It’s not as if I had a bad life in the UK, in many ways it was an easier life! I had everything I needed: a job, long-standing friendships a close-knit family life and all the home comforts anybody could ask for. So why did I leave all this behind to live in one of the most deprived cities in Europe?
Most people can probably relate to this: you wake up knowing exactly how your day will pan out. You force yourself out of bed every morning and hesitantly drag yourself to a job that brings you no satisfaction. It takes your energy, time and happiness and gives just one thing back in return: an income – a way of buying all the things that you know don’t make you happy in the long-term. Clothes, nights out, meals and if you’re really lucky – a holiday! Then when you come back from your eye-opening escape from predictability, you’re left feeling even more dissatisfied because you begin to realise how much of a life you’re not living.
“But you need a job to survive”
Yes, without money you could never survive, let alone be happy. My point is that working in a job you hate so you can continue to live a life you don’t enjoy living doesn’t seem very appealing to me.
The difference between my old life in England, and my new life in Athens is that I don’t work to live; I work to live a life I love. No matter how bad my day is, I know that the moment I finish work, I’m on holiday and can find pleasure in the littlest of things. I never know who I’m going to meet or what my day will bring.
I used to resent not feeling comfortable going out wearing scruffy jogging bottoms, a baggy t-shirt and trainers. I was from one of the poorest towns in the UK, but still, it was as if everyone had something to prove. Girls walked around the high streets flaunting their Pandora bags as if they were status symbols, somehow making them a better person. People were quick to talk about what they bought in the Black Friday sale, but slow to ask each other how they were.
I could make significantly more money back in England, but what would be the point? I eventually came to the conclusion that even if I was a millionaire, I still would still be unhappy. All I wanted is the quiet, minimalist life in the sun that I have now.
I Became Uprooted
After travelling to almost a dozen countries in a year, I began to feel absolutely no attachment to my hometown. I suppose I never felt any strong ties to England. Living in Spain for a few years as a child probably didn’t help. After returning to the UK, I was also frequently travelling back to see my dad – so I guess I became famialr with life a life away from England.
Lack of Opportunities
The deprived little fishing town that I called home felt cut-off from the rest of the UK. The nearest city was Manchester and that was 56 miles away. After finishing university I wanted a career, something that was different from working in hotels, bars and shops. To do this I would have to spend nearly 4 hours a day commuting to and from work. Long journeys have never bothered me before, but I wasn’t prepared to spend that much time wasting away on public transport.
I feel more opportunity living as a foreigner in Athens who doesn’t speak Greek, than I did back home in my hometown.
Lack of Diversity
Back home I could easily go months without meeting someone from a foreign country, or even seeing someone who didn’t have a Caucasian complexion. As someone who likes meeting different types of people, it became mind-numbing seeing the same faces everywhere I went.
Now I work in a multilingual contact centre that employs 91 nationalities.
A Fresh Start
I was somewhat comfortable with my life in England, but far from what I would describe as being content. I wanted a fresh start, an opportunity to find new friends, a new job, new surroundings – and I guess also a new me.
I wasn’t myself for a long time. I spent countless hours playing Xbox every night. When I wasn’t stimulating my unfulfilled mind with gaming, I spent the nights dulling it with alcohol.
Something had to change, I knew that working and living abroad would be a platform for me to build on.
Athens Has Always Been my Favourite City
Whilst working in soul-destroying jobs back home, I would often talk to my colleagues about how I planned to live and work in Athens. Naturally, they thought I was living a pipe dream, and understandably. Whilst I worked as a housekeeper cleaning hotel room toilets, my supervisor would often find me listening to Greek language audiotapes – before telling me what I was doing wrong. It’s hard to believe that a few years later and I now have a permanent job in my dream city.
Whilst I fully recognise that Athens has its flaws, I have no regrets about moving here whatsoever.
It makes me sad to think that there are so many people out there living a life they feel no attachment to in the UK. Regardless of your current situation, it’s always possible to live where your heart is. You may have to take risks and make some sacrifices but don’t let anyone tell you it’s just a pipe dream. I quit my job and came to Athens without so much as a job interview. Within three days I found a job working for one of the best employers in Greece – you can read about how I did this here: How a Leap of Faith Landed Me a Job in Athens
If you’re realistic and you look down at the lack of opportunities then you’ll never take that leap of faith; sometimes you just have to close your eyes and jump.