I recently spent some time in a much smaller town than London, and it made me question whether I would ever be able to move from a large city to a small town. I had mixed feelings about it all.
As soon as I arrived in the town, I felt myself relax. I walked off the train with 7 or 8 other people. 7 or 8 people! In London, I think that’s inconceivable. Even on a Sunday morning in London – when you’d expect a lot of people to still to be asleep from a late night of drinking at the pub.
After walking out of the station, I realised how clean the air felt! Just by the lack of cars around, I could only imagine how much less polluted it was. And, instead of seeing rows and rows of houses and office buildings, you see hills and grass, with a cute house with a garden once in a while. I walked further down the sidewalk and just felt my stress melting away. I passed a small bridge with a gorgeous stream and large trees on both sides. I was stunned by how beautiful it all was.
The calmness of this small town was appeasing and a contrast to what I was used to. Was this what it would be like to live in the countryside? Well, yes and no. First of all, this place was not associated to my job and my day-to-day stress in any way. By getting away to a different town, I was removing the presence of work, house chores, errands, and everything else that comes with every-day life. Being away from my usual routine was allowing me to disconnect. Therefore, was it really the countryside in itself that created that calmness I felt? If you were to live and work in a small town in the countryside, wouldn’t you be just as busy and mind-cluttered as you’d always been? House chores, work, job and everything that comes with it would come up here to!
So living in the countryside wouldn’t necessarily bring more calm. But it did make me question why I was still so afraid of living in a place that had more cows than people. It’s kind of a belief I’ve always stubbornly stuck to as an adult TCK: I could only ever live in big capital cities.
But, I slowly saw that this was maybe only a belief and not the truth. I used to spent 50 minutes commuting from South West London to Liverpool Street for work. I would go to bars in central London, spend time in pop ups in Shoreditch, and walk around Southbank with friends. I used to spend hours exploring the city’s bars, restaurants, hot spots, fitness classes, art shows an hour or more away from my flat. At the time, I was really making the most of what this city had to offer.
However, my life has changed drastically in the last year. I don’t travel for work anymore as I work from home and part-time at a yoga studio 10 minutes walk away from mine. The vast majority of my friends live south west so I only need to walk 15 minutes or take a 20 minute bus ride to get to my friend’s local pub. I go to Yoga classes a short stroll away from my flat. I go to the Cafe Nero that’s just around the corner. I would never dream of walking more than a block or two anymore to get anything really from fruit, coffee, and milk – readily available at my local supermarket. I had found that everything that I needed right now was really close. I had made a bit of a bubble of my neighbourhood.
So, in a way, haven’t I almost created a small town out of a large capital city? If I spend so much time in my own neighbourhood and the two right next to mine where my friends live, doesn’t it mean that I’ve chosen a less crazy, less intense life – which is seemingly the exact opposite of what London is known for? Maybe I’m wrong about not being able to move to a small town. Could I, even as a restless adult Third Culture Kid, now thrive in a smaller town?
I’m not quite sure. I haven’t made up my mind yet. But what I do still know is that it’s not necessarily the distances we travel, the activities we take on or what form of transport we use that makes a capital city. It’s the diversity of the people you see in coffee shops. It’s the friends that you would only find in a capital city. It’s the liveliness on the streets on Saturday evenings (even in the residential areas). And it’s the option of having more if you want more. If you want to go see the new musical in Leicester Square, you can go. If you want a crazy night out with the girls in the cocktails bars of Soho, they’re there for you. When you want to start rock-climbing or learning Mandarin, it’s all ready and available in London. And that’s what would be hard to find in a smaller town in the countryside. What are your thoughts about this? Would you live in the countryside?