“Finally, I’m heading home.”
That’s all I was thinking when I boarded the plane to London all those years ago. I was just a young girl out of school, with big hopes and dreams, but no idea how to make them come true. I just KNEW, deep down, that my future was in London.
But, that first time, I wasn’t heading there to start a new life. No, it was just a short holiday. The first of many. As I knew it would, London enchanted me and captured my heart from the very first moment I sat eyes on it.
I fell in love London for so many reasons:
- The magnificent historical palaces in the center that take your breath away and make you feel so small.
- The rough-around-the-edges neighbourhoods with their multi-cultural kaleidoscope of people, funky shops, and exotic restaurants.
- The peaceful green oasis in the middle of the all hustle and bustle, where you can pretend you’ve left the city behind and gone for a break in the countryside.
- The little pieces of history hidden away in the little nook and crannies and plain streets; you never know what’s around the corner, but you know it’ll be something special.
- The abundance of food markets and restaurants offering delicious and mouthwatering flavours from every corner of the globe (whoever said you can’t eat well in London has obviously never been here!).
- The shops showcasing every imaginable kind of goods, from the proper and traditional, to the hip and edgy, to the most absurd – if you can imagine it, you can find it here.
- The famous and little-known history and art museums and art galleries that fire up your creativity.
- The efficient public transportation that, despite Londoners’ complaints, easily takes you from one corner of the capital to another, allowing you to make the most of what this amazing city has to offer.
- The amazing people who always seem to rush around with never enough time to get everything done, but who have hearts of gold, and are always willing to help a stranger in distress.
- The mad, unpredictable weather that promises a beautiful and warm day before it unleashes a heavy downpour on you, and then asks your forgiveness by bringing the sun out again.
But, what I love most of all is the freedom. The freedom to be who am I and do what I want to do, without anyone else’s influence or interference. The people here are so accepting. It’s a melting pot of different nationalities that welcomes, with open arms, those who are willing to work hard to accomplish their dreams.
Here, no one cares who your parents are, or if you have a degree. If you’ve got the skills, and can prove it, you’ve got the job. Here, no one thinks bad of you, if you dye your hair pink or wear an eccentric outfit. No one asks you to conform. Here, no one thinks there’s something wrong with you for wanting to chase your dreams and make something of yourself. On the contrary, opportunities abound, if you’re able to see them and willing to grasp them. Here, no one feels the need to criticize every little thing you say and do. It’s a city that doesn’t judge.
Here, you can carve out the life you want. It’s not easy, mind you. London is expensive. Competition is brutal. The nights lonely. There are times when loneliness and doubts overwhelm me, and I start to wonder if I’ve made the right choice, if all these sacrifices are worth it in the end, and all I want is to be back home, safe in my mom’s arms.
It’s at times like that that I can almost convince yourself that yes, going home is for the best. And I start to look for plane tickets back to safety online. And then, I set foot outside the door, and find myself back in the chaos and confusion of this amazing metropolis.
And I see the big, blinding lights that illuminate the streets at night. The happy faces of the tourists who are seeing the beauty of the city for the first time. Little squirrels running around all over the parks looking for food. Musicians and street artists sharing their art and vision on a cold street corner. People of different nationalities, religions, skin colours, and sexual orientations who found themselves in the mist of this confusion, and are laughing, and loving, and making a life together.
And I wonder how I could even have thought of betraying London, and going back to the place where I was born. The place that’s never been my home. The place where I never belonged. Unlike in London, where I felt I fit from the start, because no one really fits here, which is the beauty of it.
London never asks you to be anything other than yourself. But, it demands that you work hard. That you open your mind to new possibilities and ways of life. That you learn to be flexible. That you always challenge yourself to overcome your limits. That you learn to trust your intuition. That you grow up, change, and evolve.
London teaches you to be independent. To rely on yourself. To look fear in the eyes and fight it, because you’ll never achieve anything if you let it hold you back. To take that leap without a safety net because it’s on the way down that you build the wings that make you soar higher than you ever thought possible. To embrace, rather than reject, what’s different. To think creatively so you can enjoy everything this city has to offer even on a tiny budget. It makes you stronger. Smarter. Better.
It’s such a gift.