leaving london | this city life
Life,  Lifestyle

Thoughts a year after leaving London

This month marks a whole year since we packed up all of our things and left London to start a new adventure in Leeds. In a weird way, it feels like we’ve been here both forever and in no time at all. It was the best decision we’ve ever made, but it wasn’t an easy process. The ‘moving to a new city’ feeling was great, but all the ‘goodbyes’ and the ‘lasts’ were not.

After all the crappiness though, came the good parts. We’re doing better up here. We feel lighter, more settled, more positive. We’re less overwhelmed, less achy, less…bleurgh. There have been moments, of course, when we wondered if taking a big plunge like this was really necessary. But I look at the future and I feel like taking a huge breath in. That can only be a good thing. How the past came to be the past is another story.


Seven days before we left I walked through Piccadilly Circus at night for the very last time as a Londoner. My heart started to sink and I wondered if we’d made the right decision. I’d never feel ‘this’ way again, swerving past tourists with the screen lights beaming across my face like spotlights. Scurrying towards the station to let the tube swallow me up and spit me out in Harrow.

I felt a bit sick. Was a new city really something I wanted to tackle? I felt tired of London, overwhelmed by how needy and exhausting it was, but it was home. I would be leaving my home and having to build a new one. I had no friends in Leeds, and it had taken me six years to make most of the friends in London.


“You’re going to hate me”, I told my boss in the glass room that everyone seemed to have their scariest discussions in. She asked why, and I shakily let out the secret I’d been keeping for a few months. “Unfortunately this is my notice…” I bit my lip. “But I’m going to be moving to Leeds…” She smiled.


Three days before we left I met up with two of my closest friends for Afternoon Tea. My lovely local hairdresser had bleached, dyed and braided my hair for the last time. The same hairdresser who’d began my makeup at 7am the morning of my wedding, handing me ginger biscuits between false eyelash applications to steady my nerves.

This meeting with friends wasn’t really a goodbye. It was more of a catch-up, a couple of glasses of Prosecco (of course) and then a ‘see you later’. We laughed at old stories, got serious at some of the bad stuff that had happened in the past, ate plenty of sandwiches and cakes, wondered if our futures would pan out the way we planned them.

We hugged and I told them I’d catch up with them soon. If they ever wanted to visit Leeds, they were welcome! I got into the taxi and sank into the back seat, trying to keep it together.

living in leeds


“Did you get the flat?” my friend asked. “We did!” I replied and it suddenly hit me. We were moving. We hadn’t started packing anything yet, life was too busy. Accepting my job offer felt like a million months ago, but next week I’d be starting at the agency as the new girl. For the first time in forever, I wasn’t nervous. I felt ok about starting a new job. That wasn’t like me at all. Anxiety-ridden me seemed to have found a new level of adrenaline that kept my nerves at bay.


I had my work leaving drinks the night before we left London; all our belongings packed in the back of my dad’s van like Tetris. Drinking my final half in the Crabtree, chatting with colleagues about what I’d be doing next in Leeds. How did I feel about leaving London? Did I think I’d come back soon? Did I know anyone there? Was it going to be cheaper?

I left early so I could get home and settled for a busy moving day. It was all happening really quickly. We’d leave London on the Thursday, stay at my parents’ halfway to Leeds on the Friday so they could look after some of our belongings for a while, then we’d drive up to Leeds and officially move in on the Saturday. Somehow I’d managed to keep my cool.

Getting into the taxi outside the pub and waving goodbye through the window, I sank back into my seat. The taxi pulled away and began its journey past many familiar sights of the last six years. As we drove through Hammersmith, I broke down.

The taxi driver must have thought I was a nutter! Here I was in the back of an Uber, tears rolling down my face, not saying a word, just snivelling and unfolding tissue after tissue. It had all hit me in that one moment. The friends I’d never meet again for lunch, the people I’d stop seeing day after day, the familiar journeys, my favourite cafes, my favourite parks, my favourite people.

I cried for 37 minutes.


It’s a year on and I still miss things. I also don’t miss some things, but that’s because they’ve been replaced by something better or weren’t really good for us in the first place.

London took my breath away. But it also took my energy. I needed less; I wanted more. And we’ve got that in Yorkshire. Every time I felt like leaving might be a mistake, my excitement about arriving quietly grew. So when I cried the night before we left, I realised it was all of those times of doubt just leaving my body.

I left all of those feelings and emotions in the back of that cab, starting fresh on our next adventure.

moving to leeds | this city life

Also published on Medium.

Charley is a professional copywriter and tea-lover currently living in Leeds. She writes about city living and city travel (with a few cats thrown in).