellow Barcelona traveler, I booked a tapas tour through Urban Adventures with a local Spanish guide, and I’m glad I did. A couple other people who were supposed to be on the tour cancelled, so I ended up getting the guide all to myself, and she was fantastic. When I told her I was vegetarian, she took the challenge and showed me several places with fantastic veg-friendly tapas. The first place pretty much blew my mind – crispy fried eggplant with a honey glazing, and well-crafted vermouth, a common Spanish drink before dinner. I did not expect these things to be so delicious. Then came several more rounds: crusty bread with Manchego cheese, sauteed mushrooms, chocolate mousse, Tempranillo wine (one of my favorites). My guide and I discussed the differences between American and Spanish culture, and she showed me some interesting landmarks along the way. All the restaurants were non-touristy, locally-popular spots. I went home stuffed, content, and culturally enlightened.
3. Magic Fountain
This amazing fountain puts on a glowing, dancing, colorful, musical show that goes from 9-11:30 pm Thursdays to Sundays in the summer, a bit earlier in the winter – check out the schedule for more details on dates/times. I got there at 9pm on a Sunday, the last thing I did before leaving, and I sat there and watched it for an hour, thoroughly fascinated. A highly recommended free show!
4. Guell Park (Parc Guell)
This cute park is another one of Gaudi’s masterpieces. The Gaudi part of the park, a colorful, quirky Hansel and Gretel-like village, has an entrance fee during the day, but if you wait around until about 8:30 pm, they close down the ticket-taking entrances, you can legally walk in for free, and the park is still open until 9 (summer hours – check out the hours for when you are visiting on the park’s website). When I did this, the sun was setting, and it was gorgeous.
The rest of the park is free, and there is a high-up area which has beautiful views of the city, if you want to check those out while waiting for your free entrance.
5. Mount Tibidabo
This is the mountain right next to Barcelona that you can see from many spots in the city, and if you love high views as I do, this is the place to go. Getting up Mount Tibidabo is a bit of a trek, but you can basically take the L7 on the Metro to Avenue Tibidabo (the last stop) and then follow the group of obvious tourists to the tram stop across the street. You’ll take this up to the Funicular at the bottom of the mountain, and this final cable car will take you to the top. There is a theme park at the top of the mountain, which is fun, but I went for the gorgeous views. For the most breathtaking view, go into the basilica and take the two-euro lift to the top!
These five things would make for a lovely couple of days, but if you have more time I would also highly recommend taking a tour of some sort through Barcelona to see more of it . Runner Bean Tours has a few excellent free walking tours, and my favorite was the tour of the Old City/Gothic Quarter, a beautiful area of the city with a lot of history. Free walking tours tend to be great because you pay whatever you think it was worth at the end – they have to be good to keep working! These are so popular that I recommend reserving a spot online ahead of time. You could also do a hop on/hop off bus tour or a bike tour – whatever your preferred type of tour, Barcelona is lovely however you see it!
The image above may look like an incomplete coloring book page – and I seriously considered printing it out and coloring it, but I don’t have my markers with me. But it’s actually a map of all the places I’ve eaten food from, some in those countries themselves.
There may be some more I’ve eaten in the past, but I only filled in the countries for which I specifically remember eating one or more of their dishes. I love lists and maps, and this is like a list in the form of the map – what could be better?! It also gives me a chance to refresh my world geography skills!
I’d like to get some more of these colored in before leaving the multi-cultural, food-happy city of London. I know I especially have a lot of South American and African foods to try. Which ones should be at the top of my list?
Big cities didn’t used to appeal to me, with all the crowding and pollution and noise and less friendly people, until I realized that they have a lot of amazing things to see all packed into a smaller area that usually has good public transportation. I love nature and parks as well, so I’ve found that staying in a city but taking day trips to places nearby is a fantastic way to get a mix of both in any given part of a country.
I was looking through some of my old lists on listgeeks.com and I realized that I’ve now been to a lot of the places I wanted to go just two years ago. Here’s my list for Cities I Want to See from July of 2011:
- Athens (again)
- Rio de Janeiro
I’ve been to five of them in the last two years. But I’ve added so many more to that list! Here’s my new one:
- Athens (again)
- Rio de Janeiro
- New Orleans
- Hong Kong
We’ll see how many of those I can spend some time in within another two years. ;)
I love solo travel. The sheer freedom of being able to do whatever you want is great, because rarely will one find a travel partner who wants to go to all the exact same places you want to check out, even within the same city. Of course, there are downsides too – it can be nice to have some of the burden of logistics shared when you travel with another organized person, and also being able to share the experience with someone. But for an introvert like me, I like being able to really experience a place solitarily. And now, with social media, I can instantaneously share the beautiful vistas and unusual situations with my friends and family and not really feel alone anyway. The biggest drawback? The awkwardness of taking selfies and/or asking strangers to take my picture. But I’m working on getting that down.
