This time three years ago I was living in a state of constant stress. Some days, I was so worried I felt physically sick. Anyone who’s read this blog since then will know that we used to live in Berkshire, in a little village just outside of Reading. When we first moved there it was a happy time. We loved our little rented Tudor cottage with its low beams and roaring log burner. We loved the friends we made in our village and the picturesque pub a short stroll away. But, as time wore on, we knew we couldn’t stay.
Back then I was working full time as a radio presenter on a breakfast show for Heart in Wiltshire. I’d wake up at 3.30am, drive an hour to work, do the show, prep the next day’s show, have various meetings and play the media game, then drive an hour back to Reading to collect my (then) toddler from nursery. Afternoons would be spent running around having adventures, then I’d work all evening on writing projects, before eventually falling into bed around 11pm.
I was burnt out, exhausted and – as a couple – we felt isolated. With the NLM’s parents six hours away up the motorway near Manchester and mine five hours away along the motorway in North Devon, if anything went wrong we had no back-up team to call on. I missed my mum and dad (both recently retired and relocated from Bristol to Devon) and I missed living without that constant knawing of anxiety in the pit of my stomach.
The reasons for the anxious feelings were that we lived in a rented cottage and knew the owners wanted to move back in. In that part of the country houses were really expensive. We’d managed to save up £25,000 through hard work and super saving, but in that area that wasn’t enough to get us (as first time buyers) into a house bigger than a shoe-box. Plus, my radio contract was up in the air and the NLM’s time to find a teaching job further west was running out before the May half term deadline.
I remember one night working until 10.30pm then spending a desperate hour searching online for flats or houses to rent that wouldn’t eat into our savings budget. Of course that was tricky not knowing what we’d both be doing for work in a couple of months time. And then we had the headache of thinking about nurseries and childcare. Thinking about it all now actually makes me feel a bit sick again.
Fast-forward nearly three years and it turns out my mum was right – things DID have a habit of working themselves out. I left my radio job and didn’t look back. I went freelance, working from home on various magazine, online and blogging projects. I had more sleep and more time with my daughter. My husband got a job as a teacher for a school in Devon, which later led to a promotion as a head of department. We bought a house – a three bedroom house with large rooms, high ceilings and a little garden, in a Devon village with a lovely primary school. We had another baby, a baby who I had far more help looking after this time around since we were (are) in the same county as my parents.
Of course there are still difficult days. Days when I don’t have enough hands, or unfinished house projects frustrate me, or I suffer an attack of self-doubt that can get in the way of my work as a freelancer. But every time I feel like wallowing I try to remind myself of where we were three years ago and how much life has changed for the good.
This weekend was a pretty perfect weekend. I’m taking part in a blogging challenge to see if I can survive using only my bank card for three days, and then only cash for three days. After a day of rain on Friday the sun came out in the late afternoon. We decided to go to our local village pub for a drink (it was a bank card only day – luckily our village pub accepts bank cards) and for the girls to have tea. There’s a paddock area with picnic tables, a goat pen, chickens roaming free and a play area. The girls love it, and we love it because they can run around and have fun while we relax. Three years ago I didn’t even know that pub existed.
On Saturday we headed to the seaside, a twenty minute drive from our house. We had lunch in a new cafe overlooking the beach and ate ice-cream walking along the promenade. On Sunday we went over to visit some friends for brunch in their new house. It was another sunny day and the kids played in the garden which has lovely views across the valley. When we first moved to Devon I was scared we wouldn’t make any new friends, not knowing anyone down here. Luckily that didn’t happen – we have a lovely network of friends around us and I sometimes forget that we’ve only been here since the summer of 2013.
Devon comes into its own at this time of year. There are so many places to visit we’re often spoilt for choice. Free days out on the beach or Dartmoor, bigger days out at parks, farms and little theme parks. There are still so many places we haven’t made it to yet and I’m looking forward to exploring more this summer.
There’s not really a point to this post except to say that if you’re currently wondering whether to make the leap and relocate – or indeed make any big change in your life – then don’t be scared. It CAN be done and it CAN be a positive thing. As much as I sometimes miss living a stone’s throw from London, I wouldn’t swap our Devon life for anything.