"London will always be there": why I moved to Tenerife after uni
By Grace Molan
London isn't the only place where you can create the life you want after uni. Here's how you can relocate to sunnier climes and still pursue your dreams.
Strolling through the picturesque, palm tree-lined streets of Santa Cruz de Tenerife with the sound of Cuban music floating on the breeze and the early-morning sun caressing the back of my neck, the crushing London commute now feels like a distant memory.
My relationship with the British capital was an “it's not you, it's me” situation; we simply had creative differences. After a tumultuous three years, this led to a conscious uncoupling, a la Gwyneth and Chris.
Moving to London had been a dream of mine and moving there to study at the prestigious London College of Fashion was the icing on the cake. I was living a dream-come-true but, just like the phrase “not all that glitters is gold”, I began to see the cracks in my carefully-executed plan.
It's easy to get drawn into the glamour of London life. It paints itself as the cultural hub of the UK and there's such a variety of free events going on in the city. However, no amount of free exhibitions, fashion shows or live performances could rid me of the heavy financial burden of London life. Rents were sky high, transport prices were astronomical and I was working three jobs whilst studying full-time just to get by. The city was giving with one hand and taking with the other, leaving me on the brink of exhaustion. Something had to change. Whilst there is nothing quite like walking across Waterloo Bridge and seeing the city unfold before my eyes, I knew the fairytale was coming to an end.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife was not foreign to me. I had spent a week studying Spanish there whilst in sixth form and, in a desperate attempt to not lose the basic Spanish I had acquired, I tried to return during the holidays whenever possible. After London, the thought of moving to a city that is warm all year round, has a beach, and has a strong sense of a work / life balance, was more than just appealing for me – it felt like a necessity.
To save up money for the move, I spent a year working as a nanny while living with my parents, interspersed with a quick trip to Latin America to “find myself”. Then, I packed my belongings into one suitcase and made the journey across Europe to the Canarian archipelago off the coast of Africa.
Most people know Tenerife as a holiday destination and popular retirement spot for Brits, famous for its sun, sea and active volcano, Mount Teide. However, the often-overlooked northern side of the island boasts some of the most stunning scenery on the island, a strong wine-making tradition and the island's capital, Santa Cruz.
Not having a strong social network, only basic Spanish skills and an even more limited money supply, I decided to rent a room in a shared apartment which I used as my base for the first six months. Through shameless networking and sending my CV to everyone I met (literally), I was lucky enough to bag myself a job at a local winery working in the main office as their Social Media and Communications Manager. I was diving in head-first to the deep end, but I couldn't hold myself back. It all fell into place so perfectly…and was a more-than-welcome change to London.
Of course, nothing is without its hiccups. Homesickness, language barriers and culture shock are all very real, and they began to creep up on me after the rose-tinted glow of the first three months wore off. It all came to a head when one morning I was driving to work and my car skidded on the highway, crashing at high-speed into the central reservation. By some miracle, I wasn't injured but the car wasn't as lucky. Dealing with the police, the car insurance and the garage in Spanish whilst shaking like a leaf from the shock of it all was a real test of my endurance. All I wanted to do was return home to the safety net of the familiar British life I had left behind. But that would have been too easy.
Two-and-a-half years later, I am still in Santa Cruz and life has changed beyond all recognition from when I first moved here. I am now working as a self-employed writer and project manager, I have mastered the Spanish language after way too many embarrassing conversations and I have my own apartment in the main square in the city. Some days I really do pinch myself to check it is all real. Of course, reality still bites in the form of bills to pay, a mouth to feed and jobs to get done. But it helps knowing that there is a beach, a sun lounger and fresh mojitos waiting for me when I am done for the day.
London will always be close to my heart and when I visit the city I am embraced by an unnerving sense of déjà vu that reminds me of how much I have grown. London will always be there but, right now, I am still not over my Spanish love affair.
Image by Grace Molan.