#Help – An American enduring lockdown in London

There are probably a number of Coronavirus diaries floating around the internet. But right now, I need to share my personal lockdown experiences with those who have still hung around (and may stumble across my blog).

I call myself an American expat in London. That term, expat, is subjective, but I’m using it to describe myself.

I moved to London from the Bronx officially in November of 2018. Cut to 2020, the Coronavirus has landed.

International travel and typical interactions (running to the store for snacks without facing a line, or riding the tube without a care) are a thing of the past. Nothing is normal and everyone could be a carrier.

Well, that’s how things have been playing out in London. Until today, when Boris made the announcement that more common spaces and trips to other households would return to a new normal. It feels so arbitrary if I’m being honest. I want things to go back to normal but are things really safe? What can we really expect to happen and will I find myself back at the office in no time flat? Is it bad of me to say I enjoy working at home (mostly).

As an American in London during these times, I find it particularly interesting. Not only am I going through lockdown, further removed from friends and family in NYC, but I’m also witnessing the Black Lives Matter protests around George Floyd’s murder. It’s startling. It’s jarring. And I find myself questioning everything about race and what is and shouldn’t be – much more than I typically question race.

Conversations of race were a point of conversation at work for a few days during the pandemic but not so much anymore. I ask myself if I should be annoyed by this or hopeful that work is being done behind the scenes. I’d like to believe the latter but I never really know what’s happening.

Sometimes I don’t even know what people are thinking and I spiral into thoughts that second guess what I think is happening, and what should be happening, and what others say should be happening. It’s a vicious cycle.

But I digress, untangling some of my feelings about race is a separate blog. This is about being in lockdown in London.

What is it like? I imagine it’s similar to being in lockdown in NYC. People choose whether or not to wear masks out in public and gloves aren’t mandatory. People are told to line up outside of supermarkets, standing 2 meters apart, but not everyone follows those rules. They sometimes pretend they don’t see lines and have the audacity to try to skip ahead of people. Legit had a guy try to skip me after I waited roughly 30 minutes to get into Boots (a local chain pharmacy).

Others seem to blatantly disregard the rules, not trying to keep any distance on the sidewalks, or sit out in parks chatting with their friends in the sun. I saw people tanning outside my apartment in the small patch of grass near my cul de sac and friends having a communal rooftop gathering across the way. Was I jealous? Maybe. I was definitely annoyed that I have been following the rules while others just do what they please.

But at this point, it doesn’t matter anymore, as Boris made it so people could go outside for more than their one time a day exercise. They can also meet up with six people outside as long as they mind social distancing guidelines. And starting July 4th, all hell will break loose.

However this time to sit in and reflect in lockdown has felt so weird and nonexistent. I don’t know what to reflect on, what to look forward to and what hope I should have. I also haven’t had any time to reflect. I’ve been so busy at work that I’m too tired to assess what I’m feeling. And let’s face it, if you’re forced to be indoors, who wants to feel forced into confronting feelings of inadequacy (or whatever you have floating in your mind).

But don’t get me wrong, I still have hope. Hope to meet up with people. Hope to go back to NYC. Hope to travel to far away places again. But I’ve also felt stagnant. Lost without a real sense of what’s next but clinging to the idea that there is something ahead (and I do know that in my heart there’s something ahead).

I think a lot of people have been feeling that way in London (and around the world), stuck. Not sure of what to make of their futures and the future of their family. Some have felt that planning life is over while others have felt inspired to do, make, launch. I can’t put my finger on the London vibe but if I had to call it, I’d say nonchalance. Everyone here seems blase and just ready to have their lives restored. That quiet British way of saying, “World, we’re right and we’re fine because we’re British.”

I’ve also felt connected and disconnected. Everyone has been forced to interact online which is great for me. It’s like everyone in my family or friend group is living abroad. But at the same time, I feel like people in NYC are doing their own thing, separate from me. That’s ok but it’s weird how you can feel a little disconnected.

But that’s enough for now. Lockdown in London has been a lot. Things are changing however so I hope to see more positive things come from this.

It’s been a while (again)

It’s been a while since I’ve done a blog post. Not because I haven’t wanted to but because I’ve been lazy.

I could make excuses but I wont.

Did life get in the way? Has work been super busy? Has Coronavirus turned the world on its head? Has the mind been boggled by current events around Black lives matter? They’ve all been a part of my life but it’s still no excuse.

Continue reading

Dhevatara Beach Hotel Seychelles

I’ve been on a hiatus. Not on purpose. It’s the usual excuses. Catching up with life, getting used to work, coming back from honeymoon and the like. Perhaps the latter isn’t a usual excuse but it’s a real one for me.

