Leaving London: In desperate need of a lifestyle change

London. The roaring city. Immortalised on the silver screen. Entrenched in the dreams of millions. From a young age, many of us learn to revere London as the epitome of success – a goliath on the world stage. The place you should be if you want to ‘make it’.

But there’s a strange underbelly to this perfect city. Discontent, loneliness and anxiety; intensity, stress and, well, sadness. These feelings have fuelled a growing movement of Londoners looking for the door. In fact, Escape The City was created by 3 such discontented workers a decade ago.

Now, as our 10th birthday approaches, we felt it was the perfect opportunity to speak to the Escape Community about their experiences of London, what convinced them to move, and how their lives and careers have changed since.

Joey Sae Hoon Ra

Joey Sae Hoon Ra – Joey’s departure from his banking job in London was precipitated by a realisation that the life he was living wasn’t giving him fulfilment. This was compounded by a need to have space to process some grief he’d been holding onto.

“I’m so glad I left London and that I managed to overcome a huge mental block to do so. After leaving, I ended up unexpectedly deciding to visit Cambodia and have been here for two years, during which time I trained as a coach with CTI. Now, I’m working to pioneer coaching, and working with entrepreneurs and leaders to transform society here for the better.”

Aislinn O’Neill – Aislinn had a great job in Marketing and Business Development for an international law firm. Was she unhappy? No. Was she content? Not quite. Feeling there was more to life, she quit her job and bought a 3-month ticket to Bali. It would be 2 years before she returned.

“I didn’t set out with a plan, I just took one step forward each day. It’s not often you get the opportunity to live so much in the present. I had left to start a business, I thought I knew what that was, it turns out I didn’t. I knew I wanted to share culture and travel with others, to offer a different way of looking at their world.

Since then, I’ve started working in educational travel, journeying across Scotland, England, Paris and Croatia and setting up a tailor-made travel business.”

Charlotte Green

Charlotte Green – A year ago, Charlotte and her partner traded London life for the “Windy City”. This came after years of intense Marketing Director roles with fear-driven cultures and horrible commutes. She’s now splitting her week between a Marketing job (3 days) and helping start-ups (2 days).

“In Chicago, our quality of life is so much higher. I get to spend more time on self-care, doing yoga, acupuncture and dance. When you’re making the decision to leave you are mostly surrounded by people who have never done it before. It means you have to be strong in your conviction when the ‘stay-putters’ voice your own doubts back to you.

Believe it will be ok. And if you’ve tried and failed, you won’t live to regret it and you can always go back. London will still be there!”

Tatiana Martinez

Tatiana Martinez – After becoming disillusioned with 9-5 office life, Tatiana upped-sticks and moved out to Morocco. She has since moved around various African countries, living and working.

“I always say London is like a bubble that people get encapsulated in – I didn’t like the person I was becoming. Since moving, I have been living and working in different countries. I started doing workaway in Africa (at a skydiving centre in Kenya, a travel lodge in Senegal, etc). Most recently I was working in Ghana, as Country Manager for a UK NGO dedicated to educational travel.

I am actually so happy I left because it has shifted my life perspective onto a whole new level.”

Sophie Dubus

Sophie Dubus – After she left London, Sophie worked on the Uganda Marathon for 2 years. Following this, she retrained in NLP, hypnotherapy and shamanic healing, deciding to leave the UK for good in 2016.

“I’m so glad I left. It was the right decision for me and I have been living and working in Phuket, Thailand for more than 3 years now. My advice would be: if you’re curious, just go for it. Life is meant to be experienced! Don’t lie on your deathbed with regrets. We have so many more opportunities now than have ever been available, so grab them!”

Charlotte Friedrich

Charlotte Friedrich – Charlotte had just completed an MA in Positive Psychology and was working in HR when she decided to leave London to run a retreat centre in Bali. Despite the centre not working out, it did lead her into many other opportunities.

I’m now working full time as a women’s wellbeing coach from New Zealand, Bali, and Germany. I love London as a city, but it’s been far too intense for me to live there to be honest. I realised that if I need to sacrifice my freedom for success, then it’s not success for me.”

Andreia Brutus – Andreia’s 12-month stint in London was the toughest of her life, but she’s grateful for what it taught her.

“It’s in London that I learned what I don’t want (corporations, career ladders, commutes, living for the weekends). London is like a bubble and it can drag you into the ‘craziness’ so quick, without even noticing. Now, I’m self-employed and location independent with a home base, but you find me on tropical islands during the long European winters!

Lizzie Hawes – Lizzie was working in advertising when she first pondered leaving London. In the run up to Christmas, she decided to take the plunge, handing in her resignation. Her next stop was Cambodia, where she has begun volunteering at a women’s refuge, giving training courses and teaching English and yoga.

“At the time, leaving felt like a risky and scary decision… especially being surrounded by those who just saw success as climbing the career ladder and buying a house. Safe to say I’m now moving in circles of people with much closer values and a similar outlook on life.

My plan is unclear right now as I cannot volunteer forever, but it’s exposed me to a deep sense of contentment and wellbeing, and I feel excited for what’s to come.”

Anna Gordon – 8 months ago, Anna moved out of the City and away from a job which was leaving her wanting. She planned to learn to surf properly, so the obvious location was Cornwall!

“Moving away was hands-down the right decision for me – even in the winter. It’s mid January now and I swim in the sea every lunch break. I‘m coaching female entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into businesses through crowdfunding – it’s a fantastic company and brilliant offering (Back Her Business programme – where ladies can get £5,000 towards their start up).

Many of the Escape community [join the Facebook Group] had their own tips for those who were looking to leave city-life. Here are some of our favourites:

  • Be confident that you’re doing the right thing for you
  • Why you want to move is more important than where
  • While considering your leave, try to build some savings
  • Try to start working out what fulfils you now
  • Start dealing with emotional baggage – if you don’t, it’ll just follow you.
  • Leaving the city doesn’t have to mean leaving your career if you don’t want it to
  • Sometimes you just have to pack a bag, follow your gut instinct and see where it leads you.
If these escape stories have inspired you to consider leaving London to make a career change and live life differently:

Share This