What we’ve learnt from swapping city life for the countryside

Was it the right decision?

I always loved living in the city. Growing up in Moscow meant buzzing crowds and continuous traffic jams, all the sounds and energy that I grew so accustomed to.

When my parents decided to send me to study in the UK, they chose rural schools with plenty of green space, something my Moscow school didn’t offer. The language barrier wasn’t the only issue. Being a full-time boarder meant that I spent weekends on the grounds of the school with nothing but fields and trees. It was boring with only a walk to the village Post Shop to look forward to.

My next school was also set in the countryside with a farm and emphasis on outdoor activities. I remember my first hike, it was a lengthy crawl up Snowdon and I thought I was going to die of exhaustion. These excursions continued for five years and by the time I was applying for university, I knew I wanted to be back in a city and there aren’t many that can match the vibe of London.

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From London to Dubai

I stayed in London for 10 years, got married, bought a place in Clapham and enjoyed complaining about the daily commute and the cost of living. You do develop a hate/love relationship with somewhere like London, but deep down you know you’re completely smitten. However, after a decade-long grind, we knew we needed a change of scene so we headed to the sandy shores of Dubai.

It offered everything you want from a city. A vibrant restaurant scene, fabulous hotels, mall’s (so many mall’s) and a diverse crowd. Not only that but you also had sand and sea on your doorstep. There’s something truly amazing about heading to the beach at the weekend after a busy work week. However, we always knew we wanted Lola to go to school in the UK so after four hot summers, we were ready to move back.

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From Dubai to Hertfordshire

We knew straight away we wanted to raise Lola surrounded by as much greenery as possible, but it had to have great access to shops and restaurants. Hertfordshire seemed to offer a balanced lifestyle. It’s close enough to London, but we have woodlands and walking routes right on our doorstep. If before we had to drive to escape the city, here we can just walk down the road five minutes and we’re in the picturesque countryside that you see on the postcards.

It’s been seven months since we made the switch and so far it’s been wonderful. Lola’s nursery is a five-minute drive away, we actually know the names of our neighbours and there’s a sense of community (even amidst the pandemic) that we haven’t experienced before.

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Was it the right move?

I do miss the ease of jumping in an UBER or on the Tube and head to my favourite restaurant, museum, café or shop. Now, we have to plan in advance so it feels less spontaneous and if I don’t have a car then I’m limited to activities I can do with Lola, even though the nearby village is only a 30-minute walk.

What I don’t miss is the constant worry of being in the city, especially after being mugged virtually outside the front door of our London home. Even though the streets are quieter now, London can feel claustrophobic with people. When I worked in central London, I was so exhausted by the daily commute that on weekends I couldn’t think of anything worst than getting on the tube again. Instead, we would venture towards Surrey or Kent to escape.

If anything, moving out of the city has made me appreciate and love it more. I savour the days we spend wandering through Chelsea or Mayfair and every lunch outing feels extra special. I no longer feel drained by it – when we lived in London it felt like it was taking more from us (money and energy) than it was giving.

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Final say

I am excited to see Lola grow up in an area where she can safely ride her bike, go on long walks with the dogs and join her parents for a cosy pub lunch. It’s a simpler life, but over the past few months, we have explored more around our area and beyond than we did when we lived in London. After our time in Dubai, I actually missed the hikes and camping!

I’ll always be a city girl at heart, but I like her more in small doses. Thinking of moving out of the city? Here are some of my takeaways.

  • It might feel like you’re swapping the big city life for a small countryside existence, but you’ll soon realise that you’re part of a close-knit community which is lovely for a family
  • I also like how “young” our nearby village is in comparison to others
  • I like that we are only a 30-minute train ride from London. If you’re nervous about making the move, explore the areas that are within easy reach of a city
  • You will finally have a good-size garden or huge green spaces on your doorstep
  • We chose to live in a development because we didn’t want to feel completely isolated
  • Consider the school run. Knowing that Lola is only a five-minute drive away has done wonders for my anxiety
  • You might have to give up Deliveroo (sob sob) but you’ll save on the money and calories by cooking at home. If you’re like me, you’ll have to discipline yourself to try new recipes
  • There is no pressure to go out. Living in London or Dubai, I always felt like we should be doing something to make the most of our time, but here we love a simple day of going on long walks and then coming back home to watch movies
  • Invest in a good hoover and mop, the house will get muddy

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