My friend is a cop. He recently told me they put the acronym ‘NFA’ (short for No Fixed Abode) next to the names of people who don’t have a home. That’s me, Amy NFA. Nice to meet you.
The irony of feeling adrift and ungrounded, precisely at the moment we returned from our wandering journey around New Zealand, is not lost on me. When Chris and I lived in our minimum viable campervan and moved around every other day, it felt so natural and homey. I felt so settled.
Flying back into London, the city I called home for 12 years, I feel my mindset has changed. Here’s what I’ve noticed.
1. OMG how EXPENSIVE is this city?!
Finding temporary accommodation for a month is actually quite tough. Expect to pay in the region of £600 – £1000 (~$770 – $1290 USD) a week for a 1 bedroom or studio apartment in a central location. It’s cheaper if you stay longer, but not by much.
There’s plenty of Airbnb apartments about, but they’re difficult to arrange on short notice and bargains are hard to come by these days. Don’t get me started on the price of travel, food and drink. Why was I OK with spending this much money before? It’s not OK!
2. People. There’s just so many of them.
Crazy ones too. Is everyone pulled so tight like a rubber band ready to snap? Or am I just super chill?
3. Nature, where’d you go?
Our first and second Airbnb rentals were in the middle of the concrete jungle that is Camden and Chelsea. We’re now staying in our third Airbnb in 2 months situated close to Hampstead Heath in North London. The Heath’s 800 acres of grasslands, meadows, woodland and ponds is not quite wild NZ, but it’s just what we needed for our transition.
4. It’s hard.
It’s hard when you don’t know where you’ll be sleeping next week. It’s hard (and you have permission to kick me) when you have too many options and no creative constraints. It’s hard when you have to rely on mobile data because your Airbnb didn’t have it, despite advertising it. It’s hard when you can’t give people/businesses an address you’ll be physically in on the regular to send mail and packages.
And then there’s that pesky WHAT NOW feeling. It comes on strong just before we have to move apartments. Or when the new van we were thinking about buying and fitting out reaches a dead end. Or when the boat we were buying falls through. And is back on again. And who knows what’s going to happen on Friday?
Even when you’re not ‘settled’ in a specific place by choice, it’s totally possible to feel both settled and unsettled. What does one do when one’s in-between adventures? Do I need to see that as an adventure too?
So I sketched out some words on the mini canvas in this photograph to carry with us to our temporary homes. Hopefully it’ll remind me that home is more than a building, or a van, or a boat.
Home is also a damn fine tune that brings memories of the time Chris and I were getting together flooding back. It was an unsettled time for both of us. I had no idea what was next and I felt totally OK with that. I remember jumping around my old apartment to this song with Chris, spilling my red wine on the carpet and smiling with my eyes closed at the ceiling.