Aaah London. The old empire, home of grey skies, enticer of young hopefuls. With my time in London completed I thought I’d reflect on why the fuck so many young Australians pack up their lives back home to move there for years on end – trading blue skies and the world’s best beaches for rain and hectic crowds. I was going to tear strips off the place, giving you a breakdown of exactly why the city sucks balls, but now that I’m safely out of the city my icy heart has warmed with my arrival in the tropics (this post coming at ya from Changi Airport, Singapore), and I now I don’t reckon it’s that bad. I actually had a good time in London. The babe and I stayed with friends from back home and each day I managed to catch up with other mates who currently call the city home. I visited bookshops, tamed some beers, ate some good greaseball food and…well that’s about it. I gave the tourist hotspots a miss (apart from a stroll along the South Bank where I saw the London Eye, Big Ben and Parliament House) because to be honest with you I’ve more than done my share of that shit in the past nine months. If I was forced to stroll through another museum or art gallery I probably would’ve shot up the place. But after a week London started to wear me down to the max. The sun made an appearance once or twice but mostly the sky was a dull grey, which seemed to render everything else it touched a similar tone. Buildings, trees and even people looked washed out, as if they were straight out of a scene from Se7en or a Pink Floyd film clip. The tube and its stations seemed overcrowded death-traps where finding a seat or walking in a straight line without bumping into someone were near-impossible. It got me thinking – why do my countrymen flock here en masse and why do they end up staying so long?
I lost count of the amount of people I know or have met who had planned to come over for a year or two and have stayed three or four times that. Relationships are often a factor. A couple of mates headed over to London and stayed much longer than expected because they shacked up with a local. This is understandable – love is a wily and powerful adversary. One friend has just broken up with her locally-grown partner but she’s been in London so long that she now has a ripper job which will probably keep her there – it’s a position that she won’t be qualified for should she decide to return home. Another mate told me the same thing, if he returns back to Adelaide there’s basically no jobs in the field he’s worked his way up in whilst in London, so if he was to return to Oz he’d probably have to move to another big smoke in Sydney. But why do all these Aussies head to London in the first place?
I kinda get it. Europe’s a pretty darn popular place – it abounds with a ridiculous concentration of different cultures – but it’s so far away from Australia. It doesn’t make sense to head over there for a month or so every year because the flights are so fricken expensive. So you move to London – where flights anywhere in Europe seem to cost only a fistful of change – and you get a job, making stealth weekend missions to other countries and longer trips on your weeks off or what have you. It’s cheap, easy, and there’s like 70-gazillion countries in Europe and they’re all the size of my shoe (compared to Australia anyway) so you can knock off a whole bunch of them without exerting too much effort. I see how that’s appealing. But surely a year tops is enough? One of my good mates worked super hard back home and sacrificed shit and went through Europe for 10 months without working at all. Surely that would suffice? Then you go back home to the best country in the world and save up to go to some other cool regions (South/Central America, Japan, India, ummm I dunno New Zealand maybe). There’s a lot more to the world than Europe and I don’t think a lot of people get that or care. To many Europe is simply the first port of call when they have some time off to travel.
Now I’m rambling. Having grown up in scorching temps, living on the coast and with catching waves playing a dominant role in my life, a move to London will never be on the cards for me. Moreover, growing up in the dusty wide-open suburbs of Adelaide was never going to equip me well for big-city life i.e. congestion in every facet of day-to-day life, an unnerving lack of backyards etc. Really it comes down to the old adage, ‘each to their own’. I respect and understand the thinking regarding moving to London (for the short-term at least), it just isn’t for me. Reading back on everything I just wrote, it all seems a bit silly. Different people have different tastes. It seems I’m the weird and narrow-minded one due to my surf-centric view on travel – if it doesn’t have waves (or snow) I don’t really see the point in going there. All I know is I won’t be visiting a big city anytime soon, nor will Europe be on my list of places to go for the foreseeable future (too far away and plenty of cheaper/closer countries to get good surf in than flying 7000 light-years away). Maybe when I get a decent job (probably never). Catcha.