As lockdown eases and our priorities change, three women reflect on why they’re considering leaving the city for pastures new in a quest to find their own versions of a “new normal”.
For some, lockdown has deepened a love for our local area. Dreaming of a pint at our favourite pub or exploring the nearest green spaces has given us an opportunity to experience our cities in a whole new light. But for others, being confined to our homes has forced a rapid revaluation of city life.
With experts predicting that remote work could continue long after lockdown ends, some are starting to weigh up the benefits of forking out extortionate rent to work in a box room in a city that was unrecognisable during lockdown and, even as businesses re-open and glimmers of normality are starting to appear, doesn’t boast the same benefits many live there to experience.
Searches by Londoners for homes outside the capital have risen by 51%, according to property website Rightmove, and as city-dwellers dream of a commute-free future, many are turning their attentions to more affordable, greener parts of the UK.
Will there be a deluge of people leaving London post-lockdown, in search of greener spaces and cleaner air? Or will the city reclaim its status as a thriving metropolis once more?
Here, Stylist speaks to three women planning on leaving London after lockdown to find out why.
I currently live in a one-bedroom flat in Wembley Park with my boyfriend of three years. Lockdown has made me realise that our place is way too small to enjoy over an extended period of time. Living and working in the same space has been challenging, as I cook, eat, work, and relax in the same room. We are, however, fortunate to have a few parks nearby, and have made more use of our balcony than we usually would.
My workplace has always been quite flexible when it comes to working from home, but in the past I felt like I needed a specific reason to justify it – such as having a GP appointment that day. However, I know that my department will be much happier for us to work from home after lockdown because they are seeing how beneficial it is for our work/life balance.
My boyfriend and I want to get on the property ladder, and are now considering areas such as Hertfordshire, Surrey, or even Kent. My boyfriend is a carpenter and joiner and is passionate about the idea of renovating a house, so we now hope to be able to do this outside of London. I can’t wait to have more space, a designated room where I can work comfortably from home, and a garden to enjoy in the summer months.
Lockdown has also opened my eyes to how much money I could be saving simply by spending more time at home, so I want to live in a place that I absolutely love.
I left London three days before lockdown was announced, in order to stay with my mum in Gloucestershire. It was quite unsettling leaving in the circumstances, but I’m grateful to have come home when I did. Exiting the city was cathartic in many ways – I remember feeling extremely tense as I left London, and there was a real atmosphere of panic and fear. However, I only expected to stay at my mum’s house for a couple of weeks, so I’ve been wearing the same three outfits for months now!
While I love London and am lucky to have a small outdoor space at my flat, it doesn’t compare to the rolling hills and fresh air that you get in the countryside. It’s made me realise that nature and space is more important to me than I thought. I’m forever grateful to have had the opportunity to spend time here, and it’s made me fall in love with my home county again. I’ve loved going on beautiful walks, seeing bluebells sprouting, and taking up running. I feel much more at ease here, and have noticed that the pace of life is different.
I’m looking forward to heading back to my flat in London when it’s safe to do so and getting some normality back, and it’ll be nice to spend some time exploring the city on foot. However, being back in the countryside has made me reconsider whether I want to stay in a big city long-term. I’ve always thought that I’d like to move back close to my family eventually, but lockdown may well speed up my decision.
I’ve spent lockdown in a two-bed flat in Greenwich with my boyfriend of four years. He’s a key worker and so has been working his usual hours, while I’m a freelance presenter and journalist. Work has been increasingly sparse since we went into lockdown, but when shifts have cropped up I’ve worked from home.
We’ve actually really enjoyed the slower pace of life that has been somewhat forced on us. This has been a really unexpected revelation, especially for me. I was born and bred in Liverpool – an incredibly vibrant city, full of culture, friendly people, and a thriving music and live events scene. Before lockdown, my weekdays would consist of dashing across the city for work while squeezing in fitness classes and business meetings, and my weekends were full of boozy brunches with close friends and heading into central London to a gig or the theatre.
I loved the buzz of being on the go non-stop, but I was constantly exhausted. After lockdown we’re determined to focus on having more quality time together and much less rushing around, checking the time, and feeling stressed and anxious.
Pre-lockdown we were house-hunting, with a view to buying a property in Greenwich or Blackheath. But now, we’re desperate for more space, and a large garden has become a must-have. After experiencing cleaner air thanks to fewer cars on the road, it’s something that we’ve become hyper-aware of, and realise that soon the pollution will return to London as lockdown continues to be eased.
We’re now looking to buy a property in Kent with a view to me predominantly working from home. We hope that my boyfriend can have a separate office on-site, so that when we eventually start a family neither of us will waste time commuting. Instead, we want to be able to spend that precious time at home with our child, should we be lucky enough to have one.
(Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity)