I’m Moving to England… Again.

Six years after my last UK visa expired, I am officially moving back to England.

That’s right. I’m moving across the ocean in a couple weeks’ time.

I have my passport, a washed-out visa photo, a flight receipt to London Heathrow, and, quite probably, a stress-induced anxiety disorder to prove it.

I can’t stop imagining running into Dan’s arms at Heathrow, this time after a one-way flight.

Yet I’m still finding it hard to comprehend that this is now my reality.

This post is a life update, but also a personal and cultural essay, regarding immigrating to England.

All photos in this post were taken by Sarah of Lyra & Moth (our wonderful future wedding photographer!).

Sure, being in a relationship with a British citizen for a decade, of course I thought about the possibility of moving to England again.

Some days, it was all I wanted. Other days, it was the last thing on my wish list.

Finally, it’s happening.

The longest readers of Endless Distances know that I started this blog back in 2015, in my Ohio apartment during the last week of my senior year of college.

I was getting ready to move to England for grad school and wanted a place to chronicle my adventures, process my emotions, and post photos for my grandma.

So much has changed since then.

I spent two wonderful years in grad school in the UK, before returning to the US where I had a career as an occupational therapist.

I subsequently left that career because this little travel blog grew in ways I didn’t expect, and was enough to support me financially, alongside years of savings, through two years of full-time travel with Dan (aforementioned British boyfriend).

My grandma, who used to read this blog religiously and send me lengthy email responses, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and AOL discontinued her email address years ago.

I’ve grown up, survived years of a long distance relationship, and gotten engaged to the love of my life – who was inconveniently born in a different country yet who I couldn’t be luckier to have.

Photo credit: Lyra & Moth
Photo credit: Lyra & Moth

It became clear that it was time, or maybe past time, for the next phase of life.

But there were (are) so many diverging paths that it was overwhelming to choose which one to follow.

Dan and I could be digital nomads in Mexico City. Do a working holiday in Australia. Move around the USA as I take travel therapy contracts. Settle in a flat in London. Even go long distance again. In brief daydreams, the options were endless.

Frequently, I get overwhelmed by the possibilities in life.

It’s as if I can clearly see the alternate realities that get killed off with each choice I make. As if I am pruning a hedge into a shape that I’ve never seen before and can’t envision. Sometimes, it’s enough to drive me into a kind of analysis paralysis.

In not making any choice at all, I keep those futures alive. But by not choosing, I slowly lose them all to a present that doesn’t meet my potential. The hedge is overgrown; I’m caught in its branches. It’s a lose-lose, or perhaps a gain-gain depending on where you sit on the optimism spectrum.

Photo credit: Lyra & Moth
Photo credit: Lyra & Moth

I suppose my point is that moving (back) to England wasn’t a simple decision.

In some ways, it didn’t feel like much of a decision at all, but rather the result of spinning around the funnel of residency solutions to a bi-national relationship and tumbling out the hole into the single legal and reasonable option: England.

For a roughly $6,000 immigration fee, I will be permitted to move to the United Kingdom, where I can live under certain legal caveats without a right to vote, until I have to pay an even higher immigration fee again in two and a half years’ time, assuming that the laws haven’t changed by then and we are still eligible for another visa.

Of course, all of the stress, fees, rain, damp, pants=underwear-ing, crisps=chips-ing, and frustrating bureacracy is worth it to be with Dan.

Finally living not only in the same country as him but the same house? Take my money.

While absolutely nothing overshadows my joy of living life with Dan, I’m sure you can tell I am simultaneously disappointed in the politics and xenophobia surrounding this move.

Photo credit: Lyra & Moth
Photo credit: Lyra & Moth

And yes, I absolutely mean politics, because what is immigration if not political?

A few weeks ago, the UK prime minister announced a plan to severely cut down on legal immigration. One part of those plans is raising the minimum salary threshold for UK sponsors (AKA, Dan), to a number that is more than double the current threshold, and higher than the median wage for workers in the UK.

The result being, of course, that the majority of UK citizens will no longer be allowed to bring their partners and family over to the UK.

Nurses, therapists, teachers, police, care workers, writers, marketers, researchers, electricians, you name it. These people who work hard and contribute essentially to society (the same ones that people clapped in the streets for in 2020) will no longer have the same right that Dan and I have to live together.

(Purely because he happens to be a Finance Bro™ who, for the time being at least, earns a salary above the threshold – and thank God for that, or we’d perhaps be spending a bonus decade on separate continents).

This impending move to England has shown me in new and poignant ways that politics aren’t just something that happen on TV while you’re cooking dinner or on the radio as you drive to work.

Photo credit: Lyra & Moth
Photo credit: Lyra & Moth

Politics affect the everyday lives of, if not overtly yourself, then certainly someone you say you love and care about.

One of my core childhood memories, and something that has deeply impacted how I make decisions as an adult, was when some conservative family members completely switched their voting choices to support my lesbian aunts. This was during a time when gay marriage was illegal in the USA.

Years after that, millions of votes eventually led to political change and my aunts were one of the first couples to be married in New York City when gay marriage became legalized there.

