I just came home from going back “home” for the second time in a little over a month. Seeing all the faces of the people I have to do without on the other side of the water is always the best thing. Seeing the places I used to live in – and loved living in at the time – on the other hand honestly doesn’t make me feel all that much. Walking along the beautiful canals in Ghent or having a ‘Trappist’ too many in one of the cosy bars is still just as nice as it was while I was a student there, but these things never even cross my mind while I’m abroad.
The people I used to share it with do.
When I was about eleven years old and visited London for the first ever time, I was immediately 100 percent convinced that that was the place I was going to have to live. In my mind there no other place would do. This conviction persevered for more than ten years and when confronted with the choice of his or my home country, it was relatively easily made.
After moving though, the city that was once love at first sight really had to grow on me again. You see, it doesn’t matter how many cool coffee shops or pop up somethings there are if you don’t have mates to explore them with. You need to gather the who around you before the where can live up to its full potential. Building a life in a new place takes a little time, I seem to forget that every time.
Although I now love my new location I can also tell my eleven-year-old self that I’m pretty convinced I could be equally happy elsewhere. I could move back to Ghent or Milan or go live in the middle of the countryside like both my parents now do as long as some of my favourite people lived within ‘come over for a quick drink’-distance.
I used to really dislike my hometown – in my mind the most boring place on earth – but I’m starting to think now that it might have had more to do with the attitude of a lot of its inhabitants than with the severe lack of nightlife. (I probably still won’t go back though, post small town stress disorder etc.)
The longer I think about it the less important it is to have ten cool bars within walking distance than it is to have a real connection with the people you would go there with.
Let’s be real though, I love being able to chose from thousands of restaurants when I want to try something new and I will make the most of it while I’m here, but I do think it will be my favourite Londoners and not London that I will miss if I ever leave.
Location, location, location really isn’t all that counts.