A city of 8 million – a country of 4 million. A global hub – a few islands tucked away at the bottom of the world. A centre of culture, sport, food and creativity – a country full of the same. A city of 2000 years of fascinating history – a country that’s home to many of my family and friends. How did I choose, and why now?
After the early days of adjustment, when London seemed bewildering, cold, and uncaring, I’ve always known it would be difficult to decide when to leave the city. I quickly became passionate about London’s wealth of history, beautiful parks, abundance of culture and perfect location for exploring the UK and Europe. With each anniversary of my move (one, two, three, and four) my relationship with the city developed – from the giddy early years full of excitement and discovery, to the later years of a polished routine, a job I love and yes, still plenty more discovery.
But by the time of my fifth anniversary, I knew that it was time to leave the city I love so much – and return to the country that I love so much, that will always be my home. So why now?
The biggest call home is my family and friends. I’ve made it back to NZ just three times in five years – it’s such a long way to go, and hard to do for less than a couple of weeks. For those who can’t quite believe it – yes, it really is at least 24 hours of flying, plus all the associated travel time! While modern technology is an incredible thing, Skypes and WhatsApp messages are not a substitute for a proper hug or an hours-long discussion about everything under the sun.
Of course I’ve made friends in London – amazing friends whom I’ll miss so much. But when I think of being able to hang out with my parents and brother (hopefully it won’t be long before my sister is back too!), stage epic canasta battles with my gram, meet all of the gorgeous babies my friends are now wowing me with, and pick up those wonderful friendships again, it’s really not a hard decision at all. And for those who are wondering, yes, Joe is making the move back too!
Allow me a moment to talk politics – or skip to the next section if it’s really not your thing. It’s not something that I discuss on the blog, but it’s a big part of my life outside it. I’ve joked that Brexit means Jexit… but it’s only half a joke. It makes me incredibly sad to see Britain turning away from Europe, and huge healthcare and benefit cuts, plus an increasingly hostile attitude to the less-well-off, contributes to that. I feel that in the five years I’ve lived here much of the narrative played out in the media has become more narrow-minded, less optimistic and less forward-looking, although we are somewhat protected from this in London.
Whether this is the case or not – and I certainly hope it’s not – it does feel like a significant part of my decision. This is especially so when contrasted with the situation in New Zealand – a young, female, inspirational Prime Minister, backed by a party whom I truly believe will make a huge contribution to the country through their plans for the future.
When I think about the change in lifestyle, the lines are the most blurred. I know from experience and friends who’ve made the move that New Zealand will feel quieter. I remember how when a big music artist comes, almost everyone goes, partly just because it’s unusual to see them in NZ. There will be no last minute trips to a new European city – or if there are, it certainly won’t be at budget airline rates!
But I will be able to wake up and go for a surf, walk along the beach, or wander in the bush – and even if I live right in the middle of town, none of those things will be more than half an hour away. London life can be frenetic – with so much to see and do, I truly do experience FOMO (fear of missing out) in a big way! I’m now looking forward to giving myself space to chill. Plus, it’s not like nothing goes on in NZ – we’re already making plans for music festivals, summer holidays and food & wine celebrations! I know that the country, and Auckland in particular, have changed a lot in five years and I’m sure it will impress me.
I’ll miss London hugely, and the many friends that I’ve made here. I’ll miss making the spur-of-the-moment decision to visit a hyped new restaurant from a famous street-food trader, run along the Thames or through Hyde Park, or to “nip” over to Europe. But I won’t miss grey days, packed Tubes, “hard Brexit” debates and being 24 hours from many of those I care about the most.
I know living back in New Zealand will be an adjustment, and probably not an easy one to start with – I’ve seen enough of my friends make the journey back to know that is likely to be the case. But I’ll hopefully be more than able to console myself with a hug with my family, a walk along the beach, or a chat with the many friends who’ve known me forever. I’m excited to see what NZ has in store for me – and I hope you’ll stick with me while I explore my home with fresh eyes! For now, there’s plenty more Europe posts in store while I catch up on my adventures in this hemisphere – and I know I’ll be back again to visit before too long.
Have you become a repat, as Sarah so neatly put it? What are your tips?