Why I Left New York for London


This post was contributed by Alicia Barnes

Picture this, you’re a 26-year-old woman who has just finished up a client meeting where your colleague threw a tantrum and pretty much blamed you for a mishap that would result in a loss of business.

Yep. That was me.

An overworked, but relentlessly hungry New Yorker determined to make a better life for myself. I was living with roommates in Brooklyn but I grew up in the projects of the South Bronx. I assumed that my path to success would be working like a slave in NYC forever. I was wrong. A slave’s life wasn’t for me. I decided to make a change.

For about four years, I would tell friends and family that I was planning to move to London. I would scheme the various ways I could make it happen like grad school or making myself poachable by a global company, but I ultimately put it on the backburner. My career was my focus because there was no possible way for me to get to London without it. This is what I thought before I saw the error in my ways. At the end of 2015 (after that bizarre meeting) I started working on a plan to go to London and throw everything I had worked for out the window, so to speak.

The first thing I did was look into short courses in London on topics I was truly interested in. I thought about grad school but I wasn’t up for making an investment in a program my heart was not behind. Instead, I opted to pursue my passion for film. I came across the London Film Academy and found a short 5-week course teaching the elements of filmmaking. To me, this was perfect! I could have a valid excuse to travel to London and learn something I loved at the same time (if this ain’t the definition of livin’ your best life, then I don’t know what is). 

Next, I went to look for my passport. At this point in my life, I had made it a point to travel someplace internationally at least once a year. My passport was full of stamps and old visas (I studied abroad in Paris for a semester) but I noticed that my little blue book was about to expire within the next eight months. Although that seemed like plenty of time, after researching a bit more, passports needed to have at least six months worth of time on them or else you run the risk of being refused entry into a country. Since I was planning my escape from NYC within the next five months, I had to get my passport renewed – ugh.

My plan was shaping up nicely. The only thing I needed to figure out was my place to stay. Luckily, I had been saving all my money because I really am Mr.Krabs (see Spongebob) and find it hard to part with my coin ($$$) on things that don’t home basematter or could have been avoided (i.e an Uber home when I could have just taken the train). I had enough money to spend for my summer adventure and for a cheap room someplace so I started making some calls and inquiries. Soon I realized though that I could save money as I was/am fortunate to have family members who live near London where I could stay rent free (THE ULTIMATE MONEY SAVER). So I called them up and made arrangements. I was set to leave NYC once I quit my job.


I had to sit down with myself and ask, “Okay, sooooo what’s really so good about London?”

Firstly, I wanted to be in a foreign city where I could truly breathe again. I know London air isn’t pure, but if you haven’t been to NYC, you really don’t realize how chaotic it is. You don’t realize how much you work and how little time you actually have to enjoy just being. It’s really easy to get caught up monitoring salary, promotions, relationships and the dating life of yourself and others around you. This can really ruin your mental health. Every bit of your life is “on” and if you stop, you might get left behind.

London was how I visualized my chance to stop.

Although London is a major urban city, it’s a lot smaller than NYC and the pace of living? It’s so slow comparatively. I remember doing an internship during my time there where the boss cracked open a bottle of wine at 2 PM and said: “Let’s drink and watch The Apprentice UK.” I was literally stunned…shook! From my intern days in NYC, the only break I remember was getting a leftover cupcake and talking with a friend for like five minutes. DANG, what a difference? 

I also chose London because of its proximity to the rest of Europe. I had studied abroad in Paris and was lucky enough to hang out with people who knew more about travel than me; they even brought me along on trips to Greece and Spain. After realizing how accessible everything was, London was my chance to keep exploring the world with this city as my homebase. I could take the Eurostar to Paris or a cheap EasyJet ride to Spain, so many options and all within a short distance. And I did just that! I went to Manchester, Malta, Mallorca, Amsterdam and to the southern tip of the UK. It was a lot of fun and I do not regret the experiences or the money spent on these adventures. In fact, as a result of going to London, I ended up meeting my future husband and plan on moving there long term. Go figure?!

So my point: NYC is hectic. It’s still an amazing city with lots to do and to explore but sometimes, you just need to Shut Up and Go. Leave your home. Learn a new language. Meet new people and be open to new and unusual experiences.

Don’t listen to doubt.  Just take the leap because you’ll never know where you’ll land!

Meet Alicia: My name is Alicia and I’m a 28-year-old girl from the Bronx, NY who became fed up with the city and took the leap to temporarily become a Londoner. Keep up with me on IG.

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