The list of life events that I had to do in my life were: finish school, get a tertiary education, get a job, get married, buy a house/car, have children, take the same weekend break to the nearby hot springs resort every year, get old. I knew exactly what my life would look like at every quarter milestone and I hated that. There was no room for spontaneity. I was halfway through ticking things off that list when I hit a major low point in my life. I suffered from anxiety and depression, which I hid from my family and friends for months.
I worked for a digital marketing agency in South Africa with global offices, where they encouraged staff to pursue opportunities in any of their 60+ locations in the world. I matched the criterion necessary to be considered for liquid talent, so with nothing to lose, I decided to make the application on a whim. At the time there was no open role I applied to, it was purely speculative. I had randomly put myself out in the universe with one click, and had no idea how significantly my life would change after that.
I forgot about the application abroad, continued to exist in the background. But within in a few short weeks I found myself on a Skype call with my new team in my agency’s London office. The next few weeks consisted of visa applications, chest x-rays and international house hunting; everything happened so fast and every detail of it excited me. It was the biggest plot twist of my life. I remember standing in the hallway of Heathrow Airport with my entire life packed into 1 suitcase. I had never visited London before, so I had no idea what to expect.
That first week in London was a whirlwind of new experiences that I welcomed with open arms. For the first time in a long time I felt what it felt like to be alive. And I think that was the penny drop moment for me; I found the secret to pure unadulterated happiness: for me that meant venturing into the unknown. I was the happiest I’d been in years. It felt like I had a blank canvas in front of me with a chance to rewrite the life I wanted to live without any preconceived notions of what I’m supposed to be and for that I was infinitely grateful.
But the highs were soon followed by lows, which is natural when you’re moving countries. I soon realized that I had drastically under planned for this new life. I didn’t have a lot of money, once converted to pounds, and I had no place to stay. I questioned whether I had made the best or worst decision of my life moving to a city I’ve never been to before, all by myself.
I met Chris on the Vietnam Highlights Contiki trip the year before. People always told me that the friends you make on Contiki are the friends you’ll have for life – they’re like family. I didn’t know what this meant until this very moment. In that few days crashing at my Contiki travel buddy’s flat, I was able to relax, breathe and make solid plans to set up the start of my life in London. And although I was broke and struggling with basic life admin, like being assigned an NI number and getting a bank account in my name – I was happy. Truly, genuinely, wildly happy. I even managed to travel to other European cities soon afterwards.
It’s been three years since my first flight to London and I know that I am not the same girl who stepped on that airplane. I’ve discovered things about myself that I never knew before; I’ve grown both personally and professionally and I try not to plan my life too much. I now live with my husband and dog in a leafy London suburb, spending my weekends with other dog lovers in the park and exploring the latest pop-ups in the city. I am lucky enough to travel often and have a great work/life balance. I am exposed to so many different experiences, feelings, languages and cultures.
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