The desire to experience new places and cultures is a primary component of my value system. Hundreds and hundreds of days of travel in the last decade helped me quench my thirst for a while, but now that we’ve turned the corner into a new decade it’s time to double down on my passion and immerse myself in a new culture. I’ve been talking about living abroad for years – just ask my mom – and I’m finally pulling the trigger and moving across the pond.
Since announcing last month that I am moving to London in 2020, the biggest question that I have gotten from friends, followers, and family is “why“. It’s a question that has many answers. And, at the risk of getting more personal than I ever have on my blog, I’m going to tell you every last reason. Let’s dive right in, shall we?
After 11 years, I have outgrown Boston.
I never thought I would be in Boston for 11 years. Never. To be fair, my first five years, I spent attending Northeastern University (it’s a five year program – I didn’t do a “super senior” year for those wondering). However, upon graduation, I had every intention of getting out of the city within the year. Here’s the thing, we have plans for our life, and then life has plans for us. Two weeks before I graduated, I was at the finish line at the Boston Marathon bombing. After some radical introspection, a surgery, and throwing myself into work, I decided to keep my apartment in Boston, but to travel around Asia for the final three months of 2013. I needed an opportunity for some self-discovery, and that three months of solo travel would certainly do the trick. I fell in love with marketing, started this blog, and picked up my first DSLR camera on that trip. 2013 was a hell of a year!
Once I returned to Boston in 2014, I started freelancing, moved into a bigger apartment, began therapy to work on my PTSD from the bombing, and gave myself a lot of excuses not to move. After a quick stint at a small start up, I realized I was miserable working for someone else and went out on my own full time. Soon, freelancing turned into building a business, then bringing on a business partner, and falling in love. More excuses not to move.
I kept growing, but the city stayed the same size. My relationship with Boston became unbalanced. That started manifesting itself in important aspects of my life. I left the partnership in the business I founded, I left an unhealthy relationship, and started to plant seeds in other parts of the world. Eventually, it dawned on me: “I don’t want to be here anymore.” I love Boston, and it will always hold a special place in my heart, but it’s like that college boyfriend that you just know isn’t the fit for you long-term.
I’m newly single.
Not sure if 7 months qualifies as “newly” anymore, but with how messy and drawn out the breakup was, it doesn’t feel so long ago. In retrospect, I should have left that relationship a lot sooner, but hindsight is 20/20. I had talked about moving abroad with my past partner, and it was a goal of his as well, but like a lot of things in that relationship, it never materialized.
To be fair, if I was in a loving, healthy relationship, I think it would generally be a lot harder to move still. I have an easy way into the UK through an ancestry visa, and whoever I’m in a relationship with wouldn’t be able to get a free ride over there with me (unless we were married). So, not only working on my own visa, but then trying to find your partner work, or another viable means to live in the country is stressful, and a huge barrier.
Also, after living in Boston for 11 years, the pickings for a significant other are slim. And, the world is small. Someone always knows someone. It’s tiresome. Your girl is ready for a new dating pool. And, after being in London once a month for the last few months, my spidey senses tell me I will have a lot of fun meeting new people.
I am back to being a sole proprietor.
One of the biggest catalysts to making the jump across the pond was all about business. In a previous company where I was a partner, making decisions was a team effort. Eventually, we didn’t see eye-to-eye on enough of the “big stuff” that the partnership was no longer viable. While it was painful to leave something that I had laid a foundation for behind, I knew it was necessary to be able to design a life that was right for me. And if that meant handing someone the keys to the kingdom, so be it. I had a book of business that I had nurtured over the years, so I wasn’t starting completely from scratch, and those clients were excited for this next chapter in my career.
Prior to leaving my other company, I was diagnosed with a chronic condition that left me exhausted, required many many medical procedures, and even limited my ability to travel for a time. Managing my illness, even to this day, helped remind me of the things that were important to me in being a business owner, and now I have the freedom to make decisions that map to that. Some of the elements that were necessary in a new company were the ability to run it and thrive while largely remote, a flexible schedule (although I work 14 hours a day anyway), and the ability to be able to expand to other markets. Which brings me to my next point…
Expanding my business to the UK is easier if I’m there.
I’ve been expanding my work into the London market, and I’m now at a point where establishing a new company in the country is the best fiscal decision if I want it to be successful. Doing that requires either a heavy financial investment or me applying for my ancestry visa and moving. The latter is the option that presents the least amount of friction, as I can still own and run a business in the United States, while doing the same in the UK.