I’ve been going on extended group trips since about middle school and never got homesick – an early indication of a future love of travel. I rode a plane on my own for the first time when I was 20 – a relatively short flight to Los Angeles on the way to meet my group for New Zealand, but I think that trip helped me get more familiar with airports and the process of flying. With a decent amount of travel experience under my belt, it seemed only natural to me to go on a trip alone. So in February of last year, during a seemingly random burst of wanderlust, one day I booked a round-trip March flight to London for a week.
Why not? I’d wanted to visit England for years and years, I’d saved up money to travel, and I knew no one would want to go with me. I had full control over what I wanted to do and when I wanted to do it. I didn’t even ask anyone if they wanted to join or request the time off work before I booked the flight. This was happening, and nothing was getting in my way.
So I was surprised when I talked about my trip and people asked me who I was going with. Really, you’re going alone?! Wow, how brave. (And I could tell by the looks on some faces that they were thinking, How strange.) This gave me some doubt about how well the trip would go or if it would end up horribly, but really I wasn’t too worried. It was an English speaking country and I had friends over there to meet up with, so perfect for traveling alone. And it was a wonderful trip! I fell in love with London and had a fantastic time in my friends’ English towns and Cardiff. There were of course some kinks, but I really didn’t mind being by myself.
Later last year, I took an even more spontaneous trip to New York City to meet Julie Andrews and experience the city for a few days, since I’d never been there before. That trip was fantastic too! Now people who know me seem less surprised/worried about my traveling alone, because clearly I can pull it off. But I’ve often wondered, why is this such a strange phenomenon to them? Plenty of people travel alone.
Upon exploration of various articles and blogs on the internets, it’s now my theory that it’s because I’m female, and also probably because I’m introverted and it just surprises people that I’d want to be so adventurous. Would you be surprised to find out that an outgoing guy went on a trip to London on his own? Is that because guys can obviously take care of themselves?
If you’ve ever wanted to go on a trip but couldn’t get anyone else to go with you, here’s my advice: just go. Don’t wait around, because usually things don’t just happen on their own, contrary to popular belief. Don’t let your significant other hold you back if they don’t want to go. Find a way to make it happen. Do your research, go somewhere safe, and in all likelihood you’ll be fine and have a great time!
I’m sure you’ve had the experience of going somewhere and feeling the differences between yourself and the natives more keenly, realizing you’re more different than you previously thought. Whether it’s language, race, religion, politics, clothes, whatever. There are even differences within the US, from city to city, state to state. Well, that’s how I feel when I go to the UK, and I haven’t even spent that much time there yet. As many people do, I’ve spent a lot of my growing-up years trying to fit in, whether consciously or not, sometimes with more success than others. Wondering if I’d fit in better somewhere else.
I’ve often said I feel like I belong in Europe, or Canada, or somewhere else liberal, but that’s only while I’m in Indiana that I think that. I’m not the patriotic type. I said the pledge of allegiance in school and I watch parades and fireworks on Independence Day like anyone else, but I’m not of the belief that the USA is better than all other countries. Everywhere has it’s pros and cons. Everywhere has good and bad people. No one’s religion is “more right” than anyone else’s. And that is one big thing that makes me stick out around here. I don’t have the usual “God Bless America” license plate, because I think God should bless Canada and Morocco and Ecuador too.
In London, I feel much more like an American. Aside from the language differences I’ve been writing about, there are definite cultural differences. Despite its cultural inclusiveness, most of the people I came into contact with were British, and they have a certain way of doing things.
These are the main things I think would separate me from fitting in with the Brits.
1. I’m more casual
I’d wear jeans and a t-shirt or hoodie every day if it were left up to me. But in Britain, when you go to work, the guys wear suits, and the ladies wear jackets, skirts, and heels. You won’t see the stereotypical big, weird hats like Kate and the Queen wear, but dress is just more formal.
My company’s office in Indiana is mostly casual when we’re not meeting clients, but in the UK it’s “smart” (I’ve taken this to mean business casual or slightly more formal) every day except Friday, and no one ever seems to wear khakis. I figure I can get away with walking around the city in flats instead of heels and rarely wearing a skirt because I’m American. No one has berated me yet.
2. I’m less polite
This actually goes along with the formality theme. I often say “please”, “thank you”, and “excuse me,” and even the occasional “bless you,” but beyond that it’s not natural for me to be extra polite. I swear I don’t try to be rude, but I’m pretty sure I come off that way sometimes in the UK.
