Since I’ve got back I’ve had several people ask about, or pass comment on, the fact that I must really be missing Remote Year and the exciting life I had been living over the past year. The honest truth is that at the moment I’m really glad to be home, back in the Suffolk countryside, which in my opinion is one of the nicest places in the world to live. Not that I didn’t enjoy my time away. It certainly was an adventure and I saw and experienced some amazing things. But you do need some time to reflect back on what was an exhausting year and actually enjoy some of the simple things in life. This has made me think about what it is that makes what I call home so special.
One of the main things I have observed over the past year is that the world is a lot smaller place than it was 20 years ago (almost!) when I went on my previous world trip. I haven’t stopped travelling over the intervening years but these trips tended to be intensive 2 or 3 week experiences. Actually living in a city (all be it for only a month) is different and makes you realise that people’s lives across the world are remarkably similar. Well educated, career-driven people work in all the world’s cities. Walk into a café in Phnom Penh or Santiago and you will see a mixture of local people and ex-pats working away. I’ve had the pleasure to meet a wide range of people, working as lawyers or bankers or training as doctors or engineers. These people have the similar wants as the young in Europe and the US including ownership of technology and the desire to travel.
But travelling outside of the cities in many countries makes you realise that there is a major contrast to how people live their lives. Urban centres around the world are cosmopolitan with huge amounts influences from Europe and the US. Whereas in rural areas life may be continuing on as it has done during previous decades. Of course modern technology has got here too but nowhere near to the same degree. In many cases, visiting rural areas can be like stepping back in time.
So this brings me back to why living in the UK is different and in my opinion makes it a perfect place to live. It is the fact that you can live in quite a rural setting but still have the great connections to urban centres that brings diversification. In many cases we are only a couple of hours or so away from a large city bringing with it museums, theatre, restaurants, airports and much more. I live a 2 hour drive from Heathrow Airport, my connection to the rest of the world.
I’m sure that this is the same for much of Northern Europe, but I’m not so sure that this is true for all of Europe, or the US, Australia or Canada where the distances to a large urban centre are much greater. Obviously there are some rural areas that are close to major cities but the vast distances mean that there are many more smaller more isolated communities.
For some people the sense of isolation may be exactly what they want and there is nothing wrong with that. But it would not be for me. I love the countryside. I love the fact I can walk 2 minutes from my home and be surrounded by fields with hardly anyone around. The network of footpaths means that there is a lot to explore. And then there is the weather. The UK has a reputation for rain but this is not true for the whole of the UK. Suffolk along with its neighbouring counties is surprisingly dry and sunny. It is quite normal for us to not have any rain for weeks at a time. I also love the access to great fresh food and the fact that a lot is homegrown (thanks mum). But I also fully appreciate my connections the rest of the UK and beyond. To be able to visit London for a day, or to get to Asia easily in less than a day is worth a lot.
For me this is what makes the UK (and in particular Suffolk) such a great place to live. And why I will not be moving to a city any time soon.