Monday, May 6, 2013

Ten days in Canada. Ten days in London. Fifteen days in Japan.

I’ve been living in London for the past three years and four months. My original plan had been to come over on a two year visa and that was it - returning home at the end of it. As it’s turned out I now seem to have a home in London and I’m divided, very often, between these two worlds. 

Art in the Calgary Bird Sanctuary - one of my
favourite places on the planet. Just look at that sky. 
I miss Calgary immensely sometimes. I miss the space. I miss driving and listening to music. Despite having my UK driver’s license, this is not something I do often in the UK because A) there’s no point in driving in London and B) I find it slightly terrifying because no matter how often I drive, I cannot seem to get a feel for the size of the vehicle when I’m sat on the right hand side.

I miss the sun. I prefer -30 in Calgary on a sunny day over +5 in London on a grey day. I am a lizard and the sun keeps me going. Without it I turn into a bit of a zombie, getting twitchy and moody or outright angsty. 

I also miss the mountains. They’re breathtaking. Without fail, on every visit to Calgary, the first glimpse of the Rockies will bring tears to my eyes. These aren’t just craggy peaks in the distance - these are part of a skyline that says I’m home. They are absolutely gorgeous to see against a clear blue sky - a clear blue sky that can be experienced for days on end despite how cold Calgary can get. 

And then there’s my family, and friends whom I adore so much they are like family. People who feed my soul with conversation. 

It’s only been recently that I’ve started to form similar friendships in London - something I found extremely challenging about English culture - having spent enough time there to break through the stiff upper lip and start getting to really know people. 

But London is also my home because it’s where I have a house with my partner. We have three wonderful fur-children and my heart aches for them when I leave. I also love the energy of London. Where else can I see Dame Judi Dench, Dame  Helen Mirren, Sir Patrick Stewart and Kevin Spacey performing on stage? 

Daffodils in a London park - in March. 
And the food. I love food. I adore it. I love Michelan starred restaurants but I also love the fact that I can get an amazing woodland chicken in a local supermarket. The fact that fruit and vegetables are so inexpensive and the quality of the food is incredible. Scottish blackberries are the best I’ve ever tasted. Cheese from France or apples from the Netherlands. Fantastic organic things that don’t cost an arm and a leg and also don’t imprint the planet with a giant carbon footprint. 

And of course there’s the British Pounds. London is expensive, yes, but when you earn the currency it’s not so bad and then there’s the added advantage of being able to take holidays and know that your money is usually worth more everywhere you go. 

Which is why I can go to Japan for fifteen days just ten days after a visit to Calgary. Not because I have a lot of money - because I really don’t - but because my money goes further. 

But of course, a lot of it comes down to the choices I’ve made. I went to a party while I was in Calgary and one of the women I met said, “Your life is so cool” 

I was going to brush this off because I know how tight my finances are right now. I know how much I fret over every pound I spend and how thrifty my lifestyle is. Most people would be hard pressed to live on the budget I manage for myself. 

This is on my walk to my British Sign Language course.
Simple truth. 
But then I considered it and I realised something else. I may get stressed out about finances and I may not have what most people would consider ‘enough’ - but I’ve made up my mind about the life I’m going to live and I make sure that I’m doing it every day. 

If I were to die tomorrow that would be O.K. because I am content with my life. Because every day I wake up I am happy - even if I miss my family or I’m torn between two homes. Because I get to work a creative job and despite everything I’m not starving and I’m still able to see amazing places and do amazing things. 

I‘d much rather live on a tight budget and still travel than live on a tight budget and feel trapped by a job I don’t enjoy in just one place on this vast and wondrous planet. If something matters enough and is important enough, you will find a way. 

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