In our UK office, whenever someone leaves to get a drink from the “tea point”, they will ask if anyone else would like something to drink while they are there. Invariably, someone always wants coffee or some milk for their tea. But I’d rather get up myself and get my own drinks, so I’d rarely offer or ask. I like the break anyway. It just made me feel rude. But really, sometimes having manners like that just seems like a waste of time to me. Yep, there’s my Americanness again…
3. It’s dangerous for me to cross the road.
Ever since I started crossing roads, I was taught to look left, right, then left again before crossing the road. Always look in the direction a car could be coming from first. Right? Well, my brain is not so great at suddenly changing this direction. I am not even going to attempt to drive there.
They write “look right” on every street for anyone who isn’t from one of the handful of countries with their strange road layout, but it doesn’t help me much. After several attempts at crossing the road and nearly getting hit, I decided I should just stick to the crosswalks and wait until the little man turns green. Much safer that way.
4. My accent
I almost didn’t include this one because it’s so obvious, but it’s true. I’ve heard a lot of people from Indiana say they “don’t have an accent”, but everyone has an accent! It’s just that most of Indiana has what I would call a standard Midwestern American accent (officially called a North Midland dialect), which is very similar to what most people in movies and on the news have, so it’s “normal” to us. But in the UK, I most certainly have an accent and I’m immediately pegged as an American. Annoying, but hey, what can you do – I really don’t want to go so far as to try to speak in a British accent on a regular basis. While it might be fun, it seems almost offensive.
Here’s an interesting article about different terms for the same things throughout the US. Did you know that in part of Wisconsin they call a drinking/water fountain a “bubbler”? I want to start calling it that.
So, I may never be just like the natives wherever I live, but I’m okay with that. It just makes other people more interesting.
A lot of things on Facebook annoy me. But one of my biggest pet peeves is when people say, “I want to be a kid again. This growing up and paying bills thing isn’t very fun.” For some reason it’s a very common complaint on Facebook.
This is one of those phrases, commonly uttered by young adults right around my age (mid-twenties) that I feel like people are not thinking all the way through. I get that paying bills and having to have responsibilities is not fun. But this is what you get for the major trade-offs of adulthood. And if your childhood was really that much better than your life now, then I do feel sorry for you, because that just sucks and it’s all downhill from here. But I think most people are just forgetting what it was like to be a child.
My childhood really wasn’t bad; my mom was loving, fed me, and bought me all the books I ever wanted. And kids can be a joy because they look at the world in a whole different way. But I just really prefer being an adult. Everything has positives and negatives (even ice cream – I know, shocking, but it’s true) so let’s review them.
Pros of Childhood
- No bills
- No job
- More imagination and creativity
- Lots of play time
- More open-mindedness
Cons of Childhood
- No control over one’s own life
- Only had money if given by guardians
- Only had food provided by guardians
- Parental rules and punishments
- Inability to envision the big picture past the next 5 minutes
- Inability to choose the people you spend time with
- Inability to go anywhere an adult doesn’t take you
By all means, if you’d like to dream of going back to the days of, “Go to your room,” “No, you can’t go to your friend’s house tonight,” and “Because I said so,” go for it. Just weigh the pros and cons before saying that phrase again.
Don’t forget, you can be an adult and still be a kid at heart.
My story is part luck and part really really wanting something. One of my life goals was to live overseas (Europe, NZ, or Australia preferably, or maybe Canada) but I wasn’t sure how I would get there.
To all those who think it’s impossible to move to a different country or overseas, or even to a different state: it’s really possible if it’s something you want. You don’t have to make a ton of money; you just have to be willing to leave everything and everyone you know. Of course, it’s much more difficult if you have a family, so doing it while you’re young is optimal. But it’s still possible even with a family! The hardest parts of the process are getting the money and the visa. Money is easier than you may think for most people – if you have a decent full-time job, prioritize your budget around saving up money for a couple years.
So the trickiest part is the visa. If you are from the European Union, you have an advantage because you can move to any other country within it without a visa. But for an American who wants to move overseas, most other desirable countries have very strict immigration laws. More than I realized; basically you have to be married to a citizen of their country, or already have a job there. And how does one get a job from thousands of miles and multiple time zones away? Yeah, not easily.
Step 0: Save.
I’ve been saving money ever since I graduated and got this job for travel purposes and so I could move. I’ve thought about a trip around the world, but generally that would require quitting my job (and saving even more money) and that has some decent risks in it. I’ve thought about going on a work-holiday visa to Australia for a year. When you save money, the possibilities are much less limited.
