Why I Left London and Moved to a Small Town

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Why I Left London and Moved to a Small Town

Just a little over two years ago, where I am now was a distant dream. Truly, it was more like a fantasy - an idea that sounded beautiful in my mind, but seemed completely unrealistic to my rational mind. But that's just it, it is by deciding what is and isn't realistic to aim for that we limit ourselves and don't create the space for those dreams to materialise. By the magic of serendipity, life led me to the same small town in East Sussex on a number of different adventures. At first I went to Glynde, later Ringmer, both villages resting just outside of a market town called Lewes. By chance I bought a ticket to a festival which, as I realised only once I had already made the arrangements to move here, was located just a short drive out of Lewes. A place I now call home. The first time I descended from the top of the hill overlooking Lewes, and saw those beautiful cobbled streets, I thought of what a lovely place to live it would be. Of course, I didn't take that idea seriously. But as I'm writing this, I just took a moment to walk over to my window, and look out to see that very same street. Little did I know then, that one day I'll be looking out this window, and living here will be my every day, normal life. 

So much in my life has turned out in ways I never expected it would. So much I used to barely dare to dream about. Take living abroad in the first place. As a kid, growing up in Lithuania, I always dreamed of moving to a distant country for university, but I didn't dare to really think about it until such a possibility actually presented itself to me. But that's the exciting thing about life, you never really know what doors may open for you tomorrow.  When I was 18, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, I knew I wanted to see the world and to experience other cultures, to adventure. So with what I knew and understood at the time - I chose to start it by packing my bags and moving to London. I didn’t know many people that did the same in person, but I certainly wasn’t the only kid fresh out of high school to move here for University. And London was the place to be. For an 18 year old, it was incredibly exciting.

I know I was by far not the first person in history to leave London and move to a small town. But when I did, it sure felt like I was going against the stream. Londoners tend to live in a bit of a bubble. I know, I was one. And only really leave for exotic travels to South East Asia, or South America, or pick up and move for another multi-cultural metropolis. And now that I'm on the other side, or rather outside that bubble, I meet and find others who have either made the same journey out to the country, or are looking to follow those steps. I must reveal to those who dream that same dream, that leaving London was one of the easiest things I've ever done. It's being further away, the friendships, the family that I miss, that made it a hard choice to make. And even harder to get used to. But I don't believe in staying places for family or friends. I think you have to do your own thing and go where your road takes you. Otherwise, you'll be that person who waves everyone else goodbye when they depart on their own adventures. Trust me, I was too often that person. And it made life even more lonely thanks to the ever-impending doom of 'change' and being left behind. Moving away from your people doesn't mean that you will be left with no friends and completely alone, it gives you an opportunity to miss people & to focus on the quality, not the quantity of your relationships. It's hard, I'm not going to pretend it's easy. But there comes a day when you've got to make choices by what you need, not where your friends & family choose to be. As hard as it is, the hardest thing for me is feeling trapped in places I don't want to be in, because of circumstances, and other people's choices. Wherever you go, you can make new connections, and it's up to you to maintain the old ones. 

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I needed to create a space for myself where I could listen to my heart, and my gut, and to figure out my own way. Somewhere away from the dreams and expectations of millions of other people that pull you in all kinds of directions. And ultimately just leave you feeling utterly lost. I'm not terrified by big cities, I don't find them hard to navigate or overwhelming in the day-to-day. But as an empath and a highly sensitive person, I find it overly stimulating in the long term. I admire people who can focus on their own thing and still be amongst 16 million people. I struggle to. I empathise, I get excited and curious, I want to help & get involved. And in all that - I lose sight of where I'm going to or what my own dreams are. Maybe it sounds too woo-woo for some, but there's too much manic energy in big cities, and when you're an empath, it's really hard not to soak up all that excess energy. I felt myself getting ill. Both physically and emotionally. There's so much angst and frustration, everyone is always in a rush or on some mad bender. It's just too much. I want to run wild and stand in a field with nobody else there, but the sound of the wind. It's where feel most alive. When the space around me is calm and quiet, I can hear the beating of my own heart. And don't get me wrong, London is an incredibly magical place to be - there's so much culture, history, and an unending array of possibilities for your life. And that feeling that you can be whoever you want to be. There is space for everything, and there is a tribe for everyone. But that's it, I wasn't looking to find my tribe anymore, or the biggest opportunities. I was looking for wilderness, for space, fresh air and somewhere I could actually see the stars in the night sky. I was looking to find my own wild road.

