The Ripple Effect (continued)

Jan 29, 2014 by


London School of Economics

Moving to a city where you’ve always thought you’d like to live is an experience in and of itself. Travelling creates a different space, one where every experience is sharp and rich and lasting. You remember that restaurant you went to that one time because you were walking back from the Tate Modern and it starting pouring rain and there were two women dancing to No Americano while you ate a never-ending salad. Or you remember walking up the side steps from Gare de l’Est, seeing police officers cover up the sleeping homeless man you saw on your way into the Metro. Or you remember sitting under the Eiffel Tower for eight hours with seven bottles of wine just because you wanted to see it lit up and it was sunny and you got there at 2pm.



But living somewhere stimulates a different part of you than travelling. All those memories that are so sharp and rosy when you’re only there for an instant of your life start getting fuzzy. You stop remembering every detail of the walk to the tube because you do it everyday. You forget exactly when you go to museums and pubs because you go so often. You can’t remember what you did October 14th 2012 because it was the same as everyday except out your kitchen window you could see the Shard instead of Southdale.

Tate Britain

Tate Modern

Moving to London taught me the importance of being able to enjoy everyday life. It meant ten friends visiting from all different spots in the world, coalescing at our fifth floor flat in May. It meant finding our favourite pub – Howl at the Moon (It had cheap local beers and puppies, what else could a girl want?) It meant finding a perfect organic home veggie delivery service. It meant really getting to know the neighbourhood. It meant learning you could travel anywhere in a two hour radius from London by train for less than 25 quid. It meant getting used to saying quid without feeling like a total fraud. It meant learning to love a really good espresso and not stressing out about your line of credit because you’re already there spending it.

St. Pauls

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Moving to a city where you think you could totally live also means shifting your expectations. I thought I would fall back in love with London as quickly as I fell in love with it during my visits. Learning to love the place you live doesn’t happen overnight, particularly when culture shock is involved. At first, it’s discovering and dealing with the mundane things in life that make it difficult. Like finding out what company supplies the water in London. Or finding out that everything is either expensive or free (but expensive to get to). Or that your degree is not at all what you expected.

For the first three and a half months, I felt like I was just able to stay conscious. It was consistent overload. Constant fight or flight. I’m not sure whether this is because this was the first metropolis I’ve lived in and the sheer number of people that live there was overwhelming. Or whether it was the horrible grad program I chose. Or the weather. Or not being able to make more than a handful of friends.


I recently read about young people struggling to live in New York City. So many people move to New York because it’s glamorous and it’s what people in their twenties are supposed to do, only to find it exceptionally lonely. In a place where everyone is different – or trying to be – it’s easy to get lost. London was the same way.


Make sure you stay posted for the beautiful and honest conclusion to my cousin Natalie’s story about moving to London and self discovery. In the meantime, don’t forget to become my best friend for life and like my Facebook page. I’m also a hoot to follow on twitter and Instagram

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  1. I totally agree – when you travel you get this crisp clear memories of specific instances and when you live somewhere it’s a completely different picture. Well said!

    • Colleen

      It’s so true. I find living somewhere to be one of the most valuable ‘travel’ experiences one can have.

  2. So been there – I moved to Thailand after visiting as a tourist a couple of times, and the places I remember going before now feel like they were part of another country or something. I’m also planning on moving to Scandinavia (not sure which country yet) for grad school, which is a place I’ve visited countless times and wanted to move for ages, but I think like you said, I’ll have to adjust my expectations quite a bit. Great post!

    • Colleen

      I’m happy to hear that this was a meaningful post for you. I also did part of my undergraduate degree in Denmark. I LOVE Scandinavia. It’s a wonderful place to live. Let me know if you ever want to chat about it!

  3. I moved to the current city I’m living in (Reno) when I was 18 and it worked out like magic. I can relate to romanticizing a previous destination and upon my return it was just not the same. Good post, Natalie and I’m clicking over to the conclusion next 🙂

    • Colleen

      I’m glad your move to Reno was a good one. Thanks for the comment Mike!

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