The Expat Diaries: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

The Expat Diaries: Should I Stay or Should I Go?People often ask me when I decided to stay in London for good (or rather, indefinitely). It’s a hard question for me to answer.

I knew from my very first day visiting London, when we’d come here to work on The MASON, that I had to return here to live. I’d had that feeling before. Any time I’d gone on holiday to a city before and fallen in love with it, I’d wanted to move there. But this time was different. I knew that in my bones and I proved it by doing everything I needed to to make it happen.

Yet even when I first moved here, I only meant to come for a year. Deciding to stay came later, although not much.

It was an idea that crept into my mind during my first few weeks after arriving, as I’d be filled with spontaneous joy just wandering the streets and realized that I lived here now. But it didn’t happen all at once. I wasn’t certain.

Within the first couple of months I’d mostly made up my mind but then that decision was shaken. I found out my brother’s girlfriend was having a baby and my first response was that I needed to move back to Canada. I knew that they’d need my support and I couldn’t imagine having a nephew grow up with me so far away.

But soon there was a nagging decision in my heart that my place was in London. That I wasn’t ready to leave.

I knew that if I moved back to Canada, it wouldn’t be to my hometown. And I didn’t even feel right about moving back to Toronto. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly where I’d want to be because my heart was stuck on London – maybe Montreal or Vancouver, but either way I’d still be far away from my family. It took me a while to accept the decision I was making, but soon enough I gave into it.

At first I liked to think that this certainty was because London is mine now. In the way you take ownership of a city after having had to struggle to stay there, having learned the curve of her streets, and suddenly finding yourself a local at your favourite pubs and cafes. I liked to think I’d made this great, wild place my own.

But lately I’ve realized it’s the opposite that’s true. It’s me that belongs to London.

This city is full of surprises. Pockets of beauty, secret corners, and hidden mysteries. I’ll never see it all. And there’s something new popping up every day.

My life is being shaped around her energy. My schedule bends to accommodate hers. And somehow I understand that who I am and who I’m becoming is tied to her. I know with the full force of my being that I’m not ready to leave and perhaps I never will be. And so, sometime last winter, I decided to stay.

Have you ever felt the call of a city so strongly that you couldn’t say no? Or is there a place you’re yearning for right now?

Love, glitter crowns, & fields of tulips,


  1. The minute I got off my first ride on the Tube and walked along the river, London had me. A lifetime of fiercely loving LA and wanting to live there forever just swept away and I knew I belonged in London. I haven’t made it to living in London quite yet (it’s in the planning phases atm) but I’m only an hour away. Which is better than 6,000 miles away for sure.

  2. Sarah, I understand exactly how you feel! I have a calling to London for many reasons I know it will be the place I call home. It may be a bit strange for some because I have never been to England (only countries around it). But I can feel that magnetic pull towards her, thank you for sharing about your decision on where home is.

  3. Thea says:

    This makes sense to me. Of course it could be that I too feel pulled to London. I am in midst of getting my Greek citizenship (currently US only) so I can stay indefinitely too. Each step one step closer.

  4. I feel the same way towards Kyoto (where I did my year abroad at university), albeit the feeling was slightly delayed. I was enamoured with it for the most part when I lived there but home sickness and mental health issues made my stay more difficult towards the end, and yet these days I feel this pull and a deep longing to go back, as though I’ve left a piece of myself behind. Even through all the struggles and difficulties that you can face living abroad, it’s funny how these places still seem to sink their teeth in you and don’t let go!

  5. What a wonderfully written post.

    I moved to London from the north of England, so not quite as distant, but still a lifestyle change from living on a farm to a crazy city. I planned in advance to hate it- it was gonna be too busy, too crowded, too expensive (… and I also thought politically it would bug me -where I’m from in the north has a bit of a tradition of thinking that money and politics is centralised in London and never reaches us poor northerners!), so I REALLY was set against it. Didn’t stop me falling for it, and I’m not sure how I’ll ever come to leave the place…

  6. This is beautiful. I hope you’re enjoying the relief and excitement that this feeling and decision must have triggered!

  7. I have been in London for nearly 7 months but I dont get that feeling, I feel like I am meant to be here right now but I dont feel like its my home, like Im here to stay. This may change who knows! It’s a little uncertain as I dont know where I’ll go once my visa runs out but Im sure life will show me the right path :)

  8. This was beautifully written and I can’t wait to spend an afternoon with you enjoying London :)

    As for a place that I belong to, no, I don’t think I’ve found that yet. I feel very displaced most of the time. I currently live in a town I ended up in with no plan and it’s not my kind of place but I don’t know where else to go. Australia stole my heart, but not anywhere in particular. I don’t know if my perfect place exists or if I’ll ever find it, but I’m not sure I’ll ever feel settled until I do.

  9. Oh ps: I lived in London for 8yrs before it became too much for me. Then I moved down to the coast in Cornwall, before spending a couple years in Australia and then trying London again, but I couldnt get used to the crowds and expense. However, not living in London, I miss it. I miss the energy and the inspiration and the constant stuff to do. I dont miss not being able to afford to live there tho.

  10. I feel that way about New York City. Every time I visit, it feels more and more like I’ve come home. I can’t conceive of any possible way to be able to move there at this point, so I have to content myself with visiting.

  11. Alice says:

    This is so relatable! I am Dutch and have been living in Tokyo for a few years now. I often wonder how long I should stay here, whether I should go back to my country, whether I could even get used to living in the Netherlands again after making a metropolis like Tokyo my home. At the same time, Japanese language and culture is so vastly different that I sometimes do not feel quite at home here either. I think even if I go back to Europe, I would rather live in a lively city like London, rather than my hometown in the Dutch countryside.

Speak Your Mind


Sign up for my weekly love letters & receive the 30-page Define Your Dreams workbook. Download now.
Hello. Add your message here.