LDN

One of the seven photos I took in London. Bloody good day for it.

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?

Large Benjamin.

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.

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “LDN

  1. “if it doesn’t have waves (or snow) I don’t really see the point in going there.”

    My whole travel philosophy..

  2. McHenry

    Isnt the old addage” to each their own”

    Just sayin..

  3. Damien Groves

    i like surfing, i also like london coz theres 10 good bands playing 8 days a week, and all the bands i have grown up with made more sense once i had been there…

    • Very true Damo, I wish I’d made an effort/had a bit more time to go to a few shows over there, so much shit going on all the time. Although all the bands in the world couldn’t keep me at that place for more than a week or two…

  4. Once your eyes have been opened – its very hard to keep them closed…

  5. Haha, yeah, it’s tough mate. I have gone through about 3 minor mental breakdowns since I moved over here, but there are good things too. Last week I was out 7 nights in a row, went to a gig, experimental theatre party, out with mates, etc. You can drink and not worry about getting home. And also you hit the nail on the head with the career thing, this is one of the biggest hotspots in the world for what I do, and I am in a job that literally doesn’t exist anywhere in Australia.

    And there are some things you can find to escape for a while. On my walk back the shops yesterday I stood and watched the sun set over a super calm Thames with no-one around. There are actually lots of good parks and stuff to visit, I think it’s got some of the highest % of public green space of any big city. And I have kept myself sane by taking up bouldering (indoor short course climbing). I think if you stayed in inner city Sydney for a week you’d get a similar impression, but when you smarten up about a place you can find outlets.

    But when I read your post about getting back to Aus, getting a FUIC and watching some cricket, a little part of me died. I may be doing the ‘stay in London longer than you think’ thing but my heart is firmly down under. Epic trip mate, not sure what you’ll keep writing about but I look forward to it!

    • Ha yeah I can imagine, I think I would have to find something there to take up seriously if I was there for a solid stint, bouldering would be sick or maybe Id just turn into a gym dude and try to get super massive instead haha. I think the fact I had so much to think about while I was there (re. what to do with my life when I got home) I maybe wasnt enjoying the city as much as I should have e.g. I didnt go to any gigs for one. Regarding the writing stuff I think Ill end up starting another sorta blog at some stage soon (maybe an SA themed bodyboarding slash surfing blog) but who knows, I think I need a good month to unwind before I think about that. I hope you keep giving it a dig mate, and give me something to read while Im sitting here on the couch unemployed at my parents place! haha let us know when youre back in Oz and we could tee up a wave when Im not so busy (my stay in London seemed like it went by in a flash)…

      • Yeah mate, it’s the silly season here too, I am working for the next 7 days straight and have something on every night for that time too! Mental. Looking forward to a couple of weeks off like nothing else. Did have one of those ‘not-london’ moments I was talking about this eve though – a flock of starlings were going crazy with their pattern flying, while the sun set over the river past Battersea Power Station, and I just chilled and took pictures for a while. Handful of people walked past but it was not the kind of thing you expect of a city of 7 million that’s for sure. I’ll post about it soon, but anyway, get to unwinding!

        Hope the transition from travel-brain to home-brain goes OK, I found it pretty tough last year and that was only 5 months!

  6. Pingback: Two clicks « David Robertson

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