Kaye has itchy feet. Again. Read why - and where they're taking her
I love London but it is - pace Dr Johnson - possible to be tired of London, something that dawned on me in December.
The capital offers a cornucopia of brilliant bars and restaurants, world class carnivals, museums, theatres and art galleries and gorgeous gardens and parks. But to really make the most of them you need two things: time and cash.
And, as the end of 2014 beckoned, it became disconcertingly clear that I was failing on both fronts. Ironically, having managed to get on the London housing ladder after years of renting either overpriced rat infested properties or flats that turned out to have serious damp issues (the black stuff used to spread across the walls and inside the wardrobes ruining my carefully curated edit of clothes and shoes), I'm considered one of the lucky ones.
The problem - and make no mistake it’s a first world problem - for me is that my flat is situated out in the suburbs (property prices being what they are) where shops (save for Poundland) are shutting up left, right and centre and entertainment is all about catching a blockbuster at the local Vue cinema. Yawn….
London has its fabulous parts - Islington, Shoreditch, Notting Hill, Mayfair, Maida Vale et al - but the reality is that only foreign millionaires can afford to call these corners of the capital home. I don’t always agree with Dame Tessa Jowell but the former Blair babe is on the money when she says: “London risks becoming two Londons. We keep saying it’s the greatest city in the world, but it isn’t the greatest city if you are [….] living out in the suburbs because you cannot afford all the excitement of […] London.”
Charles Dickens famously depicted London as a lonely place and, as December 2014 arrived, I began to appreciate where the Victorian author was coming from. True: I could have spent an hour travelling on the tube to meet family and friends for a coffee but when it’s bone chillingly cold outside, the sky is the colour of porridge and a zone one to five travel card now costs an exorbitant £17, I’d be forgiven for opting to hunker down indoors next to a radiator.
I was also - as a freelance journalist who, as a side project co-launched a London walking tour company, in August 2014 - struggling to achieve that mother of all modern complaints: a work-life balance. The pleasure of being a freelancer is that no two days are the same. Conversely the peril of freelance journalism is that you never know where your next pay cheque is coming from or when it might stop - making it mighty difficult to take your foot off the pedal. I knew I was juggling too much but, with a monthly mortgage to meet, I wasn’t sure which, if any, plates I could afford to stop spinning.
Stir into the mix a love life that’s gone a bit Bridget Jones (a string of bad dating experiences in 2014 appear to have confirmed something I’ve long suspected: I am undatable) and it’s fair to say I was starting to feel as though someone or something was telling me it’s time to leave London.
The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. I don’t need - especially in the middle of winter - to be in London for work. That requirement expired with the rise of the digital office. Providing I can fire up my laptop and connect to Wifi, I can make a living just as easily in Laos or Lhasa as in London. All of which,as a self confessed travel junkie who’s hooked on having new experiences, sounded ridiculously appealing! For while many of my contemporaries are determinedly focused on marriage and motherhood, I’m still hungry for life and travel. A house filled with a husband and kids just doesn’t seem to be my shtick. Don’t get me wrong: I often wish I was built for a quiet life in the Home Counties - that would make everything sooooo much easier. Alas for whatever reason, the aforementioned feels all too much like a prison sentence. I still want the freedom to pack my bags and fly away wherever, whenever.
The idea lodged itself firmly in my brain and refused to leave leading me - on 31 Dec 2014 - to play devil’s advocate and advertise my apartment on Airbnb (aka the San Francisco online marketplace which allows people to rent their homes or rooms to short-term visitors). If I was looking for a sign, it came - and quickly.
I woke up on the first day of the new year to an email from a Spanish couple in their twenties who wanted to rent my place for four months from February to June. Somebody up there had spoken! And just like that, it was done. The following few weeks became a whirlwind of planning, packing, sorting injections and insurance (turns out most annual travel insurance policies are only valid for trips of up-to 60 days - who knew?) around work.
Before I knew it I was heading to Heathrow, after bidding goodbye to friends and family. Speaking of which, will I miss them? Of course. But I’ve lived abroad for a lot longer in the past, plus you never lose good friends and family will always be family. Also, truth be told, I’m tired of being the permanent 'planner' and 'counsellor' in my circle - the one who organises every single social arrangement and listens patiently to the latest break-up with a box of Kleenex close at hand. Once upon a time, very long ago, it may have been enjoyable but fast forward to December 2014 and frankly I found it exhausting to be tasked with arranging all our meet ups simply because others lack the energy or initiative. In short while I do largely love London, by December 2014 disillusionment had crept in and I felt trapped by my life there.
Some people, when they're broken, dig into a huge tub of Häagen-Dazs. Others, when they’re feeling sad, go shopping (well they don’t call it retail therapy for nothing!) Me? When I need a little better balance and perspective in my life, I turn to travel.
Which explains why I am typing this at Terminal five while waiting for my flight - first stop, Buenos Aires. Why Argentina? Well I wanted a destination I hadn’t yet travelled to and crucially, given that it’s effing cold in the capital, one that’s hot. Buenos Aires fits the bill!
Am I apprehensive? A tad but as Mark Twain once remarked: “twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
It’s time to board - there’s no turning back. Log onto Just About Travel in two weeks time (16 March) to find out how I’m getting on!