The follow up question to that is, “How do you plan to run your US business from the UK?” Fortunately, the large majority of my work can be taken care of remotely, and for the parts that can’t, I plan on flying back to Boston/NYC every 4-6 weeks to oversee photo shoots, take meetings, and any other in-person requirements. There are a lot of nuances of running your business remotely, but I feel confident my team and I are built for it. And, there is no growing without being a little (or a lot) uncomfortable.
I have family in the UK.
Without diving too deep into my family history, it is important you know that my grandmother on my father’s side was born in England (that’s how I qualify for an ancestry visa). I have a difficult relationship with my dad and his side of the family, and a lot of my family members in the UK haven’t talked to me for over a decade. My hope is that by living in London, I will have an opportunity to rekindle those relationships with family members that I have grown apart from, or never really gotten to know to begin with.
Friends are ready to welcome me with open arms in London.
Moving abroad to a new place without a support system or a network can make the transition incredibly difficult. Making friends as an adult is fucking tough, and the British aren’t exactly known for being the most welcoming to newcomers, especially Americans. Yes, I am overgeneralizing, but it’s certainly something I took into consideration. When I started to formulate a plan to make a move to London, I made a conscious effort to spend more time in the city, forge new friendships, and nurture existing ones – mostly with fellow expats. Now that the cat is out of the bag, and I’m officially packing up, my friends have offered every opportunity and accommodation to make my transition a smooth one.
Having these folks share in my excitement for my next chapter, provide guidance on the minutiae of the move, and even offer their homes while I settle in is more than I could ask for. I’ve never felt so encouraged to make such a drastic change in my life, and to them, I am very grateful.
Cost of living is comparable to Boston.
London is expensive, but so is Boston. When I compared my budget here in the States with what I anticipate to spend in London, it is actually a bit cheaper. How does that happen? Well… I do anticipate paying about the same for my rent in London, as I plan on living alone in a proper one-bedroom (potentially two-bed if I find the right spot). Once I’m over there, I will not be paying $700/month for my healthcare (one of the prices of owning a company in the US that isn’t often talked about), my cell phone bill is going to be about a fifth of what I spend in the US, and once all is said and done with taxes, I actually end up paying about the same in the UK. Sure, I wonder if Brexit will have any implications on this, but I’m not letting the political landscape sway my decision making. I mean, have you seen how much political bullshit we deal with here in the US?! Don’t throw stones people…
London has a lot more going on.
With 158 neighborhoods, there is no shortage of things to do in The Big Smoke. In Boston, I find myself gravitating toward the same restaurants, the same museums, the same weekend getaways… I’m bored. London, on the contrary, is absolutely massive, and if you want to do something new every day for a year, you can. While that might overwhelm some people, that is the type of shit that gets me out of bed in the morning. The pure amount of options in the city help to feed my ambition, curiosity, and creativity; all things that are incredibly important to me.
It’s closer to places that I’d like to travel in the next 5 years.
My ancestry visa, once approved, will last 5 years. That means 5 years of being 6 hours closer to a lot of places I have on my travel bucket list than when I am living in Boston, including: Madagascar, Oman, Malawi, Switzerland, the UAE, Greece, Sweden… the list goes on. Some of these trips I can now do in 3-4 days, instead of having to factor in 2 additional days for flying. It opens up a new chapter in travel that I have been yearning for.
The only drawback is that my visa will limit the amount of time spent out of the country every year, meaning I will be walking a fine line of flying back and forth between the US for work and to see family, and traveling for fun. As I find my footing, longer trips may be on hold, but the options for short trips are equally appealing. Being so close to a weekend in Paris, skiing in Austria, or grabbing a beer at Delerium in Brussels is enough to tide me over. And, if there are times where leaving the UK isn’t advantageous, there is still plenty to see and do outside of London, like a weekend away in the Cotswalds or the Lakes District, a trip to Edinburgh, or taking in marvels like the White Cliffs of Dover.
Last, but not least: If not now, when?
In the last two years, I caught myself saying: “I don’t want to be one of those people who always says they have ‘plans to move’ and then never does it,” on more than one occasion. Sometimes, the best way to get things done is to just rip off the bandaid, tell the world, and do everything in my power to hold myself accountable to my goals. So, me writing this blog is a small piece in making sure that I follow through. This was also the first time I put all my thoughts down about why I’m moving in one place. And, guess what? I’ve never felt more confident in my decision 🙂