It’s now been a month since my husband and I returned from our honeymoon to the Seychelles. A two week luxury extravaganza staying at a boutique hotel located on Praslin, one of the unique islands home to a UNESCO site and a variety of rare species (coco de mer and the black parrot). These stories are for another post however. What I want to chronicle is our luxury hotel, Dhevatara Beach Hotel.

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This boutique hotel is perfect for the couple who doesn’t want to bask in the joy of children as it doesn’t allow kids under 12 on site. They can stop into the restaurant upon the discretion of the management but this is really an adults only spot. It is pricey but if you’re heading to the Seychelles, it’s likely not going to be a cheap vacation.

It also is small so privacy is practically guaranteed. There are roughly eight or 10 other rooms on the property that overlook a tranquil swimming pool. There’s also private beach access and every room has a balcony for guests to lounge the day away from the comfort of their own space. All in all, magic. Especially for a honeymooning couple looking to escape to a romantic location for fun chill vibes.

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Breakfast is also included in your stay. Head out into the dining room between 7 – 11am to find a menu of food that is ready made for you after you order. The menu never changes but the options are HUGE. Eggs any style, bacon, sausage, hash browns, fruit platter, meat platters, cheese platters, cereal, pancakes, crepes, yogurt, muesli, bread baskets with local jams. Everything is there. There’s also bottomless drinks including Nespresso coffee, THE teas, juices, champagne and other treats. This should make your mouth water, I know I’m flashing back to the scrambled eggs.

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I’m sure that prior paragraph makes me sound like a foodie, and maybe I am, but the breakfast needed a paragraph.

They also did lunch and dinner at the restaurant (which is one of the highest rated restaurants on the island) but we never ate lunch there (we ate ALL the breakfast). We did have dinner there and that too was A1. Yummy octopus curries, creole cuisines and tasty fish dishes. If you’re in Praslin, go to this restaurant for a calm yet romantic date night.

The room. We stayed in the sea view suite (and paid the sea view bucks). In the room was a giant and comfy King sized bed. A giant soaking tub with L’Occitaine products (lotion, shampoo, bath bomb, soaps, etc) was in the bathroom alongside a rainfall shower and his and hers sinks. We had turndown (and turn up) service daily. Room service was available at no extra cost (aside from the cost of the meal). A balcony that overlooked the pool and the beach.

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The last bit to talk about is the service. The hotel has an on-site spa as well as a number of helpful staff that give you advice about where to go for the best snorkeling, how to get around the island, things to do and help you book exclusive excursions. We had an amazing spa day and a trip to some smaller islands with the help of Francis. Oh Francis (inside husband joke). They also offered airport drop-off and pick up which was super helpful for us (we travelled for 12 hours so having a car really helped in the last stretch).

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That’s my review for now but if you have any questions about the hotel or what to expect there, let me know. Happy to answer. Last photos are for fun!

Five Things To Do in Florence

I recently went on a trip to Florence with my husband and it was great. Sunny weather, lots of pasta, old bridges and mountains of leather goods.

Although a small and walkable city, there are lots to do which is great but it can also be overwhelming. If you’re looking to travel on a budget, trying to do all of the activities that are available to you is expensive. I’ve decided to narrow down my experiences in Florence to the top five things I enjoyed and would recommend for you to do when you arrive in Florence.

Shopping in Central Market

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It can be a bit much because every time you look at a stall in the market, a vendor is trying to convince you to buy from him but it’s quite a spectacular place. You can find a ton of leather goods like wallets, bags, belts, jackets and more. It smells fantastic (if you like the smell of fresh leather) and it’s super colorful. It’s also free to wander so it’s budget friendly.

There’s also an indoor market right next door where you can buy more trinket or some food.

Tour the Piazza del Duomo

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The Piazza del Duomo is the Cathedral Square located in the historic old center of the city. The building in the center is extraordinary. While on vacation, we didn’t actually go inside of the cathedral as you need to book in advance and lines in August are no joke (even the people with tickets had to wait outside on a long line in the hot Tuscan sun).

One of my favorite experiences near the piazza was a panini shop called Panini Tuscana. It wasn’t just a sandwich spot, it was fun and tasty to way to immerse yourself into a stereotypical Italian adventure (friendly locals breaking bread and slicing up fresh cheese).

Stroll on Ponte Vecchio

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Called the Ponte Vecchio (old bridge), it’s one of the most touristy bridges in Florence. This means lots of foreign people around so keep your wits about you as you could be the target of a pickpocket. I say that to make sure you’re aware of your surroundings, as you can easily get swept up in the magic along the bridge, but it is pretty safe.

