Well, it's been a few months since our last update and now 2013 is upon us. Last year was such an experience, I can't even sum it up in words. We experienced so much, covered thousands of kilometers, tried a hundred new foods and just tried to soak it all up. Our lives are forever changed, for the better.
Looking back, I have no idea how we managed through it all. We shared so many great stories on this blog but there were also lots of challenging times too. If you can travel as a couple for 5-6 months and stay together, you'll be together forever. We've now settled down in London for an undetermined period of time based on how much we enjoy our time and experience here.
We arrived in London on September 1st, 2012 on a quick flight from The Netherlands. We breezed right through customs with our work visas and were off to our first shared accommodation in Battersea. When it came to deciding where to stay, we just sort of picked a neighbourhood at random that seemed nice without really knowing much about any of them.
September was a great month in terms of weather, there were lots of hot days where we went out for walks and explored our new city for hours on end. On our second day in the city we walked about 20km, zig zagging from west to east London (Battersea to Greenwich), our roommates were astonished to hear how far we went on foot! We also had our first anniversary on the 3rd and celebrated at an Argentinean steakhouse. We got a few congratulatory phone calls from Canada which were very much appreciated.
Our walks took us to Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the houses of parliament and through lots of neighbourhoods including the super snooty Chelsea and Kensington. I have never seen so many Bentlies and brand names. It was a little off putting actually, the level of snobbery here is staggering.
Even though we had just arrived and were getting acclimatized to our new surroundings, we were both already actively seeking work. I had found a job on LinkedIn when we were still in Belgium that had progressed from phone interviews to an in person one in Bracknell which is a small town about an hour's drive west of London. It was great that I had gotten this far but there was one big problem, I had nothing to wear to the interview! Since I couldn't exactly carry a suit around in my backpack for months at a time we had to go out and do some shopping. I have to say, it felt really great to put on nice clothes again. I had been wearing shorts and a tank top or a bathing suit for the last six months, it was time for a change!
Two days later I made the trek out to Bracknell via train and aced the interview, the next day I had a job offer and the day after that, I turned it down. It was a great job but the logistics were just too much for me. If I wasn't on a plane going to visit a client I'd be commuting to Bracknell. After traveling for so long the last thing I wanted to do was get on a plane.
Over the next several weeks we met up with Yasmin's former boss one evening and met her aunt for a weekend, and moved to our second accommodation in Wapping, East London. We then moved to an apartment in Kensington when my parents came for a visit, it was great to see them and take in the sights of the city together.
We decided that we'd move around to see a few different neighbourhoods so we could make a better decision on where we wanted to live. Wapping was a welcome change from the congestion of central London. It had a village feel to it with its narrow cobblestone streets, converted warehouses and locally run shops. We really enjoyed our time here and fell in love with the area. More importantly, I wasn't gagging due to the pollution in central London either.
It was here that Yasmin had her first taste of fish and chips from a small shop on the high street (main street). We took our paper wrapped fried haddock and chips to a little park nearby and feasted while keeping the hungry pigeons at bay.
Yasi gets a job
By late September Yasi had progressed a lot on the job front and had secured a couple of interviews. In the span of 2 days she went from not having any leads to three! We were out for a walk one night near the Vauxhall bridge when Yasi got the call from a recruiter that would ultimately lead to her getting her job!
It's funny how the job market here works, you're either sitting around twiddling your thumbs or frantically fielding calls and quickly making changes to your CV while figuring how to get to an interview. Looking for work in your own city is one thing, starting fresh in another country is another thing entirely.
Getting my job
After turning down the first job offer at the beginning of September I had to wait another 6 weeks or so before another opportunity came up. While Yasi was off at work I was on the hunt for jobs and talking to recruiters all the time. It was strange, I would apply for jobs that I was literally a perfect fit for but I wouldn't get any type of response. It was discouraging at times but I pressed on until I got an interview. I could relax a bit knowing that Yasi had a job and that we would finally have some money coming in!
When it rains, it pours. No sooner did I get an interview with the first company than another opportunity popped up for an even better job. It came right down to the wire but I got offers from both companies and took the better of the two.
We moved into our apartment on Yasi's first day of work, it's funny how timing works. In the morning she left the apartment where we rented a room in from another couple and in the evening came back to our new place! While she was at work I moved all of our belongings on foot, thankfully the two apartments were within walking distance!
It felt great to have our own place again, we had left our condo in Toronto almost a year earlier. Most apartments come furnished here so we thankfully didn't have to deal with getting furniture. We spent the next several weekends making trips to the mall to pick up all the little items we would need. After a few weeks, the place started to feel like home.
Our neighbourhood is great. It's quiet, right on the Thames and is filled with character and charm. We have the option of walking to work or taking transit if we need to. I even passed Sir Ian McKellen (aka Gandolf from The Lord of The Rings) on the street one day, he co-owns our local pub!
First of all, we don't know why people complain so much about the weather here. Yes, it may be gray and rainy at times but there are many lovely days to offset those. Coming from Canada, the weather here is fantastic. The coldest it gets in winter is 1-2 degrees with the majority of the days upwards of 5 or even 10! I can't count the number of times I've said to Yasi "I can't believe it's actually winter right now!". Maybe our tune will change after spending more time here but for now, we are quite enjoying ourselves.
Though we aren't sure what the future holds, I can safely say that we made the right decision to travel and come to London to work. It's been a crazy ride so far, one that we've learned so much from. As the weather improves we'll go out and explore England and Europe from our base in London. We're already lining up tentative summer plans with friends and family, it's going to be an action packed year!