There’s a reason why London is so revered – the bustling city is a hub for everything from fashion and art, to food and jobs, and its pavements are packed with those who have fallen in love with the sense of opportunity and adventure. Yet for many people living in the capital, the lure of life outside the city is strong. According to data released by the Office of National Statistics, this summer 340,500 people moved away from London in the 12 months before June 2018, which is the largest number since the ONS began collecting data in 2012.
Emma Paton, who runs the fashion and lifestyle blog Finlay Fox, is one of them. She left her Stoke Newington property earlier this summer after 15 years in the capital, and swapped the hustle and bustle of N16 for a Grade II listed house in Suffolk. “We decided to move as we felt like a lifestyle change was needed having been in London so long,” she explains. The time felt right: “Our jobs meant we could work remotely so we didn’t have to consider the longer commute. The kids, who are three and six-years-old, were at a good age to have a change (I think it gets harder the older they are) and we wanted to reduce our monthly overheads too. We were also less keen on the secondary schools in our area so decided it would be easier to move now rather than later, when the kid’s schooling and friendship groups were more established.”
Emma’s motives for moving were multiple – and she’s not alone in her reasoning. Before her move, she noticed a growing trend among her friends to do the same. “I think as soon as you have kids you start to crave more space and more fresh air,” she says. “And the prices in London are so crazy most people can’t afford to live where they want to and so have to move. Priorities change - whether that’s because you’re not going out as much, or whether you’re leaving your job because of high childcare costs and need to re-work your monthly overheads. While I made lots of new friends as a mum in my area, most of my other friends left London and now some of my newer friends are planning their escapes too.”
For many, it’s a change in lifestyle that’s so attractive. Pandora Paloma, an intuitive living and business coach who runs Rooted Living says the move out of London helped re-establish more balance into her life. She’s now been living in Kent for two and a half years and loves what the county offers her. “I’d lived in London since I was 16 – so for 17 years – and I had created a life I loved. I was working for myself, owned a flat and had flexible working hours but I kept feeling the need for more space and silence,” she explains. “I had a few friends moving to Margate so my partner at the time and I decided to take a look at what we could buy outside of London. We could afford a four-bed townhouse in Kent versus a small two-bed in London and the commute was only one hour 15 minutes – it seemed like a no brainer. I now usually spend Monday to Wednesday in London and then travel back Wednesday evening for the weekend. Being so close to the beach means weekends feel like a week. It’s a great balance.”
Neither Emma nor Pandora regret their move – and they both say this is largely due to the location they chose. “We’re based in a central village location with a village shop, village school and two village pubs all within walking distance,” Emma says. “It was the right step for us with young kids – we can now enjoy country life, but still with great amenities on our doorstep. Plus, the train to London is just one and a half hours from here, so it’s still doable for day trips into London if we need to go in for work on the odd occasion.”
“For me having a mix of the two worlds is key,” Pandora adds. “I love London for the culture, food, connections and fitness, but I need the balance of nature and the ocean which Ramsgate provides. I’m so pleased I made the move and chose to believe that kind of lifestyle - between two worlds - was possible. It is and I love it.”
Adjusting to life out the city
Thinking of making the move out of London yourself? Emma and Pandora have some key tips to share…
Put the research in
Before you up sticks and leave, both Pandora and Emma say it’s key to make sure it’s what you really want. “Really weigh it up and maybe even try it for six months so you can gauge whether it will work for you long term,” Pandora advises. “The commute can be exhausting so do think about how you can make your career work for you.”
Emma also suggests renting in the area first, or even just staying in an Airbnb for a while.
“It took a couple of years for us to work out what we wanted to do,” she says. “I think the main things to think about are: your commute; whether you will have family help or support available; what your budget is; the house size you’re looking for; what the schools are like; and finally, your location. Speak to estate agents and build a relationship with them (sometimes the best properties don’t even make the open market) and visit plenty of properties to gauge a feel of what is right for you.”
Be open to meeting new people
Leaving friends behind is often the hardest thing about moving house but there will always be lots of new possibilities in your chosen area. And it’s by talking to people that you can find out the best places to visit locally. “I chatted to people so much more when I moved to Ramsgate because I had the time and because everyone was much more friendly,” Pandora says. “I’ve found my people in Kent. Ramsgate has a real sense of community and people come together in a way I’d never experienced in London. It’s a really special place.”
Switch your mindset
As Pandora says, once you’ve moved you have to remember you’re not living in London anymore. “You have to allow yourself and the people around you to slow down and let go of the rat race mentality,” she says. “You have to learn to be ok with slow and considered. Look up and around and not down. It takes a while to make that adjustment - it doesn’t happen overnight but when you allow it, it feels really special.”
Take it slowly
When you move house, there’s a temptation to rush in and try to do everything at once, but the key is to take your time and realise that things can’t always happen immediately. This is certainly the case if you’re taking on a renovation project. “Be prepared for the first few weeks to be slightly chaotic and challenging,” Emma adds, “We certainly had tears. I’d also suggest making sure you have a number for a local plumber and electrician to call in case there are problems when you move in - we had no hot water for the first three days!”
Explore the area
Think it’s only London that has spectacular restaurants or mouth-wateringly good cocktails? Think again! You might not have the multitude of offerings that you’re used to in your town or village, but chances are you have some gems to discover in the area close by. And often, travelling from one town to another takes no longer than the trip from London Bridge to Camden. “Take the time to explore your surroundings,” Pandora says. “It’s great to have access to other local towns so make the most of it.”
Get your bearings
After having convenience stores on every corner and late-night shopping available six days a week, moving to a town without this can be a shock to the system. Make sure you spend time working out where the closest local supermarket is, and research the best hairdressers and independent boutiques. And one final tip? For Emma, it’s all about being prepared for the essentials - “Get a good coffee machine, as you won’t necessarily be able to rely on good coffee nearby,” she advises.
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