There are lots of jewelry shops filled with diamonds, gold necklaces and other fancy trinkets that make you wish you had more money. Other than jewels that will dazzle, the views from the bridge are pretty awesome as well. Stroll along looking for the perfect spot to take in the sunset and admire the colors, the sounds and the vibe. Another plus, this must see is completely free so don’t worry about spending money (unless you’re tempted by the gelato shops at the end of the bridge).

Panoramic views at Piazzale Michaelangelo

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You can walk it but if you’re walking in August, make sure you have a big bottle of cold water.

We walked to Piazzale Michaelangelo to take in a panoramic view of Florence. Once at the top, you’ll find many other on-lookers trying to capture the beauty that in front of you.

And if you’re looking to get a souvenir of the moment (that isn’t a photo), there are a variety of vendors selling scarves, Florence memorabilia, lemoncello, food and alcoholic drinks around the piazzale.

Wander Boboli Gardens

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Florence has A LOT of museums and that can really add up. I admit that we didn’t go to many museums but we did pay to go to the gardens.

It’s a huge mass of land that offers a variety of views and loads of places to sit down and have a bit lunch while surrounded by manicured greenery and distinct buildings. You can literally spend a couple of hours in the garden, wandering through small exhibits and palaces or taking in the atmosphere to do a beautiful sketch. To me, this makes the price of the ticket totally worth it as there’s so much to cover and many places where you can get lost or away from the other tourists.

How You Can Move To London

Lately I’ve been receiving a few direct messages about my article on Shut Up and Go. The messages have all asked me one thing, how? How did I make it to London?

Before I get to the how, I think it’s important to establish why I left NYC.

Why I left NYC

In an effort to live out my ever evolving dreams, I thought it was necessary to leave everything I knew behind. I wasn’t leaving NYC because I didn’t appreciate it but I was frankly, quite tired. I was tired of everything I was supposed to do and the ways I wasn’t measuring up. I was tired of disappointments and how nothing felt quite right. Call it a quarter-life crisis but I made my exit plan and took action in 2016.

Now it’s 2019 and the single, NYer working in PR has transitioned into a married NYer in London, still developing her career. Along the way, I’ve picked up more tips and tricks to making it in the world and overseas but it’s all still VERY hard. But let’s talk more about the how now because I want to try to help as many people as possible make their dreams a reality.

How I left NYC

People say that youth is to be admired as it’s one of those times when you’re most reckless.

The first thing I’ll say is that you can go after anything you want no matter your age. If you’ve always wanted to learn a language, visit a country, move to a new city, try on a new career, etc. – you can do it! The level of difficulty you’ll face will vary, but it is all doable if you want it.

Now the actual steps I took. I…

  1. Researched everything I could find out about visas on the UK Gov website
  2. Emailed a bunch of companies to find out about job opportunities, internships and sponsorships
  3. Networked with anyone and everyone I had a relation to in London
  4. Joined Facebook groups and meet-ups with expats
  5. Reviewed UK grad school programs

That was a very high level overview of my activities. This process took about 2.5 years and ended up with me moving through marriage of all things (something I never in a million years would have guessed).

How you can move to London

If you’re trying to move, I want to make it easier for you by sharing what I think can help you. Why? Because deciding to move to London and making it happen is extremely hard. So many things will make you want to give up along the way so staying motivated is something that’s just as vital in this journey. So my tips for moving to London are as follows (some of this may only work for you if you’re American as I’ve only researched from that perspective).

Student Visa

One of the quickest ways in is through a student visa. It requires the least amount of maneuvering and can come to fruition within a year. What I mean is, let’s say you decide you want to move to London in 2020. You can start looking for schools and programs that interest you, work on your application and hear back about acceptance all by early next year. Once you’ve been accepted to a school, it’s a matter of visas fees and paperwork and then boom, you’re in London.

I recommend this route if you want to pursue higher education (masters programs) and want to make your move quick. You’ll get a year minimum in London and once you graduate, you have a window to find a company that will sponsor you.

I would think carefully about this because it will require a financial investment for school.

Work Sponsorship

This is hard but not impossible. I recommend this only to people who have worked in their profession for at least 3 years (and even that’s short). Why? In order to be sponsored (as of this blog post), a company needs to prove you have skills that exceed those of any UK or EU person. Having more years of experience under your belt kind of proves that for the sake of appearances.

Other things that make it hard include:

  • The company needs to already have a sponsorship license
  • The company needs to prove that they have advertised a role for a certain length of time
  • Companies have a limited amount of work visas they can give out each year

How I’d go about this is looking on this list of companies with a visa sponsorship license (getting an offer at a place that doesn’t have one is nearly pointless as they have to pay a sum of money to be licensed. Not to mention the paperwork involved). Once you go through the list, you can begin looking for open positions (not entry level roles) on their websites or emailing relevant contacts for a chat about roles. I figure it doesn’t hurt you if you do so respectively. You’re after your dream after-all.

