Leaving London Postcards

Arriving at Heathrow this time on the Piccadilly line from our West London home was different. It was the last time I would make that journey. There was no return plane ticket. Only memories and an expiring visa in my passport marking the end of my welcome. The day had come.

It was time to go home.

Standing under the departure boards with my packed bags, the past three and a half years felt like they had gone by in the blink of an eye. How could my initial “one to two years” response to family and friends who asked how long I would be gone for have doubled so quickly?

Quite simply, London does that.

Time is distorted with its fast pace and endless offerings. A month often feels like a week, six months, two. It gets under your skin. Sometimes for the wrong reasons, but mostly for all the pockets of magic it does offer.

It was an instant love affair that started two weeks before the 2012 Olympics and after three months of countless laughs and adventures through South East Asia. A flat was quickly secured and not long after a job with my dream company; right in the heart of all the action. Oxford Circus.

Bank holidays and Christmas closure became opportunities for travel and maximising annual leave. There was always somewhere new to see. I ventured to destinations like Egypt, Croatia, Montenegro, Prague, Portugal, Greece, and one of my favourite trips, a cruise from Southampton on the Queen Mary 2 to spend Christmas in New York. If there was a chance to explore, I took it. It became a joke with colleagues about how much travel I seemed to do and how I must surely have twice the company holiday allowance.

In such a transient city – and for most antipodeans a ‘not forever’ city – most of the contacts I knew on arrival moved on within a few months, so new friendships were constantly established as people came and went.

Family and friends visiting was always a cherished time to look forward to, as well as being the perfect excuse to tick off the popular (usually avoided) tourist spots. Actually, who am I kidding? All of London is busy and what is a tourist attraction for some is part of someone else’s daily commute. It’s unavoidable. I think the beautiful and extraordinary surroundings are often taken for granted by locals rushing about their day. Even after three years, I still had to pinch myself walking to Piccadilly Circus after work. Closing my eyes now, I can still feel the mixture of excitement and awe as I took everything in.

In between all the travel (and work), spare time was filled with brunch dates, weekend markets, theatre, music gigs, strolling along South Bank, picnics in Hampstead Heath, pop-ups, shopping, deer spotting in Richmond Park, blogging events, afternoon teas in hotels older than New Zealand, walks along the Thames and tube missions to Camden, Greenwich, Shoreditch and Brixton.

Weekdays quickly became weekends – with so much to see and do, there was no reason to leave all the exploring and catch ups to only Saturday and Sunday. Every night of the week there is anything and everything to do. All part of what I miss.

Fast forward to two days before leaving, I was sitting on my bedroom floor – tired, frazzled and absent minded from everything to remember. Surrounded by belongings strewn everywhere, the previous few weeks caught up and I sobbed while feeling ALL the emotions as they came pouring out.

Moving countries takes its toll. Packing up your worldly possessions takes twice as long as you think, it’s stressful and a roller coaster of highs and lows finishing work and saying goodbye to cherished colleagues and friends. Those same people, who when you are living on the opposite side of the world also become your family.

There really is no other place quite like London. Others who have experienced the vibrant, chaotic, busy, beautiful and intoxicating city will know the all too familiar feelings. Moments of dizzying love, excitement, overwhelm and stress – sometimes all at once.

Every day I felt inspired by my surroundings. I explored and it was a time I learnt more about myself. With the anonymity that living in any large city gives, comes also a sense of freedom of being able to be yourself away from preconception and expectation.

Now I sit here, that other world feeling a distant memory away with an ache, a desire and a heartfelt longing to be part of that rush again. There are feelings of sadness for the past I know can no longer be re-created and mixed feelings of being far from where I was, but knowing I’m perhaps right where I need to be.

Who knew the hardest thing about London would be leaving it.

Home of course continued – friends got married, careers progressed, families were started and expanded and I find myself now trying to figure out where I fit in the dynamics of this familiar, yet very different environment.

New chapters are always an exciting time to start fresh. To re-set, re-evaluate and focus with the new knowledge learnt along the way. So, right now, that’s exactly what I’m doing. Looking forward.

