5 Lessons Learned while Living Alone

It’s not uncommon for people to share their whole lives with others.

Think about it.

We grow up living in a home with our families. Some of us go to Uni, where we live with other students on and off campus. After Uni, we get jobs and prepare to join the ‘real world’, and either move back home or into our first ‘grown up’ places with some of our Uni or childhood friends. Over the next couple of years we watch friends fall in and out of love, live with different people, and move further away or closer to home. Eventually, friends start to settle down and go from living with friends to living with significant others. If they’re lucky, those significant others become life partners and then that’s it.

It seems that always living with others is the rule rather than the exception; my parents and most of my friends all fall within that rule.

So what happens when you’re the exception?

When I made the decision to move to London without really knowing anyone, I had a decision to make.

Do I find random flatmates (as they’re called in the UK) to live with, or do I try my hand at living alone?

I chose to live alone, and I am absolutely LOVING it.

Here are 5 lessons I’ve learned while living alone.

1. Making a flat a home takes time

I love my little flat. It has light blue walls, high ceilings, crown moulding, and pretty curtains. When I saw it for the first time, I immediately knew that I wanted to live in it. Still, just because you move your belongings into a flat that doesn’t automatically make it feel like home.

I moved to London with 2 1/2 suitcases and only a handful of meaningful personal belongings. So after I’d unpacked all of my stuff, it didn’t really feel like there was enough of me. I started with small practical things, like getting a full set of towels and a new bed spread and pillows and sheets. It probably sounds silly, but even having those things made me feel more comfortable.

Over time, I’ve added some other touches; I bought a standing mirror, some artwork, and a few wall hangings. I’ve started a little book collection on the mantle and have pictures from home on display.

The flat felt more and more like home with each added personal touch, and now it’s one of my favourite places in London.

2. Living alone doesn’t mean you’re going to be lonely

There was a part of me that was a bit worried I would feel isolated while living alone. Luckily, it’s been quite the opposite. I’ve learned that while I’m outgoing and social, I like to recharge on my own.

I’ve also realised that I have sometimes felt the most lonely when I have lived with other people. I like to spend time with the people I live with, and could usually be found in the living room or the kitchen, offering to cook for my roommates or asking them if they want to watch a movie. If the answer was no, and I found myself watching television in the living room while my roommates were up in their rooms, that would make me feel more lonely than I ever have while living alone.

Sure, there have been times when I wished I had a flatmate to listen to me vent about work or someone to commiserate with when I’m hungover and watching Netflix on Sunday. Generally though, I’ve found it so refreshing to come home to my own little flat in a foreign city that I’ve made my home.

3. you don’t need as much as you think you do

Honestly, it is shocking how little groceries I need for one person. When I first moved to London, I was buying all this food at the supermarket because I thought I would be cooking myself these delicious meals and would want to eat different things everyday. In reality? I ended up throwing away a lot of food until I learned to only buy what I really need to get me through the week.

Umm V, you only just realised that you shouldn’t buy food just because you ‘think’ you’ll eat it?

I know, I know. Welcome to the part of the blog where Victoria learns how to be an adult.

The same goes for clothes and all types of belongings really. I enjoyed hitting the shops when I first moved here since I didn’t really show up with too much clothing. Even now though, I find myself wearing the same things in various combinations each week. So do I really need that going out top when I usually end up wearing a jumper to the pub anyway? Nope.

4. Self-care becomes more important

It’s easy to let dirty dishes pile up in the sink or laundry go without being done when there’s no one around to comment on it. It’s also easy to order take-away and watch Netflix and get sucked into the little cocoon that is your own flat.

Those who know me from the US are probably laughing right now, seeing I am notorious for having a room that looked like a tornado had just blown through it. Now I feel better when there are no dishes in the sink, my laundry is done, and the flat is clean. This doesn’t mean that I don’t let some clothes lay on the floor and a few dishes in the sink - I’m only human! But since I don’t have any other space to escape to besides my own, I’m much more aware of keeping a tidy house.

Not only that, but I’ve learned to cook more healthy meals for myself and have figured out how to do my BBG workouts in my living room. I try to fall asleep at a reasonable hour (preferably before 10:30) and listen to what my body and my mind need. When you live on your own there are no distractions and you aren’t left with anyone but yourself, so you learn quite quickly what you need in the self-care department to feel good about yourself.

5. Pants are always optional

This is my favourite perk. I can wear whatever I want around my flat with zero fear of finding myself in an uncomfortable situation.

That awkward run in with a roommate’s boyfriend when you were dashing to the kitchen to get a snack with no pants on? Doesn’t happen.

When your roommate suddenly shows up from brunch with her cohort while you’re watching television in nothing but an oversized t-shirt? Also doesn’t happen.

As long as I don’t have visitors I run a pants free household and that, my friends, is the definition of freedom.

conclusion

Living alone is a unique experience and it certainly isn’t for everyone. If you do decide to try it, chances are you will find yourself feeling more capable and independent than ever. And more pants-less!