Another way you can get this outside of experience is through a skill. If you have a skill that’s on this list, the chances of you successfully landing a job will improve.

Neither of these routes are a guarantee however, you need luck on your side.

There’s also’s the long game approach. You can work at a company in the US that has a UK office and apply for a transfer. BUT, this is a really long game and may not pan out. First, I believe most transfer policies require that you work at a company for at least 5 years before you’re even eligible. So you need to wait for 5 years and then hope you get what you want.

Tech Talent Visa

If you work in tech or the startup space, you can apply for a tech talent visa. There are a finite number of these they can give out each year and the competition is tough but it’s a viable option. You can work in tech pr, app development, tech marketing, etc. As long as you prove you are advancing the startup space, you have a shot.

This was the option I was last pursuing before I ended up getting married.

The Cheat

This isn’t a way to move to London but it’s a way to stay for an extended stay. Keep in mind you’ll have no official rights, hence why I’m calling this a cheat.

As a US Citizen, you’re allowed to visit the UK for up to 6 months. You can’t stay any longer than that but that’s practically half a year. You do need to make sure that you have enough money in your savings account to support yourself and a return ticket but as long as you have that, you’re golden.

I say you need that because if you use this time to hop in and our for the country, you may get questioned at the border and having that info (return ticket and money) will make it less of a deal. HOWEVER, the UK has now updated some of it’s airports so if you’re a US citizen, you no longer have to deal with people. You can breeze through an eGate with no questions. So, perhaps you don’t technically need it but better to be safe than sorry.

Marriage

I don’t recommend this. If you’re only marrying for a visa that is. I was adamant against doing that because it’s fraud and also because of my moral compass. The reason why I married was because I met a guy I started dating while doing “The Cheat.” We actually got a long really well and started doing long distance which evolved.

Not to mention, marriage requires so many steps, so much evidence and so much money. It’s not out of this world expensive but it does cost quite a bit. Only marry for love I say and if he or she happens to be a Brit – bonus points!

Those are my current tips. So I say go forth and give it a shot. Nothing you want is ever easy, sad fact of life.

 

 

My Travel Writing Was Featured On Bustle

So it may be a bit late but I’m someone who is pretty modest. I share my accomplishments from time to time but for someone who helps promote others, I can be bad at promoting myself. I tend to fall on the humble side. But as it’s never too late to do what you want, I wanted to share that my story on female black travel went up on Bustle a few months ago!

Why should you read my piece? Aside from working really hard to interview, write and create the narrative around the travel retreat space, it’s a really great read telling the stories of three women seeking to make travel more inclusive while making themselves even better. Some other reasons why you should read:

  • Learn about three great retreats happening this year that you can sign up for
  • Find out more about my personal experiences traveling through Europe
  • Discover how these women are changing the narrative in the female retreat and wellness space
  • Fantastic imagery of myself and the other women living their best lives traveling
  • Stay current with what some women like myself feel and think about traveling abroad and inclusivity

There you have it. End of shameless plug! Go read my article on Bustle and give it a share if you are feeling what I and the three other women have to say.

I’m Not In A Rut But Things Are Confusing

I hate being vulnerable. In any forum. I don’t want my words to be used against me so I refrain from saying too much in case some lurking evil wants to throw my words back in my face. It keeps me out of trouble (for the most part) but it can also be quite isolating. Currently, I feel ok with sharing what’s about to come next.

Truth is, I’m feeling a bit lost and as if the wind has been knocked from me. My work life is not what I want it to be and in a matter of weeks, things will be very different.

The short of it, my fixed contract job that was intended to transition into permanent has not worked out. Not for any lack of effort or skill but because of slick plays for increased profit. No one has bothered to really explain it all so I’ve chocked it up to greed. This business maneouver has left me with one option: get out and find a new job.

This isn’t the end of the world. I know this. Why? The job wasn’t really panning out before this bomb was dropped. The work I was doing was not challenging and my manager wasn’t the most helpful (I’ll be polite). Leaving was inevitable. What’s different is that I don’t have the option to decide.

This forced move has changed my current and future decisions for 2019. Not momentously but my dissolving role has already had tiny affects in my life.

The first change – I’m on the job hunt. Interviewing and putting myself on display. I feel like I’m performing in order to show these new teams and companies that I have what it takes. I’m also simultaneously trying to assess each business to ensure I don’t make a mistake. It’s exhausting.

