In September 2013, I made a decision that parents never thought I would make: I left my home in Ivybridge, Devon to study Creative Writing at university. Now don’t get me wrong, moving away from home isn’t exactly a mind-blowing concept, especially in this day and age. People from all corners of the globe have ventured much further than I to experience new things. Nevertheless, the choice to leave my home behind has undoubtedly been my most life-changing to date.
Since my parents dropped me off at my bog-standard halls at Brunel University, I’ve made new friends, rapidly developed a new taste in music, performed a stand-up comedy act and taken on jobs as everything from chef to copywriter. But perhaps best of all, I also met the girl who I’ve come to build a life with in our cosy flat in East London. Taking everything into consideration, you could almost say that despite my Devonshire roots, I’ve become a proper city dweller. Well, almost. Because, as flattering as that may be, I can’t say it’s entirely true.
Regardless of my time in London, my thick, west country accent is still going strong (whether I like it or not) and while I like to think I fit in seamlessly with the hectic lifestyle that surrounds me, the urge to visit my family back home intensifies with each passing month. At every mention of the place I grew up, a little part of me misses it. To say that I get homesick would be a considerable departure from reality. However, I’ll openly admit that for the eighteen years I lived in Devon, before packing my bags and heading out into the real world, I severely took it for granted.
There are so many things to like about Devon. Fields, farmland and trees are in abundance; you’re never too far away from a seaside town or beach; if you get a taste for pasties, ice cream or fudge, you’ll feel right at home; and even if you journey to the most remote village, you’re still bound to come across a quaint pub with plenty of character. Moreover, the air is twenty times cleaner than any of the densely-populated cities elsewhere in Britain. But on a more personal level, Devon has been a fantastic place to grow up.
Just one example of why is a camping trip I went on with school friends during our GCSEs. We pitched our tents in a field belonging to one of the group, cracked open some drinks and shared a barbecue around a toasty log fire. But by far the best part of this weekend, for me, was the night sky. Far away from any kind of light pollution, I was able to look up and see the stars clearer than I ever had before. I saw multiple shooting stars that evening, and know with certainty that you could never enjoy a view like that in London. Not a chance.
However, it was only after I moved away that I came to truly recognise the value to living in a place like Devon. In hindsight, if it were possible, I would never have left. But for me it wasn’t an option, because there’s one crucial thing that London offers which Devon does not: opportunity. Sure, the pollution is a real problem, the traffic is always a nightmare and living costs are sky high at the best of times – but the simple fact is that there is so much more going on in London.
Something that’s considered a rarity in the countryside is in abundance in the capital. If you were to visit the City for only a day, you’d be spoilt for choice for what to do. Part of this is down to its sheer size. London has distinctive pockets of culture scattered throughout its wide reach – my personal favourite being Camden Town, if only for the labyrinthian market and tucked-away music venues. But whether you’re an avid theatre goer, a serial shopper or a lover of architecture, there’s something for everyone – even if you don’t know it yet. And that’s just the tourism side of it.
I could go on, but I didn’t move to London because bands I like tour there more often. I moved away from Devon because I wanted to be writer – and as far as Britain (or even Europe) is concerned, London is the central hub for writers everywhere. So the fume-filled air, the extortionate rent, the lack of visible starlight – these are all things that I choose to endure.
Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom. Because after visiting my family for Christmas, I’ve come back with something beautiful. The first time I brought my girlfriend to explore my home county, we visited a place people like to call Bantham Beach. It’s without doubt one of my fondest memories, because everything about the day was just perfect. Therefore, as a Christmas present to us both, my parents tasked my rather talented cousin Gemma to create a canvas painting of Bantham. Now, the painting sits on the wall of our London flat, so that every day – no matter what stresses the City throws our way – we can feel like there’s a little piece of Devon here with us. If you’re reading this, Gemma, we can’t thank you enough.