10 Things I’ve Learned Abroad

I have officially been in London for one month now and I can’t believe how fast time has passed.

I remember standing in front of the beautiful St. Pancras station, watching the famous double decker busses pass by, and feeling relieved and excited to finally be in this beautiful city. And to be honest, even after a month, this feeling hasn’t faded.

I have been dreaming of studying abroad ever since I was a little girl, but never thought it was a feasible thing, and frankly I had no idea where I wanted to go. Eventually, after some research and a lot of debating, I landed on London.

It’s funny because even after getting accepted into the program and booking my ticket, I still didn’t believe I would actually make it. Between the Greyhound ride to NJ, the flights, the trains, and 48 hours of non-stop travel, it seemed like I would never get here.

But I did, and I’ve truly never been happier.

With that being said, it would almost be impossible for me to recap the entirety of this past month. So, without further ado here’s the Top 10 Things I Have Learned From Studying Abroad. (So far!)

1. Pack light, but bring a BIG suitcase.

When I was first packing for this adventure I had absolutely no idea where to start.

How and what do I pack for three months?

I was out shopping for luggage one day, when a friend advised me to bring the biggest suitcase that I could. At first, I thought this was crazy, as everyone had told me to pack light. But, after arriving, I am so glad I listened to this advice.

WHEN YOU GO ABROAD…YOU WILL SHOP!

Even if you think you won’t, you will and having a big suitcase allows you to bring stuff home, and it works great for storage when you have a small dorm room or flat.

2. Look both ways before you cross the street.

Now I can’t speak for other cities, but in London traffic is inevitable and cars do not stop for you.

When I first arrived, it took me forever to get used to crossing the street. There are instructions painted on the pavement at crosswalks telling you to look right, or look left, but I assumed this was just a precaution. After all, in the States they always teach you to look both ways before you cross the street.

However, I quickly realised these instructions were quite literal. Traffic is fast moving and pedestrians DO NOT always have the right of way.

So pay attention and if it says “look right”...DO IT.

3.  Budget from the start

Before I left everyone would say,” Oh you’re going abroad? You better save your money.”

I always sort of ignored this comment thinking, I’m just going to study. I won’t be spending that much. I was wrong. If there is any advice I can give a student, it is to have a budget from the start. This experience will be one of the most amazing times in your life and knowing what you have, and what you can spend, only makes it a less stressful, better trip. I recommend setting aside money for travel, food, and fun.

You will spend more than you think in those first few weeks getting settled, and this will only help you in the long run.

4. Be Open Minded

If you want to make the most of the time you are abroad, say yes to things. (within reason)

Don’t be afraid to talk to new people or try something you have never done. You’ll be surprised by what you learn about yourself and the varying cultures.

If you keep and open mind, anything is possible.

5. Find a Spot you Like, and Frequent It.

This is a piece of advice that was given to me from a friend before my departure, and it definitely holds true.

Studying abroad is a time for new experiences and new people but it can, at times, feel chaotic for a lack of a better word. Finding a spot that you enjoy, whether it be a coffee shop or pub, can give you sense of familiarity and community.

It’s also a great way to meet new people and make friends with the locals.

6. Do not.. DO NOT exchange money at the airport.

This one may seem a little obvious…but I was one of those unfortunate travellers who did not wait to exchange my money, and was RIPPED OFF by the exchange rate at the airport.

Even if you think you will need cash…wait.

I promise it will be worth it and it’ll give you the biggest bang for your buck.

7. It’s Okay to Be Uncomfortable.

If there is anything you can take from your experience with study abroad, this is it.

Travelling to a new country can be a daunting experience. Regardless of the excitement you may feel towards this new adventure there will be times when you feel out of place, or even lonely. Don’t let this discourage you. It is normal to feel this way. You are starting over, meeting new people, and experiencing a new culture for the first time.

Let yourself be uncomfortable.

If you do, you will open yourself up to new experiences and will learn things about yourself, you may have otherwise not discovered.

8. Be selfish!!

You are only abroad for a short while, so make the most of it.  If there was ever a time in your life for you to be a little selfish, it’s now.

Find friends you love, adventure, and do whatever is going to make you the happiest; because at the end of the day this experience is for you, and you alone.

9. Don’t Forget About Your City

A lot of students will be eager to travel to as many places as they can while they are studying abroad.

While this is a great time to do this, don’t neglect the city where you chose to study. but Don’t forget that you chose to study there for a reason. I’d recommend planning a few trips to places you really want to travel and try to get out and go somewhere new at least once or twice a month; even if it’s just a day trip.

10. Try Something New Everyday

Studying abroad is a time for new. New Experiences. New People. New places. Living in London, this isn’t too difficult to accomplish because the city is so large. However, even if you are living in a small town, find something new to try everyday. Whether its food, a store, or even just a new route to class, do it.

You’re in a new place, and you never know what you might stumble upon.

Conclusion

Study abroad will be one of the best times of your life, but it is all what you make of it. Go into it with no expectations, allowing yourself to really enjoy every minute of this opportunity...and you will have the greatest time!