I’ve blogged before about how my relocation to London has sparked this greater awareness of and interest in references I hear about England in what I read (see our “Moving to London – London Literacy” category for some good UK-related reads). No matter what, all literary roads seem to lead back to London for me, and my friends’ and my new book club pick (The Island, by Victoria Hislop) was to prove no exception: right in the first chapter we learn the main character has a “slightly tatty rented flat in Crouch End,” whereas her boyfriend lives in “a smart apartment in Kensington.” A couple pages later, we then learn that her parents dwell in “a Victorian terraced house in a quiet Battersea street.”
But beyond that, I certainly didn’t expect a book about a leper colony living in WWII Greece to provide any further connection to my international relocation—well, I should hope not!! But crazy as it sounds, I was wrong. So far there haven’t been further specific mentions of London or the UK, but this particular paragraph did resonate with my London move:
“That afternoon they unpacked their boxes. Surrounding themselves with a few familiar objects should have lifted their mood, but each time a new possession emerged it came with all the associations of their past lives and did not help them forget. Every new trinket, book or toy reminded them more intensely than the last of what they had left behind.”
In my former Weekend Warrior Saturday series, in which I’d provided extensive moving advice—like finding a job in London, deciding whether to sell or rent out your house, deciding whether to rent or buy in London, packing your boxes and shipping ’em over, and loads more—I had kicked it all off with “Packing Your Most Sentimental Items for a London Move.” That advice regards making such items available to you straight away in your carry-on baggage and perhaps an “Open Me First” box when the movers deliver your belongings. These are the things that can remind you of who you are and where you came from just when you might be feeling out of sorts in an alien place.
In any case, it was interesting for me to come across that passage on the same day that I had run our signed lease renewal over to our representing London lettings agency. I hadn’t set foot inside that place since we first relocated to London from the States three years ago, and it brought back instantly the feelings of insecurity and not knowing what lay ahead that had plagued me at the time, the feelings of first living in our London apartment before our belongings were delivered and it seeming like a blank shell of a house and not a home without all my personal possessions inside it. Just when I’m about to go all Maria Von Trapp on you and belt out a list of “My Favorite Things,” I admittedly also see the point made in that passage above…how those familiar things can sometimes make it harder to move on. An international relocation is difficult when you’re closely connected to who and what you leave behind at home, so there’s no question that one big step toward getting over my homesick grief was feeling that it really wasn’t so far away from me after all, that my loved ones were there in spirit thanks to the memories my familiar objects from home evoked. Yet just as necessary for getting over it was embracing the new, that I couldn’t just keep clinging on to what made me ache for home. London had become my new home, and I needed to navigate my way through the unfamiliar, see different sights, know different people, and start to make all that part of who I am, too, and, if not where I was from, then where I am now.
Just the random reflections of a fellow expat living in London…perhaps these thoughts will resonate with your current international relocation experience like the aforementioned did for me.