Friday, July 22, 2011

London Calling?

By Kristina Wright

The text message made my heart race. No, not in that way. In a different way-- a way that stirred the wanderlust in me.

"There is a two year tour to London that starts in February 2013..."


The text was from my husband, a naval officer. The tour would have us packing up and moving to London for two years. The logistics are a bit mind boggling at the moment, but the opportunity to live in London for two years seems worth it. Almost?

I have have had a love affair with London since 2003, but I've been in love with England since I was a little girl. The monarchy, the pageantry, the history... England was where a woman could be a powerful leader-- and a princess in a castle. At least, that's the way my young imagination interpreted it.

I read about Henry VIII and his wives-- I memorized their names and their stories. I got up early to watch Princess Diana get married and I watched her funeral with tears in my eyes. I didn't get up early to watch Prince William's nuptials, but I recorded it. When I was a teenager, a British accent would make me swoon. Not much has changed.

I'm not good at running away-- not in any real sense. I may have fantasized about running away when I was a kid, but I never attempted it. The price to be paid when I was dragged home was simply not worth the risk. I dreamed of running away to Europe, to travel the world, to study abroad, to be a photo journalist... but as deep as the wanderlust runs, there is also a need for comfort and consistency and a sense of place and identity.

I married a Navy man and that fed some of my wanderlust-- though we've somehow managed to stay on the east coast for our entire 21 year marriage. I guess it's not really running away when you take your spouse with you-- or when your spouse's career is the reason.

Ironically enough, I hate moving and have never moved within the same state. But there is that part of me, the small part that exists on some alternate plain of reality, that has fantasized about skipping the off ramp to my house and driving on... to wherever. Stopping when the mood hits me, starting over, changing my name, living a completely different life. Much like the fantasy of running away from my dysfunctional childhood home, it's just a daydream and never something I'd actually do. It's not even something I really want to do-- but it does hold a certain appeal.

I don't suppose moving to England would qualify as running away, though in some ways it feels like that's exactly what I'd be doing. Yes, I'd have a husband and two toddlers in tow, but it would be a major (if temporary) life change. And that's what running away is about, right? Changing your life by changing your location. It not only appeals to my creative side, it appeals to the little girl in me who dreamed of living in a castle and calling the shots.

I don't know if we'll make the big move. The logistics make my head hurt: a house here to rent or sell, housing to find in London, determining what to do with all of our belongings and vehicles, finding foster homes for our pets (or managing the red tape that would allow us to at least bring the cats with us), moving with two young children who won't understand any of what's going on, having to work out the details on everything from bank accounts to medical care, not to mention finding reliable, trustworthy childcare so that I can continue to write and edit on the other side of the pond. And that's just the practical stuff. There's also leaving everything familiar and saying goodbye to friends. It's realizing there would be a period of adjustment and days of wishing for X, which can only be found in the U.S., or in Virginia, or in Chesapeake. Moments of loneliness, isolation, homesickness... and certainly moments of adventure, excitement and opportunity. There's so much to think about.

I'm not good at running away, obviously. I have friends who would make a move like this without a thought. But my wanderlust is tempered with that need for familiarity and now-- when I'm 8 months pregnant and in full on nesting mode-- is not the time for me to be considering moving to another country. I told my husband I couldn't make such a big decision while my hormones are bouncing all over the place and my maternal instinct is in overdrive. I told him we'd talk about it again in a couple of months-- and yet I find myself mentioning it at least a couple of times a week. It's a nice little daydream, especially when I'm hugely pregnant and miserably uncomfortable in this crazy summer heat.

Maybe running away in my mind is good enough. Maybe. But there was one very important question I had to ask before I'd even entertain the idea of moving to England. My husband's response has kept the possibility alive:

"There's a Starbucks nearby."


  1. I ran away to Wales. Although your situation is different (with kids), my best advice to you is Do it!

    It's only for two years. You'll be on a military base, which means you'll have the amenities of home. I can hook you up with lots of fabby people over there.

    Your biggest downside is dealing with all the friends who'll want to come and visit. ;-)

  2. Hear, hear to what Dayle said.

    At 19 I joined the Army and ended up in Germany, a place I'd always wanted to go. Two fabulous years, including the fun and challenges of living "on the economy" instead of at an Army base.

    And as for friends, a woman I knew when I was young had a father who moved all around the country with the airlines. I said, "it must be tough to leave your friends behind over and over."

    She said, "I can honestly say, I've never lost a friend by moving around. Just gained more." I've moved a lot since I left Idaho, and have found this to be true.

    If you can work out the logistics, you should go. I think you'd love it, whether there's a Starbucks or not!

    And speaking of, I did miss a few things that were uniquely American while I was "over there" but I was far busier enjoying the new things I was discovering...

  3. You're starting to weird me out with how much we have in common.

    Husband came home three days ago and said, "Hon, what do you think of Bologne, France?"

    There exists the possibility - and a good one - that his company will do an architect exchange program; he will go there for a year, one of the French architects will come here.

    If it happens, we're decidedly going. It's an opportunity the likes of which I can't possibly bypass. Our daughter is old enough that it will be a good educational experience for her, and young enough that she shouldn't get all emo about it. Lord knows she'll probably pick up French before either of us do. (I speak Spanish and Chinese... somehow, I don't think this will help)

  4. Kristina, the trip sounds worthwhile, despite the mountain of details to arrange. Keep us posted after the new baby arrives.

  5. No experience in life is ever wasted.

  6. My thoughts on whether you should "run away" - to London in this instance - come from a slightly different perspective than yours.

    I was the Naval officer in my family. I moved from New Zealand to California with a six - week old baby (and started an intense grad school program six weeks postpartum), then moved halfway across the country two years later with a toddler.

    Next, I moved the other half of the way across the U.S. with a pre-schooler and a toddler. Four years after that, it was overseas again, this time to Europe and this time with a child in middle school, a child in elementary school and twin pre-schoolers (keeping track of the number of kids here?)

    All the negatives you mention are very real considerations: the enormously detailed and wearisome project that is any move, with the added pitfalls of a move overseas; doing all this while you're pregnant; hauling a newborn and a small child thousands of miles on an aircraft; a spouse who, no matter how much he/she is involved, is not the one handling all the details; the separation from friends and especially family.

    Nonetheless, in my opinion anyway, it's WORTH it. Neither I nor any of my family regret either our moves or the time spent overseas. You will have an extremely supportive "family" in the military community abroad, and a couple of years in London will give you opportunities to do and see things that you have no way of knowing you'll ever have again.

    A tour in London has the potential for being the best one of all. But even if it turned out to be horrible, as Kathleen says above, no experience is wasted.