I Decided To Pick Up And Move To London And It Was The Best Thing I’ve Ever Done

by Shelby Walsh
Alija, Getty

Google the phrase "seven-year itch," and the first definition that pops up states: “The seven-year itch is a term that suggests that happiness in a relationship declines after around year seven of a marriage.” Around this time last year, after being in a committed and tumultuous relationship with NYC for seven years, I was feeling it. I was also fast approaching 30—a milestone that really makes you question the state of affairs in your life. And my own self-reflection seemed to point to a need for a change, a big one.

Armed with a British passport, some savings and an appetite for all things new, I quit my job, packed up my fifth-floor walk-up apartment, hopped on a plane and moved to London.


One of my biggest fears in life is staying in one spot. There’s something to be said for uprooting your life and crafting a new one in a completely different country. It’s terrifying and exhilarating, all at the same time. As a Canadian from Toronto who did all of this also when I moved to NYC in 2009, I knew the combined feeling of anxiety and joy well, and even welcomed it. London just seemed to be the idyllic choice for this life shift. Not only is it a city I love dearly, but it also has a particular nostalgia about it since my parents are both from England and I had a very English upbringing. I actually felt fairly calm around this move, despite not having any sort of game plan for when I touched down.

They say that if anything is meant to be, it will naturally fall into place, and that was definitely the case for this wandering girl. With a stroke of luck and some connections, I quickly landed two job offers and started working just a few weeks in.


One thing I realized very quickly as I started my new life in England was that people take their "holidays' (what Americans call vacations) seriously. Londoners put in their time at the office, but once they’re off the clock, they really do enjoy their lives, without being glued to their devices. Of course I don’t mean to generalize, since every city will have jobs where this doesn’t apply, but I truly feel Londoners are much more balanced than Americans.

This was a huge wake-up call for me. I finally fully grasped the notion that there is more to life than your job, and that what you do does not define you. If it does, you’re missing out. Refusing to miss out, I hit the ground running and spent my first summer in the UK exploring England and all of its luscious countryside, spending time in Paris, the South of France and Greece. I went from 10 days of vacation to 28, and the world—or at least Europe—was my oyster.


Moving somewhere new reinvigorates you. It’s as if you’re seeing life through a fresh pair of eyes, since everything is shiny and new. In NYC, I was on autopilot: Wake up, get through my commute, check everything off my to-do list, sleep, repeat. In London, I took in everything—the mix of old and new architecture, the quaint pubs and the gorgeous English gardens. Every corner was a feast for the eyes. No matter how you feel about the city, there’s no denying it’s beautiful and decadently rich in history.


But with all of the joys that came with moving, there also came downfalls. Homesickness is a miserable feeling. You feel isolated and sometimes forgotten, and mostly you just feel really, really far away from everything familiar. And then there’s the challenge of forging new friendships. The older we get, the harder it can be to meet new people. As wonderful as Londoners are, they need to warm to you. It’s not like NYC, where you can strike up a conversation in the most random of places and suddenly find a new friend.


But I have no regrets about moving here. These opportunities don’t come by often in life, and if you don’t do the things that you’ve been dreaming about now, you may never. Life is just too short, and you will never regret taking a big risk. Even if it doesn’t work out, you’ll always remember it as a defining moment in your life.


If you’re thinking about making a big move, here’s some key advice I've had to learn for myself:


Squirrel away as much as you can. I put myself on a weekly budget, and also set up my banking to automatically put a percentage of my paycheck into my savings. Enjoy life, but remember how relieved you’ll be to have some money to float you.

Make Friends

Putting yourself out there is scary, but it’s worth the risk. Don’t be discouraged if it takes time for a new friendship to blossom. This is what makes the world so exciting, and people are worth the effort.

Know When It's Time To Leave

Sometimes things just don’t work out. Give it time, but if ultimately you decide that this new place is not for you, be at peace with that. Don’t force yourself to be someone you’re not or to live somewhere you don’t want to be. You took the risk, and that’s amazing!