This pressure I’m putting on myself has made me very nervous about my very being, my skills, my everything. I know I’m my own worst critic but the way things have played out at work, and with my manager have been hard on me, its been a roller coaster. I’m holding on tight while my ego is constantly being bashed along the way.  I know that despite it all I’m valuable and intelligent, but it’s hard to remember this mantra. Especially whilst I try to remind myself and prove this to others during the interview process.

I feel like my manager never saw my value. With all the effort I put in, she really made me look inward and second guess myself. It wasn’t a reflective “She has made me better” look. More of “Do I have what it takes at all?” The answer is yes. A million times. But again, oh so hard to remember and reinforce in myself when I have to keep telling others why I’m worthy and face a few rejections while doing so.

What I mean is during the interview stage you have to hear people say you aren’t the right fit or you don’t have what your competitors have. It can be hard to hear. Especially when you’ve already got a case of self doubt.

My first venture into the world of “London career life” has sort of flopped. I didn’t want this. I kept writing down my goals but having things play out the way that they have, this wasn’t my vision. Or at least, it wasn’t how I thought my vision would go. Perhaps my vision for my career is playing out in the best way possible but while going through it, it’s kind of hard to see how. I know that I have what it takes to succeed and it just takes a few turds to get to that next place.

How does this relate to being an expat? I think the uncertainty of it all is the how. Work was supposed to be the place where I find a comfort zone. A place to make friends. Build my career. Get a sense of stability and trust.

I mean, work isn’t this all knowing place that drives you but I think it can offer something in your expat journey that makes you feel like you  fit in better.

I hope this blog of random feelings helps others in their career journey or expat adventures. I know it can seem scary and confusing but I honestly believe there is a light at the end and it’s going to be awesomely bright.

3 Smart Ways To Find Work Abroad

You’ve moved abroad to the country you’ve been dying to live in for weeks, months, years! Not on a work visa but somehow you’ve made your way to XX country of your dreams with a legal right to work and start living your life. But where do you turn to find work abroad? What can you do to ensure that you give yourself as much of a head start as possible to line up interviews and secure the job (and the bag) that will help inspire and financially support your move?

Working abroad can be easy but finding the right place can be hard.

As an American who has moved to London on the spouse visa, I’m sharing three smart ways I’ve used to line up interviews and secure a job within a short period of time. They may seem obvious but it’s always worth remembering. Keep reading if you want to know how you can make finding work a bit less stressful!

1. Say It Loud

Think James Brown.

Have you heard the saying closed mouths never get fed? This applies when looking for work. Whatever your industry or skill set, make it known on your social networks that you’re moving, looking for work and up for any recommendations. That means sharing this news on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Instagram. You may even want to throw in one or two relevant hashtags that as that might help your post get spotted by someone who is looking to hire.

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It may seem like a shot in the dark but so is sending your resume to some random hiring manager or creating a profile on a work portal. You’ll be surprised who your friends or acquaintances may know and how generous they might feel in regards to helping you out.

It can never hurt to ask or just put a general ask out into the air. Why? Because the worst response you can get is no.

2. Scan Linkedin

Everyone scans Linkedin so you might think that this is so obvious. But the way you can really use Linkedin for the better when looking for work abraod is by using keywords. They are key!

So what I mean is if you’re a creative director or designer looking for work in the UK, don’t just type in creative director to find job opportunities. Search for other keywords or responsibilities that you want to find in your new role. Try design or creative to see what may pop up. When you’re in a new country and don’t know the lay of the land or all the companies that exist, Linkedin is truly a gem.

And make sure you use the parameters such as location, experience level, etc. Just with online dating, you want to be specific but you don’t want to be so specific that you don’t have any options.

In general, Linkedin is a great resource these days for real job leads across industries. If you’re not on it, maybe rethink that. Also make sure your profile is updated and you’ve added a photo, work experience, skills and if you can, get some recommendations from past employers and employees!

3. Join Groups on Facebook

Some of the best places to find a job abroad is Facebook. Specifically, Facebook Groups. I’ve joined plenty of Groups in the past to make friends but I’ve also joined groups that are specific to my industry but also specific to my location. I can’t tell you how many job postings I’ve seen in an industry specific group I’m in from individuals looking to build out their teams.

I’ve seen jobs posted to work at Google, Etsy, Pinterest, Uber and more. And not just job listings, people who asked for candidate recommendations and would be happy to refer those individuals to the hiring team.

I think that those Groups are very valuable so it’s important to join a few. But first, make sure that the Groups are legitimate. There are some on Facebook that are really just forums for people to advertise their business or sell you something so just vet them and if you think they aren’t for you, leave!

