I’m leaving my flat in central London to spend the summer in the camper van. One week in and I feel like it’s the best decision I’ve made in years!
It was 7:40 and I’d just stepped on the Northern Line to Old Street, my destination was Google’s Campus London – a thriving hub of creativity for London’s most promising start-ups.
On the tube there are unwritten rules that people silently abide by. The only movement allowed is the forceful push through the door at stops followed by the immediate retreat of all body contact as the doors slide shut. Even your eyes can’t meet. Everyone runs for the tube, because the two minutes you have to wait for the next one are precious. If you’re lucky you may see a rat and if you gaze hard enough at the adverts you’ve read for the 300th time (the only place you find yourself looking), you may even be lucky enough to see the dead lice scatter across the commercials mostly aimed at reducing stress, improving health and investing – appealing to the deepest desires of London’s hungry crowd; the cogs in a well oiled business machine. Conversation is restricted to the topics of GDPR, investments and Kevin the latest intern who can’t file his documents into the correct folders.
The tube sums up the misery of London – no eye contact, no positivity, no smiles…no exciting conversation! As you surface to the streets, the hoards of tourists break the mould and inject a little energy, but you still feel restrained by negative vibes as you go from meeting to meeting across places such as Bank or Holburn, seeing suits clearly in distress yelling on the phone, some in tears or breaking a serious sweat through angry conversation to colleagues.
It’s with this misery, stress and difficulty in business that people connect. A drive to the pub after work on Thursday or Friday, connecting with friends that vocalise their anger and move through the pints to forget worries seems to create a bond like no other. Synergistic energy develops over nuances and the party goes off, moving into more exciting territory. Every pub is like a hidden refuge that springs to life with activity – everyone is buzzing. London’s pub life is like no other… then its on to the club – plenty of which are famous – Fabric, Ministry of Sound, Corsica Studios, Jazz Cafe and beyond – all touting incredible line-ups – where people will party hard throughout the night.
Enter the weekend and the fun doesn’t stop. With a plethora of events around the clock throughout the week along with some of the best museums & galleries in the world, London inspires creativity. On every evening there is an event – plenty of which offer unrivalled networking opportunities, knowledge and inspiration. Then there are the dating apps – it’s virtually impossible to run out of matches (even within just a mile) – you are spoiled for choice and get the opportunity to go on some fascinating dates to some really cool bars & restaurants. The only issue is everyone is too busy to curate a deep and meaningful relationship, myself included.
For the gifted few that have the ability to unwind amongst the chaos – yoga classes, gong baths, meditation sessions and spiritual gatherings all day every day offer a refuge for peace. For a business owner like me, it’s always been a struggle to switch off (other than a few pints down the pub) – whether being the latest challenge at work or the greatest new business idea – it seems impossible to set my mind at ease. Add in a dose of FOMO (fear of missing out) and London suddenly fills up my time pretty quickly…it’s only been 18 months but the feeling of stress among the lack of fresh air in Zone 1 has dragged me to a point where I nearly didn’t recognise what I’d become until I took a few weeks out to Thailand and had an opportunity for self-reflection. People even say how worse I look now since moving to London…I feel like I’d aged more in the past year than the past five years. It’s time for a change!
It’s 21:40 and I’m in Torquay sat in peace after a chilled swim where there was just five people in the pool (a welcome break from the usual fight amongst swimming lane congestion, or the queue to enter the jacuzzi!) The drive home along the harbour was met by only two cars…and a view of the sea reflecting the stunning array of colourful lights that glowed above the coastal walls, complemented by the silhouettes of palm trees. Then there was the air – so fresh, crisp and easy to breathe. It’s been just a few days and I feel calm already.
I’ve bought a camper van and after spending a couple of nights in it already I’ve realised I don’t even need to spend four figures a month on renting somewhere – I feel a sense of total freedom. Whether it will last, I don’t know. I’ve worked hard to be in a position where I can work remotely as managing director of my own tech business – an achievement I’ve dreamed of hitting my whole life. While the visits to London are inescapable, they’re now few and far between. London has fulfilled its purpose, and I’ve been able to build a network there of contacts, events, staff and resource in order to continue the sales side of the business while I concentrate on strategy, marketing, developing and innovating – the things I’m best at. With the sense of creativity and energy I now feel coming to me, I believe great things will start to happen.
One more big party this weekend at Arcadia in London and then I’m hitting the road initially for 10 days in Brussels and the Netherlands, followed by a short stay in a campsite I discovered on the outskirts of London while I round off a few key meetings before embarking on a trip to my home county in Devon & Cornwall. It’s all a trial and I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve bought the camper van and have no experience – I’ve done no research… I don’t have a clue, yet that’s part of the fun! I’m equipped with just my bedding, clothes, hygiene products, breakdown cover, laptop and a thirst for adventure! Portugal is one destination I’m currently dreaming up for July!
If you’re still reading this then great, thank you…I really didn’t expect anyone to! Sometimes it’s just great to put things down in writing and externalise. I can’t wait to look back in a few months and see where things currently are compared to the past few months of stress, illness and anxiety. It’s time for a new lease of life and I hope to take a mini video diary of what’s to come, including my every day discoveries of life in a camper van along with various anecdotes that I hope some of you will be able to relate to and draw inspiration or knowledge from in some sort of way.
London will always be a favourite city of mine and I’ll continue to visit with excitement and bursts of adrenaline but for now it’s time for some mindfulness. So long, and thanks for all the Fish and Chips!