How many times have you sat in your city office, looking out into the grey skies of London and dreamed of riding the perfect wave, breathing the fresh mountain air or hiking the expansive wilderness with no building in sight?
For some, city life is the norm. Working crazy hours in an office and trying to meet unreachable targets, it’s a life full of soaring stress levels. For others (myself included) it can feel like running into a brick wall.
A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do
After two years of hopping from internship to internship in London – no destination in sight – I decided to veer off the path and take some time off from the hardships of the dreaded 9 to 5 office job.
The only problem is that I’m still very much in the London bubble. And I am not alone.
However, packing in the city job for a life by the coast or in the mountains isn’t as distant as it seems, especially not for these women.
“I wasn’t prepared to let my job make me sick, so I quit”
For former banker Katie Griffiths, leaving her city job was “the best thing [she] ever did.” Her stress levels weren’t just high, they were astronomical, and were seriously affecting her health.
“At 28, I was suffering from some health issues while working in the bank. The doctors suggested it was stress and the bank had told me I wasn’t allowed any more time off work or I would face disciplinary action.”
I really believe if you do something you love, you will succeed
The decision was simple. If city life was making her ill, she would have to make a change.
“I wasn’t prepared to let my job make me sick, so after many deliberations on career changes I decided to combine two of my passions skiing and cooking.”
Heading over to France to hone these two skills, Katie hopped from the Loire Valley to Provence, Canal du Midi to Chateaux Neuf du Pape.
After travelling around, she has now set up her own catering company called Griffin Private Chefs with fiancé Finlay and couldn’t be happier.
“I really believe if you do something you love, you will succeed. My health instantly improved. I was happy, loving life, had no stress and felt healthier than ever.” Case and point.
Leaving The City Behind Is Good For Your Mental Wellbeing
Mental health is precious and often overlooked. Working in London for the last two years, I too found that I was growing increasingly unhappy, anxious and scared that this feeling would loom over me as long as I continued to work in such close quarters.
There’s a huge amount of pressure when you live in a big city. Pressure to work, to go out and to maintain a lifestyle that can be hectic and damaging to your health at times.
I spend more time doing what I love, staying active and being outside
Wakeboarder Emily Zehetmayr left London before she got wrapped up in all that for the warmer climes of California.
“On weekends, everyone is outside celebrating life during the day. They’re out in the ocean, paddle boarding, hiking, biking or surfing.
“I spend more time doing what I love, staying active and being outside and I stay home more Saturday nights than I would have ever dared to in London.”
Creative wanderer Bonnie Mably agrees. She splits her time between London – “exciting and infuriating and at times isolating, with seemingly less freedom,” she confesses – and Cornwall.
After graduating, Bonnie finally made the move back down to Kernow. “Since moving to Falmouth, I feel I have more time in the day; more space to pursue ideas, less noise to cloud thoughts and a greater quality of life.”
From Magazine Editor To Californian Nomad
It’s not just Londoners that feel the call of the wild.
Johnnie Gall was a senior editor of a surfing and lifestyle magazine living right on the beach in LA, and seemingly living the dream.
One day she realised that although she had her dream job, she wasn’t necessarily living her dream.
I’m not working for a paycheck anymore, I’m working for those experiences
“I knew I needed a lifestyle change when I realised that my dream job couldn’t overcome the little things that were weighing down my health and happiness.
“I quickly came to terms I’m more of a wide, open spaces type person and my mental health was going to suffer until I could find that.”
So Johnnie hit the road in her renovated Sprinter van, leaving the 9 to 5 slog to pursue outdoors adventures.
Freelancing from the front seat – check out her blog Dirtbag Darling – Johnnie now manages to combine surfing, hiking and exploring with her dream vocation.
As she puts it, “I’m not working for a paycheck anymore, I’m working for those experiences.”
Setting Up Your Own Business
That’s quite a big leap of faith. To jump from a solid job to freelancing from a van might not sit well with some, even the most seasoned of adventurers.
Planning weekend escapes can sate your appetite for adventure, but imagine what life would be like if it was a permanent adventure?
Fiona Doggett found that aligning her work and her weekend life came at a cost.
There was a disconnect between my professional life in heels and my personal life in hiking boots
“Every holiday or weekend trip I planned was an escape from my urban life to increasingly remote destinations,” she explains.
“From surfing lessons in Cornwall to trekking the Isle of Harris, or sailing a traditional gaff cutter to The Faroe Islands, I was aware of a disconnect between my professional life in heels and my personal life in hiking boots, wellies or barefoot.”
This realisation gave Fiona the incentive to up and leave her city job and start her own company with her husband called Muddy Plimsolls, an outdoor personal training firm.
Setting up base in the leafy green open spaces of Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill, Fiona managed to achieve an ‘outdoors’ lifestyle while still living in London.
Although now she runs her company remotely from her new home in Suffolk, it’s a reminder that leaving the city way of life doesn’t mean having to leave the city from the get go.
Letting Go Of The City For Good
As for me, it comes in waves. I am penniless, at times a little lost and more than often feel my mind screaming ‘what the fuck are you even doing?’
I am still learning to relax, to find pockets of happiness in the empty spaces of the day, to flourish in the freedom, to be mindful.
Bob Dylan once said, “What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.” Right on.
That’s the dream I’m chasing. Even if it is a little lonely at times, there’s always another adventure out there to keep me company.