I wasn’t sure quite what I was saving for, but I just put aside a bit of money each month – the key is to make a separate savings account and have an auto-transfer set up. $100/month over the course of a year, and you’ll have saved $1200! You don’t have to make a ton of money, but if you do this over the course of a few years, it will add up, and you can make your big move. Of course, you can save for a wedding, or a kid, or whatever your heart desires; it’s all about priorities! My priority is to experience new places.
Step 1: Work for a company hiring people in an overseas office.
The announcement came at work: “We are opening a new UK office and hiring three new people to start it up.”
Cool. But there’s no way they’d let me go – they rarely send me anywhere outside the office, and that would be a huge deal to send me that they wouldn’t want to deal with. Forget it, Bethany.
Two months pass. I get increasingly restless and am seriously thinking about moving to Portland, Oregon, an ideal living city in my mind since college. But I like my job too much.
Step 2: Don’t be a wimp. Apply for a position in said overseas office.
I hear they are still looking for people for the new office. One day, I get the sudden urge to try for it, but it still seems like a crazy, futile idea. So I put out my feelers by asking my immediate manager what she thinks, because she’s a good one for crazy ideas who won’t judge me too much. And she says, “Yes, I think you should go for it! That would be so exciting!” and gives me some tips on how to go about it.
So I go to the director of my department with my proposal.
I would be the best person because I’m already familiar with our software and processes, so I wouldn’t need to be trained. I can go for one year or two or indefinitely, whatever works best. I’ll take either of the two positions I’m most qualified for, whoever you need. I think I would be really great for this!
She seems confused because it seems like this came out of nowhere and isn’t completely sure I’m serious.
Step 3: Be flexible but serious about it, and plan.
I spent hours and hours looking into what it takes to move overseas. I thought about how much it might cost. Whether I could bring my cat, and if so what that would entail. How all aspects of my life would be turned upside down. I’d have to change phone companies, probably get a flatmate, and have a significantly higher cost of living. Leave everyone.
But there was never a doubt that this is what needed to happen. This is what I want to do, what I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I had to reassure the higher-ups several times that I was committed and would not change my mind. This was not a random idea. I wouldn’t beg to come home after a few months. Once they were convinced, the plans commenced.
My company is being super helpful with the visa process and making sure I’ll be happy, but I’m going to have to move to a different role than the one I have now. My living situation won’t be quite so comfortable. I will be relatively poor. I figured out that I can’t afford to move my beloved cat back and forth. I STILL don’t know when I’m leaving, so I have to keep my summer plans open.
Yep, I really want this!
Step 4: Wait.
It takes a long time to get a visa. This process started back in March, and I still haven’t gotten mine. We’re just guessing that I’ll be moving in July, but it’s hard to tell. Originally I was going to go for two years, but that one would’ve been more complicated and taken even longer, so it switched to one year.
Stay tuned for part 2 once I move, starting with Step 5: Move!
One of the most frequent questions people ask when they find out I’m moving to England is, “Won’t you miss ____?” The answer is probably yes. I actually enjoy my life here in Indiana and I’m happy; I just like going new places and experiencing new things. So of course I will miss the people and places I love here: my friends, coworkers, family, apartment, cat, etc. But every choice you make comes with a trade-off – so for everything I miss, something new and interesting will take its place, and I will probably make new friends and favorite places during my year in London. So it’s worth it.
There’s the obvious major stuff, and there is the little stuff that one doesn’t normally think about. I’m noticing things as moving time gets closer, and I thought I’d put in list form. What I’m giving and getting. It may be therapeutic.
I will miss bike rides. The feel of the wind through my hair and view of beautiful, calm suburban paths and parks as I ride down the long, flat bike trail near where I live.
but I’ll enjoy efficient public transportation to take you anywhere. This comes in especially handy after a night at the pubs.
I will miss having two monitors and my own big cubicle at the office.
but I’ll enjoy an extra bank holiday, plus more if any royalty happens to get married.
I will miss Pandora. Why must my favorite music streaming service be blocked in the UK?
But I’ll enjoy the BBC and other channels you automatically get if you have a TV. In addition to Doctor Who, who doesn’t like a good British reality show about teenagers learning to drive on the “wrong” side of the road in the midst of partying?
I will miss asking for water and just getting water, not – “Still or sparkling? Tap or bottled? Ice or no ice?” as though preferences are as individual as tea.
But I’ll enjoy Pret a Manger, a fantastic sandwich/wrap place. I will have to stop myself from eating there every day.
I will miss NPR. I listen to it constantly when I’m in the car; I especially love the shows Radiolab, This American Life, Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and A Way with Words. I’ll try to listen to podcasts in the UK, but it won’t be the same.
But I’ll enjoy the delicious English baked goods like crumpets, biscuits (cookies), and scones.
As you can see, I’ll miss the States, but I think I’ll be okay!