But, London, I just wanted you to know you will always have a special place in my heart.

Loving & leaving London,

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  • Ow this is so sad! It’s touching a nerve as so many of our friends are starting to move back to New Zealand 🙁 I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed London and Europe and the whole time! I’ll need your tips on NZ and Aus later this year!!

  • Alexandra

    It’s so wonderful to read about all of your experiences and thoughts on leaving London. As an American that’s going to move to London it’s so encouraging to read about the wonderful journey that people have when moving abroad. Scary but full of so many opportunities… nothing can compare. Thank you!

    • Alexandra, I am SO excited for you and that your London journey is just about to start. The travel blogging community are wonderful and I met many fantastic friends. Head along to some of the Traverse and Travel Massive events. When do you arrive? All the best. Any questions, get in contact. Happy to help! x

      • Ahh thanks! I have some time 😐 Going to visit in Sept/Oct but won’t move until the beginning of 2017. Enough time save a little more, hopefully get dual citizenship, and have some sort of idea of what I’m going to do! Will definitely reach out with any questions 🙂

  • Clare Thomson

    A lovely ode to London. Hope you enjoy the next chapter in your life just as much. #travellinkup

  • Such a wonderful post, and something I’m worried about when our time in Dublin comes to an end. I’d love to extend this adventure of ours and do a stint in London for all the reasons you write about. I’m not sure there’s a city out there that can compare.

    • Thank you so much. It’s always emotional leaving somewhere and leaving all the comforts you have come to love. Definitely give London a go after Dublin! Keep me posted 🙂

  • Time does work differently in London, doesn’t it? I still can’t believe how long I’ve been here!

    • I always said it felt like time went in fast forward while I lived in London Frankie! Everything is fast paced. Part of the beautiful chaos 🙂 How long have you been there?

  • This is a lovely post Nicole. I can only imagine how hard it must have been for you leaving when I know how much you love London. But London will always be here so you’ll just have to come visit more often 🙂

    • Thank you lovely! SO hard leaving somewhere you love so much. Miss all my travel gals too. Definitely would love to come back for a visit x

  • I felt the exact same way when I returned. The hardest part of London is leaving it for sure.

    • I think a lot of people go through these feelings leaving London. It’s a special place. How long ago did you leave Erin?

      • I left September 2014. Doesn’t feel that long ago.

  • Kasha Dubaniewicz

    Such a beautiful post, Nicole – it’s made me feel teary! I know how you feel, and you’ve been such an important part of my own London experience. I can’t wait to see you later this year, lovely friend xxx

    • Thank you so much Kasha. Miss my lovely girls. You made my London experience too. SO looking forward to seeing you in NZ! xxx

  • Awwww this is so emotional, I can’t imagine what its like to leave London, I’m dreading the day. There are so many great things to look forward to once your home and I look forward to see what you r next adventure is.

    • Thank you so much Sara. It is such a mixture! Home is different, but you are right. There are so many positives and things to look forward to as well. There will certainly be a lot more travel adventures this side of the world x

  • Wahhhhhh. Beautiful post Nicole – can feel ALL the emotions reading it and most of all, your love for London. You are very missed in the city but I can’t wait to see all of your exciting adventures around home 🙂

    • Thank you Jessi. Definitely ALL the emotions! I miss all my lovely friends from London too, but am looking forward to some adventures closer to home too. Will live through your posts for my Europe fix x

  • great post! #travel linkup

  • London misses you too but I can’t wait to here all about the new adventures in your life.

  • Awww it’s how I feel too, exactly where do I fit in back here? I’m told give it a chance it can take 6-12mths. I’ll have to pop down for a visit!

    • You should definitely come for a visit Ngaire. How long have you been back for now? It’s funny how transitioning back home is stranger than settling in to London.

      • Been back just over 6 mth now! Time flies it’s scary! How long have you been back? Are you all sorted in a happy job and stuff?

  • I’m excited about your new chapter & adventures!

    • Thank you Emma! It certainly is a new chapter and there will be a lot more New Zealand & Australian travel. Will enjoy reading all of my UK friend’s posts for the European adventures x