 

Those are my three ideas to get you started on your job hunt abroad. They are simple but you’ll be surprised about the kinds of offers and opportunities you’ll come across.

 

A Comprehensive Guide To Moving Out In London

You’ve finally made it to London as an expat. A cultural city full of people from around the world, living and experiencing in all the traditions of tea cakes and Sunday roasts as well as pub nights, free museums and english men. But where do you rest your head at night? What do you call home?

It’s hard to find the perfect spot, especially as a foreigner with no real concept of the vibe of each neighborhood. London is small yet so big and it honestly can feel like a challenge to find the ideal location to live.

As an expat who has had to overcome hurdles to move into my own place with my husband, I’ve decided to share a comprehensive guide for anyone looking to make a move to London and secure their own flat. I firmly believe that knowledge is power so hopefully you won’t be caught off guard when it comes time for you to rent or “let” as it’s called over in the UK. Check out some of my tips and let me know what other info might be helpful to you on your journey.

Scouting The Perfect Location

London can be huge! There’s north London, West London, East London, South London and then all the other directions in between plus outer London. There are iconic locations like Kensington, Soho, Shoreditch and Notting Hill to name a few. Then there’s Walthamstow, Hackney, East Croydon, Highbury and Islington and so much more. Ok, I guess you get it.  I can stop naming areas in London. The point is that there are so many locations that it’s hard to know where to start but this is my advice: pay close attention to the travel zones and where you will be working. I feel like that’s obvious but you’d be surprised how many people overlook.

The way to pick the perfect location in my book is to think about where you’ll be working or commuting to the most and think about how long you’d be willing to travel. 45 minutes is apparently the standard commute time in London so anything shorter than that means you’ve hit the jackpot. Once you’ve figured out how far you want to commute, mark where you work on on a map and then use Google Maps or CityMapper to determine how long your commute would be from a neighborhood you’re eyeing.

Then look at what zone that neighborhood falls in. You might be only 25 minutes to work but is your new potential spot in zone 4 while you work in zone 1? The farther out you live with regards to zones, you will have to spend more money on transportation. Is your £1300 a month flat worth it if you have to pay £194 a month for a 1-4 travel card. Think about it.

I’ve primarily spent most of my time in South London and bits of the East but not too many other places. You can check out some of my neighborhood glimpses of Wimbledon, Brixton, Camden and Greenwich to give you an idea of some of these locations but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Flat Must Haves

What do you want in your flat? A dishwasher? A balcony or garden? Charming English attributes? Start by looking on rental sites like Zoopla, Rightmove and Spareroom (more for room rentals but still good if you’re on a tight budget) and setting their filters to include what you’d want and need (probably reverse that order).

You’ll be surprised to know that a washer, dishwasher and even a bit a patio or garden space aren’t too outrageous to hope for.

On these sites you can set parameters on where you’d like to search and what things are most important to you. Here, you’ll see what is actually in your budget in the area you’re searching in and if you need to get more realistic. Is a balcony overlooking the Thames a pipe dream? Maybe for the time being but there are other options like communal garden space or scrapping the outdoor space in favor of more square footage and living closer to a park.

Trust me that some things aren’t as pricey as you might think. There are some luxuries you can totally fit within your budget but just do your research and get real with what you want vs need.

Making An Offer

This is important. The money. So you can let or rent a flat but did you know the asking price doesn’t have to be the price you pay? There is room to negotiate even though you’re not buying. So if you see something at £1300, you can suggest paying £1250 if you think that it’s more reasonable. You can also ask for things to be included and/or removed. This may sound obvious to some but in NYC, I never encountered this as a renter (though I only rented once).

And to make sure you have enough to cover the rent, this is the figure I’m using as the agent didn’t tell me a specific measurement: monthly rent x 10 +£10,000. I know it’s not a measurement that everyone uses but this is as good as I have right now.

It’s also critical that you’re aware of your job contract. The UK has lots of jobs offered on a fixed contract so if you’re trying to let and your contract doesn’t last as long as the rental period, you could run into trouble. Most agencies want a guarantee and in that case, you may need a guarantor so just keep that in mind. Maybe you want to bypass this and just do a room share rather than let your own flat.

When you are ready to rent and you’re renting with an agency, be prepared for the following fees:

  • 6 weeks deposit (they list rent as weekly fees out here but you only pay monthly)
  • Referencing fee (to run your credit check which appears to just see if you have a job that pays you permanently)
  • Agency fee
  • One month’s rent

This varies pending the agency you use but you can pretty much expect something very close to this.

