This post is really about not taking things for granted. It’s about gratitude. It always feels good to be back in London. We’ve bounced around the world for half a decade now but London is our home turf. I know I say Romania is home, Hoi An is home, Bangkok is home, Port Douglas Australia is home, Wales is home, but London is where we’ve spent the most time. It’s where Chef and I first lived together, where our kids were born, where we both worked( still work, sometimes) regular jobs and where we bought and renovated two houses. It’s also where our non-nomadic friends and family are to be found. We’re back. We’re glad to be back, here’s why.
I lived in London for years and like most of her inhabitants I whinged and griped from time to time. But step away for a while, live elsewhere, and even the most jaded Londoner should come to realise just how lucky they are.
You Can Drink the Tap Water
THIS! This is the biggest, most wonderful luxury of being in the UK. In Vietnam we had drinking water on tap in our rental for 6 months but in Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia ( our destinations in the last few months), we had to refill our water bottles from filtration units in hostels or buy bottled. Buying bottled pains me, I hate using plastic like that
We can drink it, wash up, wash our fruit and veg and clean our teeth, without even thinking about risk. We can take a shower, wash up or put the washing machine on without having to check that the water is working first.
We’ve been in our village in Romania for the last few months and every day is a struggle with water. None of our bowels have been what you might call regular ( or solid) in months and our stay there finished up with terrible D&V all round. Finally we’re all feeling good again.
Never take clean tap water for granted. It’s not essential, living without it is OK, but life is so, so much easier.
There is Abundant Public Transport
I can get on a bus and head into London. I can hop on a tube and scuttle about underground, there are bus stops with easy to read timetables in English, there are apps that tell you when the bus will arrive, almost to the second. This is such a luxury!
London has Some of the Best Shopping in the World
My first stop is always LUSH to stock up on plastic-free solid shampoo, conditioner and moisturiser, plus a few other fragrant luxuries. When you don’t have access to stuff like this normally it feels like a real treat.
Second stop was Marks & Spencer for underwear and swimwear. The only place for lingerie!
Then of course, there is food. Supermarkets that stock everything you could possibly want. If you shop in a big British supermarket every week I bet you think I’m crazy for missing them, but it’s such a treat. I have to say our village tomatoes are so much better though.
Sure, plenty of other cities have great shopping too, think Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur, but back in London it’s easy, predictable, you know where to go and if you don’t want to leave the house you can buy almost anything online. Even Amazon delivering is a real luxury.
Family and Friends
Great Grand Nanna is always first on the list of course. A catch up with Nanna and a great British curry. What better way is there to start a stay in London?
Then there are our London friends to catch up with. Kids have grown, lives have progressed and there is so much to say and tell.
We have friends around the world, we chat online to many people and there are loads of fellow nomads, but coming home to “normal” people. The people who don’t live out of backpacks as we do, there’s something different about that.
London Has Everything to Do
London has a million museums, attractions, parks and historic sites. We’re heading to one we’ve never visited before tomorrow. Even after all these years we haven’t done it all and revisiting the museums is something we do on every trip. We have a post on free things to do in London with kids but it’s about time I produced something newer and more comprehensive.
Good, Easy to Access, Health Care
I want my blood pressure checking, a dental check up, a few different things. Sure, you can do these things anywhere in the world, but not having to figure out where to go and being able to do it all in English, is somewhat easier. In Romania, or Vietnam, the nearest big hospital was a long way away for any potential emergencies or accidents. Here you’re tripping over the things. It’s reassuring.
Running or Walking Without Fear
As you know, Chef competes in Ironman events. This means he is out running most days. I like to run too but haven’t since leaving Vietnam, for the reasons below. I can usually slot back into the weekly 5 Km Park Run scene. It’s exactly a year since I wrote this post on getting back into fitness after 50. I’m fitter, but not as fit as I want to be. But watch this space, Everest is coming up!
My major fear with Chef running almost anywhere, is dogs. In the UK there is no rabies ( this should be reason #11) so if anyone does decide to bite him, it’s not a big deal. He’s had nasty run ins with dogs in many countries because they really don’t like runners or cyclists. He’s got away with it so far, thankfully, but there was a very close call in India and he has to have a word with the sheepdogs almost every time he goes out in Maramures.
He still worries me sick when he’s out on his bike, traffic is a worry everywhere, but not having packs of wild dogs around or giant Romanian sheepdogs trained to fight off bears and wolves, makes me much less stressed.
We hardly ever watch TV but TV in English, good quality shows and as much Big Bang Theory as we can take makes a great change. 5 years without TV has taught us to appreciate it when we get it.
London has Moderate Temperatures
We arrived into a heatwave. The UK is sweltering in record breaking temperatures. So they say. To us these temperatures are moderate and we’re perfectly comfortable in the house or in the shade. No living in air-con, no fans whirling round the clock, this is fine. Although I must admit I’d be happier with temperatures about 10º lower.
I love cold winters, so I’m not going to say London is a dream for me in that respect, winters, like summers, are moderate. After 2 winters at -25º C, I’d even say warm. The UK is well equipped for cooler temperatures with central heating. That’s something you don’t see in many parts of the world. In Romania our wood burning stove is a much more practical option and we loved it, but don’t take central heating for granted, it has advantages.
Good Wi-Fi and No Power Cuts
It’s not the fastest wi-fi in the world, but it’s certainly not slow. It works, round the clock, never goes down and we rarely have power cuts to knock it out. We’ve been struggling on unreliable phone hotspot wi-fi for months now. A stable connection is a dream come true for us. Power that works all the time and wi-fi you can take for granted are real luxuries.
Amazing Onward Travel Options
London is one of the world’s biggest flight hubs. It’s too far from Asia for my liking, but it’s easier to get anywhere from here than from say, northern Romania or Queensland. Those places make our life a little tricky! So onward. Our next flight ( at this point, we think) will be to Nepal. And much as I love you London, I CAN”T FREAKING WAIT! So we’ll hop onto Skyscanner to find the best way of getting there, score ourselves a bargain and probably stop somewhere interesting on the way.
We love London. There are plenty of things we don’t love about London too, but for now, the great-to-be-back feeling is winning. From the perspective of serious travellers, there are just so many advantages to being in this great city. UPDATE: Our 6 weeks in London actually turned out pretty sucky see why here.