I’ve had the privilege of living in some incredible cities – Cape Town, London, just outside Manhattan – and I’ve loved it. As with most things, there are pros and cons to living in the city. For me, the pros usually outweigh the cons, which is why I’ve chosen to adapt and survive, and not only survive, but love it too.
I’m a bit of an introvert and I often enjoy spending time alone. I often find that this helps me to relax and re-charge. But I’m also someone who very easily gets too busy for my own good, and in a place like the city, where there seems to be no end to the things you can see and do, I often end up getting to the point of near-exhaustion. These aspects of my character, along with others, means that living in the city has had its challenges.
One of the biggest challenges people often have when it comes to city life is the costliness of it, the main expense being the price of housing, whether it’s renting or buying. Many people, when looking to buy, have to resort to living outside the city and spend hours of their day commuting between work and home. There are others who are nowhere near the stage of their life where they can buy property and I have heard them say that they can’t even bear to think about the amount they are putting towards rent each month. I, myself, can’t even imagine the day I no longer have to pay rent, although I really hope the day does exist somewhere in my future!
It’s not only housing that is expensive, most other things are too, whether it’s the cost of a drink at the bar or paying for public transport. But this is just one of the aspects of city life, and if we want to be in the thick of the buzzing, hustle and bustle atmosphere, then it’s the price we have to pay. It’s in those moments when I’m walking through the city, buildings and sights lit up around me, or when I turn the corner to enter a new neighbourhood, noticing all its little quirks, or when I randomly bump into a unique and extraordinary place to discover a whole new world, that I’m reminded of how much appreciation I have for living in the city. So it’s those moments that I need to bring to mind when I have the urge to complain about the cost of it.
Another factor of city life that I’ve found difficult is how easy it is to get so busy. There is always something to do, and being someone who loves ticking off a to-do-list makes it frustrating when it seems that the list is never-ending. Each week of my diary is filled with scribbles of various activities and reminders, with a free night in a week being a special treat, and I often have to respond to invitations with ‘I’ll have to check my diary’ on the odd occasions that I don’t have it with me, because the likelihood that I’ll double look something is very high! I’m also the kind of person who loves trying new things, so when the variety of different, fun, adventurous and exciting things to do seems never-ending, I can feel a bit overwhelmed, or frustrated when I realise I’ll never be able to try all the things I want to try, or go to all the places I want to go. There’s been a few ways I’ve been able to overcome this challenge, although it’s still something I deal with every now and then. The biggest is becoming a Christian – realising this life is not all there is and learning to be content in different situations. And it’s also in appreciating the many things I have done and the fact that I actually have the opportunity to do more, and have the ability to make so many different choices. Rather than panicking that we’ll never be able to do all the things we want to do, we can learn to appreciate what we already have, and be grateful for future opportunities to do even more.
I really do treasure peace and quiet. So it’s also difficult in the city to find some time alone. Sure, I love going out, meeting new people and catching up with friends, and I will gladly dance the night away if the opportunity presents itself. However, there are times when I get the urge just to be alone, to relax or reflect, or simply sleep! I do love sleep, and I’ve had to learn, after a long period of having too few hours of sleep a night, just how important it is to rest well. Not everyone enjoys being alone – some people dislike the mere thought of it. But for those of us who do enjoy keeping their own company fairly regularly, it can be difficult in the city to find time to do so. One of my solutions have been to get out of the house, or workplace, and take a stroll somewhere alone, or find a quiet spot in the park. I don’t necessarily have to be somewhere quiet though. I can easily read a book in a busy area, such as a coffee house or a bench in a public area, provided no one expects me to talk to them! But when I really want to get away from the noise, I can cycle further outside the city or catch a train somewhere nearby. There are so many options for exploration outside the city, we just have to look for them.
Lastly, another big challenge for me to living in the city, specifically London, has been a lack of nature. Living in Cape Town was incredible because I had both an amazing city and breath-taking scenery, from beach to forest, at my doorstop. But London definitely does have its beautiful green spaces, and I appreciate them more the longer I live here. The parks are beautifully looked after and the facilities are generally good too, with options of food and activities conveniently close in case the urge for more activity comes upon us. And again, there are so many places and secret spots around the city that offer more nature and more adventure opportunities.
I’m sure there are many other challenges people have faced in the city, but those have been my biggest ones which I find to be fairly common among my friends. However, as I said earlier, I have found so many pros to living in the city and that’s why I continue to live and love the lifestyle. These are my favourite things about city life, particularly London life:
Being around so much diversity with people from all over the world, with different backgrounds, cultures, accents and peculiarities
Having such a huge range of things to do, places to go and food to eat
All the different transport options make it easier to get from A to B
Walking through a street of skyscrapers in one moment and entering a beautiful green area the next
A range of different festivals and events commemorating special occasions and times of the year
Seeing, experiencing and witnessing different forms of creativity
A constant nightlife, no matter what night of the week
Being connected to so many different places, within the city and on its outskirts
Being able to try things you’ve never done before
The option of meeting new people all the time
An insanely good music scene
Theatre, dancing, comedy, performance art, street art, markets… you name it, the city has it
There is nearly always a cheaper option for everything
Living in a place where innovation and creativity is a day-to-day thing
Shopping sprees are always possible, even on a budget
A group of people who share similar interests to you will always exist somewhere in the city
There are so many different areas, neighbourhoods and scenes that you can spend a morning doing one thing around a certain group of people and spend the afternoon doing something completely different around an unrelated group of people.