How many of us have been on holiday and dreamt of moving to that place....well here is an inspiring story of someone who did it and started a whole new business because of the move out of London.
Holidays turn to real life
We came to Norfolk for a holiday in October 2005 and I spent a week at a seaside hotel, sitting in the bay window of our hotel room, or sitting on the beach, listening to the sea and planning my life.
All Summer I had become more and more desperate to leave my job and had spent nights working out how on earth we could afford it. After 16 years in the law, the stress was getting too much for me. I had achieved everything I wanted – partnership, trips to Hong Kong, working on multi-million pound deals, but now I wanted time to be with my son; I was fed up of missing his school plays, and fed up dealing with internal politics.
During that week in Norfolk I decided to give up my job.
Apprehensively, I chatted to my husband, and he said “That’s great – I will give up my job as well”.
I knew I wanted to run a business but had no burning business ideas, so after discounting a number of business ideas, including running a seaside café, a dog grooming business and a B&B, I Googled “Franchises” and found The Best of.
The business suited both my husband’s skills and my own.
We decided to buy a thebestof franchise and it was a case of where in the country we could live. We couldn’t afford to live in London without our salaries.
Where to go for a Life after London?
I decided that for the business to work, we needed to be in a city. But I wanted somewhere near the sea and near countryside. I looked at a number of places on my days off from work, then we visited Norwich one weekend. We had never been there before, but we loved it, and bought the business the following Monday. We were so excited, we stayed up all night chatting and planning.
We both handed in our notice at work, put our hous
e up for rent and started looking for somewhere to rent in Norwich.
I was working out my notice and, on my days off, travelling to Norwich to set up the business, find a good school for our 6-year old and find somewhere to rent.
We had decided to rent for 6 months before buying anywhere, in order to get to know the area.
Without knowing the area, I had struggled to find somewhere with a good school and rented accommodation. On a whim one day, I decided to hop on a train to Wymondham, a town about 12 miles out of Norwich. It was a dark, rainy January day, but I loved Wymondham the minute I saw it, and it had good schools.
Rental properties were moving fast, and there wasn’t much on the market, so when I spotted a house for rent in the town centre, I dashed there from London, looked around, liked it, and immediately put in an offer to rent the house.
Moving to an unseen home
We moved in that February; to a house that my husband and son hadn’t even seen yet.
On the day we moved, my husband was already in Norwich at a business networking event, and I had flu. My 6-year old son refused to get out of bed and sat watching as the removal men moved everything from around him, until he had no choice but to get up.
I just about managed to get to Wymondham with him, then collapsed exhausted.
What Life after London first looked like
We then went through a period of huge adjustment – setting up the business, recovering from the previous 16 years of a stressful (albeit exciting) career, and moving house.
I kept forgetting passwords and locking myself out of my bank account. Twice I got calls from the bank saying that I had left my bank card in the cash machine but someone had handed it in. Thank goodness we moved to an area of low crime! Norfolk has one of the lowest crime rates in the UK.
We had a website with nothing on it, and knew no one in Norfolk except the letting agent! Joining networking groups was the best business decision we made. We forged relationships and even started running our own networking events. At the first event we ran, I had a phone call to say my son was ill and could we collect him from school. Having no family or frie
nds nearby, there was no one to fall back on. I thought about picking him up and bringing him to the event with us, but luckily, the one person we knew in the town, happened to be home ill with a cold, and picked him up for us.
We ran The Best of Norwich for 9 years but during that time, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter became available to users around the world and I started to learn how to use these social networking sites for our business. More and more of our clients were asking for social media advice so spotting a gap in the market, I set up a sister business, Bright Yellow Marketing, to provide social media training.
We left thebestof franchise in 2015 and have focused solely on our social media business since then.
Author, Business Owner and True Life After Londoner
I have published three books on social media and an online course – all achieved because of the things I learnt since leaving London, from meeting interesting people, and being able to follow my passion.
Moving from London, there were a few things that we had to get used to:
- The pace of life is slower, which is a good thing, but it took us a good 6 months to get out of “London” speed, and stop getting annoyed at the slow queues in the shops.
- Even after 13 years, I still get caught out by half day closing!
- Most public transport slows down at night. We are lucky in our town – there is still one bus an hour (roughly) from 6pm and the last bus/ train back from Norwich is at about 11pm. Instead of getting angry if I had to wait 2 minutes for a tube in London, I now think nothing of waiting 15/ 20 minutes for a bus.
- Even though the locals think the traffic in Norwich is terrible, it is a breeze compared to London traffic jams; the roads are still fairly quiet in comparison. On some country lanes, you hardly see any other cars.
- It feels much safer. For the first 6 months, I walked the long way around the town in order to avoid a dark path back to our house. Now, although still sensibly aware of my surroundings, I don’t worry as much and use the path daily.
- My neighbour stands in the garden and chats to me, surrounded by the various neighbourhood cats who all magically appear. Other neighbours stop and join in. He got up at 6 am one morning to give me a lift when the car broke down, he feeds the cat when we are out, and he insists on mowing my lawn as he can’t stand watching me struggle with my lawnmower!
- The skies are brilliant for star-gazing.
- My son went straight from the junior school to the local High School (which is 10 minutes down the road) with none of the hassles of trying to get into the right school that you hear about in London. He moved up from Junior School with his friends and was very happy there. He’s now at University – how time flies.
- Business people in Norwich have been very friendly and it has been much easier to make contacts here than I expected.
It took us longer than we expected to get going in business, partly because we had so much to learn and partly because, just as we became confident with running the business, the recession hit.
Initially, I missed living in London. Although I have never regretted leaving my job, I felt “homesick” for London for a few years. We had been living in Canary Wharf, and I missed the riverside walks, the cycle paths, the statues dotted around everywhere and the architecture. Now that we have made a lot of friends, I feel very settled here. Norwich is a beautiful city and I still marvel at how green everything is. Wymondham has a fantastic community, with lots of events happening in the town throughout the year.
To top it all, my best friend from London has miraculously ended up living in the same street as me. We had lost touch for 10 years, she had returned to Australia and didn’t even know we lived in Norfolk! She moved back to the UK and we bumped into each other in the town. She had been living at the end of my road and recognised me when I went running one morning.
In terms of making our drastic life change, we were only able to do what we did because we sold our London house, and put part of the money into the business and part into buying a lower priced property in Norfolk. I did not want to rely on business loans and worry that they could be called in at any time, so we have always been self-financing. We have never wanted the nicest house or the fastest cars, so we were happy downsizing.
If you are thinking of doing something similar, my advice would be to make sure that you have enough money put by for at least 6 months.
Although it was a financial risk, I love what I do, and now wake up on a Monday morning looking forward to the week ahead, rather than feeling sick with apprehension. I have never regretted my move.