For those who know me well, will definitely have heard me go on about the best two years of my life….that time I lived in London. Every time I tell people this, I am greeted with excitement and ‘what an amazing experience’ or ….. ‘I wish I had the guts to do that’. All valid responses!
But for me, it was more than just igniting the adventurous, risk taker side of me. It was something greater than that. It was proving that I could make it on my own and proving that this world isn’t so big and scary! So in November 2017, I quit my secure job working in the health industry and flew 15,254 kilometres to London! All by myself and was greeted by…… no one!
I remember the day I landed in Heathrow Airport like it was yesterday! My survival instincts kicked into gear from the moment I landed with my first challenge being finding my way to the hotel accommodation. Easy right? Uber! Wrong! My Wifi connection dropped out at the pick up point! So what’s a girl to do? I scoped out the ‘safest looking’ person around me to ask if I could use their hotspot - success, the first girl I asked generously let me! Kendie 1, London 0. I was ready to take this place on!
So going back to where/why/how it all started for me. Coming from our small town of Adelaide, I, like many of you, have a very close and tight knit family. I would say I lived quite the sheltered life. I always had the support and comfort of knowing that whatever life throws at me, I have other people to always fall back on. I am aware that not everyone is privileged enough to have this level of support and here I was, wanting to move away from it! But I always felt like my life was already paved out for me….. I finish school, get good grades, finish Uni, simple right? Nope - I knew I couldn’t live my life in such a linear way. I had to make my own mistakes, learn from them, grow and be the best version of myself. Live life on my own terms and the only way to do this was to untangle myself from my support network and take the plunge!
You sound like you’re from London….
So my London planning started way back during my Uni days when one of my best friends and I were talking about taking our ‘gap year’ after we finished Uni. How exciting, right? Two best gal pals, taking on the world together…. During this time we were with our previous long term highschool boyfriends and then the breakups came and then life happened and there came the moment where I had to make the decision to go to the UK on my own… but being the ultimate storyteller that I am, I was able to convince another Uni friend to join me instead… she would later join me two months into my London journey.
I was so fortunate enough to have my friend Christina already one year into her Working Holiday visa. *Fun Fact - Christina and I actually met travelling and the first place we met was in London in 2015! Christina generously offered for me to stay with her for a few days /weeks until I found my own two feet. The catch was, living with her and her host family in their three storey ‘super English’ townhouse in Hammersmith. This was all kind of new and exciting! I got along with the host family and the kids, to the point where I was essentially their second nanny. The things you do for free board!
The first few weeks was such an eye opener. There was more to London than Buckingham Palace and the London Eye. I was living like a local and living as a second nanny, picking up the kids at the same school that Prince William and Harry went to! How cool is that!!!! The novelty of living as a second nanny started to wear off….. Two weeks in and I still had not received my registration to work in my trade, as an Occupational Therapist (OT). Plus the UK system seemed broken. I couldn’t apply for a bank account, until I had a permanent address, but I couldn’t get a job without a bank account - it was like the chicken or the egg scenario!
So three weeks into my volunteer second nanny position and no other prospective employment/accommodation options …. I made the decision to move out of the comfort of the three storey English townhouse and moved into a shared Air BnB. OMG, this was the lowest of the low I thought. What had I done?? I left the comfort of my friends/family/career and staying in an Air BnB with no communal living area!! My sister was so concerned for me that she offered to pay for me to go on a holiday to lift my spirits! ….as tempting as it was, I said no. What’s the point of going through all of this trouble and paying a few thousand for my visa, only to reach out for a life raft at the first sign of trouble! Nope! Not this gal!
Just when I was so ready to throw in the towel, I literally got a call from an agency, asking me to come in for an interview the next day! I wiped back the tears and just knew that this was the moment… the moment where my London adventure would finally take off!!! And you know what, so it did!
Deliveroo…. Did you know this is not an Aussie company?!
This job interview was for a position at Deliveroo. When I tell people this, I always get asked if I was working as a rider haha, definitely not! The position was in customer service and involved inputting data and answering customer enquiries. This was very different from my OT role but hey, girls gotta eat! My time at Deliveroo, although short lived, was such a memorable experience! I got to work smack bang in the middle of London, had tonnes of free meals and wicked wings Friday! The dream (*not really). But the most memorable moment was meeting two people who would later play a huge part in my London adventure and form a part of my London family (amongst others).
