This post is a hard one. As much fun as it can be, being an expat is hard and eventually, a moment will come when you question your decision to move abroad. Its a moment I often think only other expats understand. Little day-to-day things can quickly become an enormous challenge. Tiny insignificant things can be fascinating. You can feel incredibly energized (see: sunny Saturday mornings) and incredibly drained (see: rainy Tuesday evenings). Some friendships are strained or others are surprisingly strengthened. Your view on the world shifts slightly – hard to say for the better or the worse. And it is strange to feel oddly empowered by new possibilities but equally weakened by a lack of familiarity.
All this to say, its been a really hard last few weeks. I angry-ate a burrito last week (it involves shoving Mexican food as quickly as possible into your mouth in an attempt to alleviate aggression – just ask any North American.) Its easier on weekdays when you can throw yourself into work but as the weekend creeps up, that pesky tendency to over-think things often arrives with it…
The good news is: London is full of distractions. And I have been taking advantage.
As such I present you: an expat London weekend survival guide.
Friday evening: Hit a museum.
So many museums stay open late on a Friday evening and while much of the city is out fine dining, you can wander the halls of history in relative calm away from the crowds. Any worries are put into some calming perspective when you stare at an ancient mummy (British Museum) or look at the wooden frame of one of the last houses to survive the Great Fire of London of 1666 (V&A – cafe pictured above).
Saturday: Head out to the countryside.
A dear friend invited me away from the big city and the sunshine accompanied me. We toured the grounds of a property fit for Jane Austen (many of whose characters’ emotions seemed to echo my own), dared to forge flooded roads, had a proper pub lunch and went shopping in an adorable little village. The day ended with a cup of tea, a deer sighting and conversation by an open fire. It could not have been more cathartic. Sometimes the best way to reassure yourself you love a new city is to get out of it, breathe some fresh air and come back.
Sunday: Brunch. A stroll. Bookstores. Waitrose. And a show.
Highly recommended that the brunch involve one of the world’s sweetest friends and copious amount of pancakes. Pancakes will heal many wounds simply through caloric intake. And then convince you to get out for a walk. In my case – and thanks to a Tube breakdown – this happened to take place in Marylebone (pictured above).
It was here that I stumbled on what might be my new favorite location (rated by The Guardian as one of the 10 most peaceful locations in London): Daunt Books.
There are a few Daunt locations in London but I could have easily spent all day in the back room of this one, with its double story wooden bookcases and an older gentleman quietly reading in the middle of the room in a huge wicker chair. He was completely oblivious to people milling about and chatting around him. I was so thrilled with my find, I only took a picture on Instagram.
Then I raided a Waitrose grocery store and bought my weight in nicely packaged houmous…
To round out the weekend, I can only recommend not to sit still on a Sunday night. I was lucky enough to catch the final performance of Fuerzabruta at the Roundhouse. I wish I could describe it, but truth be told, the fact that no one could really explain it to me beforehand (but all raved about it) is precisely what made me want to go in the first place. Its like an odd/beautiful performance art piece, Brazilian carnival, interactive aquatics, prankster-theatre-in-the-round, and amazingly-staged party. I hope you can catch it at some point as it continues to make its rounds around the world.
So there you have it – how to fight the expat blues, should they ever strike you in London.
Quite simply: get out there.
*In retrospect, you may realize afterwards that this is a very busy weekend and that you should have rested a bit. Either way, it was still worth it :)