Bills in London

Did you know you have to pay to have a TV? In London, the following are bills you can expect to pay:

  • Council Tax (monthly) – neighborhood maintenance
  • Rent (monthly) – paying for your flat
  • Electric (monthly) – this covers electric and heat (if you’re in a new build. If not, gas/heat may be separate)
  • Water (monthly) – all your water usage
  • Wifi (monthly) – internet
  • TV License (monthly) – owning a TV
  • Renters Insurance (monthly) – covers your flat incase of theft, fire, tsunami

Yes. Council tax and a TV license are new to me (coming from the Bronx).

Apparently the council tax is a number that depends on the neighborhood you live in. You pay monthly in order for them to keep up the roads and streets and all the other neighborhood maintenance. The nicer the neighborhood, the likelihood of your council tax being a bit pricier goes up. And then there’s a TV license. They offer free TV out here in the UK so if you get a TV and tune it, you will end up with some channels which is not how it works in America. You need to pay for cable. Here you pay for certain packages and access to networks like Sports Networks or movie channels. You can get away without paying for a license (or so I’ve heard), if you don’t tune your TV and only watch Netflix and Prime. That’s all most people use TVs for these days anyways so I think you could bypass this.

Finding Furniture

This is a strange one for me to get used to but a good deal of flats in the UK come furnished or partly furnished. You can find flats that are pretty much set up like an Airbnb or you can find some that have closets and beds included. To this I say, decide on what you’re comfortable with and how much money you want to invest in new furniture.

Coming from NYC, I’m skeptical about other people’s furniture because NYC has a bed bug problem. London is ok with regards to furniture. But you still might want to add your personal touch. Check out places like IKEA for low cost basics to get started or to least get inspired. Their room arrangements are such a smart concept because it really helps you visualize how to use small spaces and ways to decorate it. You don’t have to but furniture there if you don’t want to but definitely use it for ideas.

If you want a sofa, you can try out places like Sofology, Dunelm, DFS Sofas and Next Home. In Dunelm and Next Home, you can find other furniture basics like bedding, utensils, bathroom bits, etc. It’s like Bed Bath and Beyond or Crate and Barrel in the US. Lots of things to make your home standout and feel like you.

They also have places like Wayfair out here and Amazon so you can order things online. And then there’s the ultimate free, FreeCycle where you can grab people’s free things that they no longer have use for.

Misc.

So everyone loves a washer dryer out here. In London though, you have to beware. Apparently they set off your bills to an unruly level (or have the potential to). I have a washer dryer but have yet to use. Time will tell how much they change the bill but I will let you know once I do figure it out. If you don’t have a dryer, you can use the free clothing racks. You can dry your clothes using air and it’s even better if you have a balcony to do it on.

Cleaners. I personally think this is a wasted expense. Absolutely frivolous unless you have a huge house or a lot of people in your house messing up. For one person, two people or even four people sharing a flat, you should be able to clean up after yourself. Not only is it a good skill but it can you help save money. I’m not looking down on having a cleaner but for any budget conscious person, this isn’t the way to go in my mind. However, it seems to be a little more common out here than one would think. When I was looking for shared flats a while back, I saw that almost 80% worked in cleaner costs into the bill. Um, pass.

Parking. A lot of people have cars out here so street parking may not be your friend depending on your neighborhood. Think about how much you want to pay for having a car and if finding a place with designated parking is a priority. Do you really want to park on these small streets?

This is my guide. It’s as comprehensive as I could get for now but I will certainly come back to this as I experience new things and get more information to update. Hopefully this helps. Let me know if I left out anything and I’d be happy to answer!

 

 

6 Low Key Things To Do In Lisbon

Spoiler alert, I went to Lisbon Portugal and had an amazing time!

This was one of those trips where I didn’t plan much aside from where we were going to stay and how I was going to get from point A to point B. Other than that, I arrived in Lisbon with a clear state of mind and had absolutely no expectations as to what I should see and do. I usually have a mental list or notes on my phone of food I want to eat, monuments I should see and experiences to try but it just didn’t happen here. For this trip I thought what was best was to plan nothing and embrace everything. And being honest, my mind was distracted with work up until that point.

To embrace all that comes your way in Lisbon and to give you a head start on doing nothing but still having a great time, I’m sharing six things I highly recommend that will leave a sweet spot in your heart for Lisbon. Pocket friendly and cultural, do these things to see what Lisbon has to offer (and it works just as well if you’re short on time in the city)!

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Breakfast at the Brunch Cafe

My husband arrived in Lisbon late on a Saturday night. Deciding to just cosy up at our airbnb for the night, we made a decision to taste some of the food that Lisbon had to offer the very next morning. Enter the Brunch Cafe.