To me, family is so important and I knew I would not have felt settled if I didn’t have a sense of family …. Family who I can turn to when the going gets tough!
Home is where…… you can find the most affordable flat
Another huge challenge for newbies to London was flat hunting. One word to describe this is, it’s B.R.U.T.A.L! After much research and advice from many Aussies and Kiwis, I made the decision not to go through an agency and instead find a flat privately. What this means is trolling through the Aussies in London and Kiwi’s in London facebook page for the weekly ‘looking for flatmate post.’ Once you find a prospective flat, you go through all of the viewings which is like a job interview. Firstly you need to make sure you can AFFORD the monthly rent, actually like the place, like the public transport link and of course your potential housemates. BUTTTT your potential housemates also have 20 others vying for the very same room, so you essentially have to woo them too!
I ended up ‘winning’ a flat in Putney, in a block of council flats amongst amazing mansions ! A small cupboard, I mean room under the stairs. Think Harry Potter Vibes. It was enough to fit a double bed, cupboard and chest of drawers. I always thought that this was a temporary arrangement until I secured another place but nope, I stayed THE WHOLE time! I had house mates come and go but each one left me with so many great memories. Housemates from all walks of life and different parts of the world, Australia, England, Italy. I introduced weekly house mate dinners where we took it in turns cooking for the flat. This was a chance to bond and get to know the strangers who were living above me….. It wasn’t just these weekly dinners where I got to know the housemates. I got to know their routines, their choice in alcoholic beverages and who is more likely to bring someone home after a late night! Yes, the walls were thin!
Aside from the flat issue, I was also hit hard with the binge drinking culture! Worse than us here in Aus! Who would have thought it was possible! Being in London was like growing young! No responsibilities, no mortgage to think about, no huge career trajectories… it was all about me.myself.and I. This is what I wanted right? Living pay cheque to pay cheque, chasing the best deals for a quick getaway to Santorini and flying in just before my 8 am Monday morning shift with my strategically packed suitcase in tow. It was so exhilarating, so fun ……until the moment, you and your then partner talk about your future. Where would it be? London or Adelaide? Some may say that’s an easy answer…… London of course! But those very people who say this don’t know how much I LOVE my little home town. The very people who don’t know how close I am to my family and friends back home. The very people who have no idea how much time I spent messaging, facetiming everyone back home. Home is where the heart is, but did I leave my heart in Adelaide ? In saying this, I did start to fall in Love with London. I did start to feel a sense of comfort coming back to London on the two occasions I visited Adelaide during my 22 month stay. It is such a weird feeling essentially having two homes. The equal amount of sadness and comfort of leaving one home city to your ‘new home’ is a feeling I can not describe in words.
What is love
If you didn't’ catch on above, I met an English boy very early into my adventure when I started at Deliveroo. How romantic right? Girl packs up, leaves the nest and flies miles and miles away to find her Prince Charming. For those of you like me who grew up watching Disney, it taught you that love is enough …. You always find a way. But for me, I didn't have my big Disney moment (yet). Don’t get me wrong we certainly tried, he even accompanied me to my sister’s engagement party in Adelaide and watched me stand by my best friend's side on her wedding day. He actually loved Adelaide, so much so that it was initially agreed upon that he would move over and we would spend the majority of our lives in MY home time…. But there came a point when reality hit and the very idea of him moving away from people he LOVED, his parents, childhood friends, leaving a job he loved was hard. Every conversation was always trying to convince each other to move to the other side of the world…. And being two very stubborn people also did not work in our favour. We tried so hard to make this work to the point where we met each other in Bali. I came from Adelaide and he took time off while working in Manila (Philippines), little did we know this would be the last time we would ever see each other again….. I know that we truly gave it our best and I am thankful for the memories and lessons learnt and that I wore my heart on my sleeve but in our case, it wasn't meant to be. Look, if you are a couple who has survived long distance, let us know below!!
So why did I share this story ? It’s not wedding related? Well Jane and I wanted to pull back the covers and share with you who the girls are behind EME. Our stories make us who we are. We are all about honesty and are not afraid to get up close and personal with you! We love to find out about you and your lovers story and to hear that in all walks of life, people do come together and will find ways to navigate this crazy world together!
We absolutely love, love and can not wait to share your story with you!
(Elise Mae Events Co-Director | On the Day Coordinator)