When I was a kid I had this fantasy about running away to England. I mean, I really, seriously wanted to run away. To England specifically. When life got miserable, and believe me, my childhood was seriously miserable at times, I would daydream about how I was going to do it.
Part of this fantasy, of course, involved setting off without telling anyone. I didn’t just want to move to England, I wanted to disappear to England. I wanted to go without taking anything with me and without telling anyone where I had gone. I’m sure that all came from some sense of wanting all the people who were so awful to me on a daily basis to wonder where the heck I’d gone, maybe to get a little worried and send out a search party for me.
The reason I never went was because I was smart enough to figure out that there are some inherent problems in just disappearing to a different country. For one thing, you would have to take cash. Credit cards are traceable. Passports are also traceable, and you can’t enter a foreign country without one. I toyed with the idea of somehow getting a fake passport, a new identity. I think I even came up with a few false names for myself.
In the end I never went. I didn’t have enough money. It always came down to money.
So here I am, almost 38 years old. What is my biggest secret fantasy? What do I sit around and daydream about? What do I plot and plan and do mental gymnastics to figure out the logistics of?
Running away to England.
Oxford as photographed by me.
I had my first trip to England in the summer of 2010. I went with my cricket team to Winchester and Oxford. A lot of completely and utterly life-changing things happened to me over those eight days. A LOT. Oxford was beautiful. Walking through the cobble-stone streets of a university that has been operating for a thousand years, finding myself in nooks just out of earshot of motor traffic and looking up to Medieval buildings, actual Medieval buildings, all around me sent chills through my bones.
High Street, Winchester. Home of the best pasty EVER!
Walking down the High Street in Winchester was even more soul-shaking. I felt like I was home. I wandered through Winchester Cathedral as though I knew every stone, had felt every ray of sunshine before. I touched Jane Austen’s gravestone, sat outside the house that she died in under a tree in front of a wall that she may have looked at while she dreamed. I drove around Hampshire feeling like I’d never seen anything so beautiful.
I’m not sure about reincarnation, but if it’s the real deal then I know I lived in Winchester hundreds of years ago. It hasn’t changed much.
I want to go to England.
But here’s the thing. I have debts. I have stuff. I have cats. I have a job in the good old U.S.A. I don’t have a job in Winchester or Oxford or Derby or anywhere in the U.K. I’ve gone online to see about getting a work visa and basically you have to jump through a lot of hoops and already have a job with a U.K. company to even apply for a work visa. You can, however, get an artist’s visa if you’re, oh, say, a writer with an independent income.
The problem is that I’m not. Yet.
Then there’s that voice that says to me “You’re too old. International moves are for college students and people who’ve just graduated.” Of course I also know that’s not true, but that’s the same voice that tells me I have too many debts in American dollars to pick up and move to the original side of the pond.
And yet, that’s where my soul is. I’ve been told by several people that I’m British at heart. In fact, 20 years ago, long, long before I’d ever set foot on English soil, a South African friend told me that I was more English than most English people he knew and that if I ever went to England I would never go back.
In a way he was right.
But can you really just pick up your life, leave behind your debt, your job, your family, your friends, your house, and your cats and make that change? Is there a statute of limitations on following your soul? Or does the evil specter of money make returning to your heart’s true home nothing more than a dream?
Another reason to love England: Pubs!
Once again, credit cards are the reality check in my desire to run away to England. Only this time I’m not as concerned about people tracking me by my credit card use as I am paying of a dollar balance with pounds. I’m sure there are ways to do it, otherwise no one would ever move internationally. And there’s still the nagging issue of the non-existent, good-paying job and visa I would need in the U.K. to make this fantasy work.
Plus Kristine would kill me and Stewart might never forgive me.
Then again, if they ever move to NYC, like both of their careers lean towards….
So what do you think? Do you think I could do it? Do you think 38 is too old to make a 180 and change your life entirely?
Me and some cricket friends on a stop while punting on the Isis.