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I’ve never had breakfast or brunch that took up the entire table. I felt like a glutton but was also very pleased.

Now if you’re going to this cafe on a Sunday, please do make reservations because everyone and there mom will be there and you’re likely to find a line. This happened to me so we made reservations for the next morning (Monday) and rolled up to find the place was not as booming (no lines). Any who, once you get in you enter a small but cute space with over 10 different brunch items on the menu. Choose from pancakes or classic bacon and eggs – it’s all there!

A great way to start your morning tour of Lisbon, we paid 12 euros per person for two drinks (hot and cold) plus all you see at the table in the photo! The vibe is also super relaxed. No one is rushing you out the door and the staff are very friendly and patient.

Look at all the Street Art

Nothing screams chilled that free art. Especially street art. If you like browsing the streets of Bushwick in Brooklyn, NY or Shoreditch in London, UK, Lisbon is your place to see a new style.

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If you love color, you’ll love Lisbon!

A great activity to do after eating a large breakfast, literally every corner in Lisbon has something interesting to look at. Make sure you bring your walking shoes because you will be climbing up the city hills and admiring all that is before you because there is a lot. For instance if one corner you might find art that you feel belongs in a museum and on another you’ll find something that reminds you of a beautiful comic book that speaks to your being (or whatever art critic you may be harboring). Various colors, drawing style, patterns and more are all over the city. What I love about this activity is that it’s free and you can stumble across many other parts of the city without using a map. Just follow what delights your eyes and I’m sure a cool cafe or trendy shop will lure you in.

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Bifana and Vhino Verde Break

After you’ve had a chance to view some cool art (and take photos of it for Instagram of course), what you should do next is head to the Bifanaria Lisboa because you will have renewed your appetite.

I’m not a Bifana expert but I will say that although it looks like a tourist trap, this place is pretty nice. The upstairs seating is well decorated and the price of the Bifana (a pork sandwich that can include cheese or chips) is not too bad. It isn’t hugely filling but it is a nice snack that will definitely top you up after you’ve burnt some energy looking at all that art.

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The atmosphere is very relaxed and the food is tasty. I had a Bifana with chips and a glass of some Portugese wine (vhino verde) which was really yum. Take a chance to chill out with some bubbly wine and just people watch from the window upstairs. I really liked this place as it was an unexpected cosy spot. You could catch your breath, plan your next move, or just sit there editing your photos to make people jealous of your vacation.

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Walk the Tram 28 Route

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I found out about the famous tram 28 while in Lisbon and was tempted to go on a ride. But then I looked it up online. It’s the opposite of chill. It’s so touristy in fact that you have to wait two hours online to buy a ticket and once you get on, you end up packed inside a local cuisine favorite (a sardine).

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People love it because it takes you past all the bits of Lisbon city center that you hear about in the guide books but honestly, walking along the route is better. You see more and you get more space and autonomy. Also, if you are desperate for a tram ride, there are other ones that you can get on and they wont be as packed. I’m all for not being stuck in a commuter ride situation where you’re smelling someone’s armpit (not on vacation anyway).

Ride the Metro

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At this point (if you’re doing this all step by step), you’re feet will be hurting so I recommend you give them a break by heading to the metro. I feel like riding the public transport is a great way to get an idea of the kinds of people that inhabit a city. You see who they are, how they interact, how clean the metro is (or maybe not), how it’s designed, etc. For a very curious person, this a great thing to do. It’s also pretty cheap so that can’t do you any wrong.

The metro in Lisbon is also very cool. Aside from the culture, you can see that the art extends from the city walls to the underground. Some cars have graffiti on them, others have colorful chairs and some stations have really unique facades.

Jump off at the Botanical Gardens

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Not pricey and very peaceful, the botanical gardens is a nice place to visit. I went on a Monday and the vibe was very chill. Stroll through the gardens and look at all the flowers and trees around you. Sit down at one of the many benches and do a sketch, listen to music or even journal. My husband and I did this (he sketched and I journaled). It was a great way to take in everything while also letting out some emotions all while on vacation.

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The gardens are also a wonderful backdrop to take photos. I certainly had my husband take quite a few of me because I’m always hungry for content ideas even if I don’t have a particular idea nailed down. It’s fun to just figure things out on the fly.

So there you have it! Those are my ideas to enjoy Lisbon while on a budget and without too much fuss. The people that know me know I like to enjoy and indulge but I also dislike the extra commotion that can sometimes occur when you travel. If you’re like me then these tips will certainly make your time in Lisbon even better.

Have you been to any of these places? Have you been to Lisbon? What’s the most chill or most low key thing you’ve done there but still had a lot of fun doing?  Let me know!