Although I was born & went to school in a city, I spent most of my free time staying with my grandparents in the countryside. Their house is the place I call home. Through the upheavals of my family life and the social nightmares of school, I always found my grandparent's farm to be a sanctuary. It provided me with stability, it welcomed me with safety and love no matter what, and it allowed me the space to just be. If I was upset, I could just hide in a tree. If I wanted to, I could explore the fields behind the farm or ride my bike around country roads. I felt free. And after a number of years away in a huge city, I realised that I no longer had that anchor in my life, and I desperately needed one. 

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Life here is calmer and more peaceful. And in truth, it’s not perfect - it’s not always calm and slow-paced. I pile on myself just as much pressure and hurry as I would anywhere else. But the difference is, that it teaches me to slow down. Every time I leave the house and walk down the road into town or into the fields - i am reminded that life is here to be lived, to be enjoyed and savoured. We’re not here to manically rush in a constant state of productivity. We’re human beings, not human doings. Life around me, here in a small town surrounded by hazy fields and sleepy hills, reminds me to pause and take in the view. And then my heart beats faster remembering that this change of rhythm around me is what I moved here for. So that when I’m out of tune, I can tune myself to the calm of nature. When I was in London, I constantly felt out of tune with what's around me, unless I was in a frenzy, trying to be all and do all. When I slowed down in London I felt pressured by the energy around me. The city pulsates life, and it doesn’t sleep & everything is always at your reach. And yet you're always missing out. Here, shops close early on Sundays and if you’re out of milk, well - you can wait till the next day. And it’s OK. There’s no rush. And when the sun sets and you're watching the town fall asleep from the top of the hill, and everything actually goes quiet - you know it's time to rest. And you respect that. 

When you’re walking down the road here, you’re not trying to overtake a thousand other people, you don’t have to breathe down someone’s armpit on the tube every morning. Nowadays, whenever I go to the city, I tire quickly. There's so much noise and pollution. Once my feet hit the ground in Lewes train station and I smell that fresh air - I feel so grateful and glad to be home. For a while when I moved here I felt like I was on holiday. Like I was taking ‘time out’ of life. And it wasn't so - I had a full-time job. But the pressure increased when I started a business. And began juggling full-time work and part-time hustle. The passion to succeed with my dreams is what drives me every day to move forward, to be productive, to go go go do do do. And still, I am always learning to take time to be still, to watch the river flow, to take plenty of walks. Whenever I'm in a whirl, I worry that I'll miss the spring come and go, the leaves open up and wither away. The whole world could go by whilst you're stuck to your computer screen. So yes, it's still all a process. I still have days when I forget to go outside and have to make myself do so. Not having a garden definitely makes it a lot more tricky. I think about life in Lithuania and I realised how privileged I was to have all that space to run wild in. Still, I only need to go 2 minutes up the hill to be outside of the town, and gain perspective. I can actually see trees from my window and I've never been happier.

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I know now that I would never trade being close to nature for access to city culture. That's the privilege of this 21st century life - as long as you have the internet & are willing to get on the train if needed, you can have all the culture and education your mind desires. But being so close to nature, the fresh air, a starry sky - now that is irreplaceable. I wouldn't trade that for the world. One day, I dream of living on a farm again. Growing my own food, and walking out onto dewy grass to have my morning cuppa. But for now, Lewes provides a beautiful middle-ground. With it's ample cafes, independent traders and all that I need just a short walk away. But surrounded by hills you can see from almost every point in town and the magical landscapes of East Sussex. And some incredible places less half an hour drive away, like Ashdown Forest or Cuckmere Haven. It's a photographer's heaven.


Talking about landscapes, if you're a brand and you'd love your products to be photographed in beautiful & wild locations, but you're based in a city - I offer remote shooting. You can find more info here & email me at aistesaulyte@gmail.com with your ideas. 

Examples of my work: BRAND + LIFESTYLE ; NATURE + TRAVEL.

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