I am proud of my family members for standing up for their loved ones, even if those laws didn’t affect their own lives to the same degree.

It takes a lot of compassion and humility to make choices on behalf of the realities of people you love, rather than on your pe-existing ideologies.

This is a philosophy that I try to keep in mind.

However, I never thought that I, a middle-class heterosexual cis white woman, would ever be in a position to feel like I was the one being ostracized.

I am so aware of my privileges, so I have to wonder, if immigrating is this painful for me, how devastating must it be for everyone else in shoes a little more worn out than my own?

I’m becoming verbose (although, wasn’t that the original point of blogs?) but I can’t talk about moving to England to be with the love of my life, without also talking about the political landscape our relationship exists within.

Sharing these thoughts is also not part of any long-winded attempt at changing your political views.

Rather, my goal is to give an honest glimpse into the complexities of moving abroad.

And perhaps, at the very least, I can contribute to an extra dose of compassion in the world.

I have always been honest on this blog, particularly regarding my thoughts and feelings around moving abroad. It is a beautiful, challenging, joyful, heartbreaking, and rewarding experience.

All of those things can be true at the same time.

In this midst of packing lists, doctor appointments, and overflowing suitcases here at home in Michigan, I’m also dreaming of my future home in London.

There will be rain pattering the windows of a little third floor flat, picking up gluten free sandwiches at my beloved M&S, date nights with Dan (we already have tickets to see Harry Potter & The Cursed Child!), gluten free marmite on toast, train journeys on Southwest Rail, scones with clotted cream, chilly walks with a pub at the end of the trail… my list could go on.

Photo credit: Lyra & Moth

There will also be culture shocks.

These are things I’ve never quite gotten over in my decade of travel back and forth to the UK.

Perhaps a better phrase is cultural “pet peeves,” but even those are called “bug bears” in England and has, in essence, proven my point!

I will be asked, over and over again, where I’m from, even after I’ve lived there for years. When I go home, people will tell me I sound British now, and when I’m in England, people will mimic how I pronounce “water” or “advertisement.”

People who I’ve just met will immediately ask me about Trump, or guns, or American health insurance.

I won’t know whether to say “trunk” vs. “boot” or “sidewalk” vs. “pavement” (the list of linguistical substitutions goes on); at this point I know what the correct British alternative is, but it feels wrong saying them with my blatant American accent.

I will be outraged by the lack of dryers, the overabundance of radiators and underabundance of air conditioners, the presence of washing machines adjacent to ovens, hard water and limescale, early sunsets, and NHS wait times.

I will appreciate the trains and tube, the late summer sunshine, the ease of travel throughout Europe, the high awareness of celiac disease and gluten free restaurants, the incredible age of everything, and the culture of putting on hiking boots and taking a long walk on a Sunday to nowhere in particular.

Photo credit: Lyra & Moth
Photo credit: Lyra & Moth

In short, I am quite aware of the contradictory existence awaiting me.

I am overjoyed to move to London. I am, simultaneously, broken-hearted.

Mostly, I am grateful.

Grateful that I am being given a third chance to move to England, a country that has meant so much to me and contributed to so much of who I am over the last 10 years.

Grateful that I have the capacity as a human to feel all these convoluted things at once, and live the kind of life that is rich in emotion-stirring experiences.

I am grateful to be moving to England, more than anything else, for the reason of being with the love of my life. There is absolutely nobody else I would rather live this adventure with.

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  1. Good luck with your move, so happy for you! I heard this news about new immigration law. As I gather, leaving the EU brought morr problems than benefits and this will be the same with this new law when country runs out of nurses and handymen, nobody will come to work anymore…

    1. Thank you Tanja!! I’m so excited to reunite with Dan. And yes this is all tied back to Brexit of course. It’s really quite devastating news and I’m feeling really lucky that it’s not affecting us personally (beyond an exorbitant amount of money we now have to pay in fees), but extremely sad for all the families who now won’t get to reunite, plus the inevitable impact it’s going to have on healthcare and the economy in the UK.

  2. My partner and I have spent this rainy Sunday navigating the complexities of the British immigration system and trying to work out a way in which we can sneak through the cracks before the changes come into affect in April; all the while wishing we could do things at our own pace and in our own way. Your blog post fell into my lap at just the right time and perfectly articulates the conundrum of long distance relationships and finally closing the gap (we too have been together for ten years). While I am the one in U.K. and the process of moving countries is not mine to make, the assortment of feelings that come with such a step is still felt keenly. It’s a mixture of complete joy and utter sadness, mixed with the exorbitant headache of immigration fees and bureaucracy! Such a complicated experience, but hopefully so worth it to be with the ones we love. I wish you and Dan all the best and hope that the UK treats you well. You deserve every happiness here.

    1. This is such a sweet, kind comment. Thank you for taking the time to read and share your thoughts! It is not often that I connect with people in our situation so I appreciate it. Best of luck with your own journey – I can 100% relate to the frustration at having your own timeline ripped away from your in favor of governmental whims!

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