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A Girl Abroad: Leaving New York, Arriving Everywhere Else

PHOTOS AND STORY BY CAMILLA MAYER FOR THE STYLE LINE

There is a transition period every New Yorker feels when

they leave the Big Apple. Without even realizing it, the rapid pace and aggression of the city runs thick and fast in your blood. There is New York, and then… there is everywhere else. I was weirdly now, part of the everywhere else. After an almost ten year stint in parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, I found myself restless for a new adventure. I decided to leave everything I had known as an adult this past August and start over again in Stockholm, Sweden.

“Where are you from?” Swedes would ask.

It was an easy and welcomed question for me. “Oh, New York –” I would say carefully. It was a badge of honor, an honor I had worked hard to claim, but of course a statement I wanted to boast with measure. Eyes would bulge, and many Swedes would exclaim with disbelief, “You moved to Stockholm from… New York?!” I know, I know. In private moments after moving, I even questioned myself.

New York spoils you in a way that you take for granted. Whether it be culture, food, museums, New York truly has it all, on a level that is incomparable. In New York, a city so vast and diverse, there is a space in one of the five boroughs that anyone can truly carve out and stake a claim. In New York, you can be anything you want to be.

This place I had known for the last ten years, I could feel pockets of memories resurface during my hard moments in Stockholm. Instantly in a memory, I could be transported back to the surge of people in Union Square, the smell of garbage and burnt pretzels, and the sensory overload of tourists and stylish New Yorkers buzzing about in the East Village.

On days that felt the hardest, it felt good to meditate on the why’s. Why did I move again?

I reminded myself that New York wasn’t going anywhere and would not change just because I had chosen to leave. I reminded myself that the purpose of leaving the concrete jungle was to expand on my experiences and skill-sets past the ones I had felt myself grow out of. Most days I felt brave and yearned for another a new experience. On other days, I would binge watch on American late-night television, because all I needed was for Jimmy Fallon to tell me everything was going to be alright.

I found that social media was the undeniable curse of self-comparisons. Now that I had left New York, I had a much slower pace in my life. I found myself with fewer things to say on social media and more time to consume from others. I longingly watched my friends live out their New York lives without me on platforms like Instagram Stories. Leaving your city and your friends in this digital age, one would think that friendships wouldn’t change. Just like anything, the reality of your friendship stings with a new unfamiliarity.

In New York, the reality is that most friendships are about convenience.

It’s not that friends don’t love you, it’s just more so, that you don’t live in the NYC bubble anymore.

Pushing through homesickness was most rewarding when I traveled. With flights being comparably cheaper in Europe, I found myself giddy planning trips of three or more countries at a time. Facebook became my best friend as I reconnected with old friends abroad and friends I had forgotten about. Where the world felt large and vast, it quickly became smaller when I realized I had a piece of home, dotted globally.

When you start to travel and expand your experiences past the Hudson and the East River, you realize how niche New York culture is. The standards we have on living is different than what the majority of the world relates to. I found myself wearing less black, worrying less about how many carbs I ate, and slowing down my pace to match my new surroundings. I found myself less angry and tense, easing into a new pace to really soak in the new country I was in. This was a new feeling and a welcomed one.

No matter where I seemed to travel, kindness prevailed with a spare bedroom, couch and hot meal.

New sites to behold, I found myself in locations that I had only seen in movies. Traveling to Edinburgh, Scotland, the birthplace of Harry Potter, I was mesmerized by the old city, and it’s historic nooks and crannies. My first stop was Edinburgh Castle in the center of the city, and its historic views that gave me chills. This castle was older than America and even kept early American “rebels” in its jail cells.

Next, I headed to Dublin, Ireland. As an American, I had no idea the Ireland wasn’t part of the United Kingdom. This is information is hard to admit; I felt embarrassed for not knowing that only Northern Ireland was part of the UK. In Dublin, the city was adorable but not monumentally historic the way Edinburgh felt. The goal was to leave the city and travel three hours to the coast and see the Cliffs of Moher and live out my Celtic Women fantasy. It truly did not disappoint. The vast cliffs and historic rocks covered in Kelly green moss rocked me (pun intended) to my core. Standing on the cliffs, on what felt like the edge of the world was a holy moment.

After Dublin, I hopped on a quick flight to London. My second time in London, I felt a sense of familiarity getting onto the underground.

The fast pace and diversity reminded me of New York, and I let the feeling wash over me with happiness. It was a great feeling to be in a big city again. Drained from so many days traveling, I allowed myself to have a day of rest binge-watching on BBC produced television and British series like the Peaky Blinders.

London is a city that rivals, and like many would argue, surpasses New York in many categories. It’s definitely more expensive; I felt my American Dollars dwindle to nothing as I exchanged for the British Pound. The strategy was to take full advantage of anything free, so I pushed through the frigid London cold and rain to visit the variety of free museums London had to offer. The Tate Modern was my number one goal, and I was amazed by the historic early modern works the Tate had its collection. So many of the pieces I had studied in college are housed in this free museum next to the River Thames.

All these cities, are not quite like New York and that’s okay.

Longtime New Yorkers know that leaving such a special city requires an adjustment or a waning period. But that’s just it, it’s just a period and life goes on. I had spent almost ten years of my adult in New York and so much of who I am was formed on those concrete sidewalks. While I don’t miss some things like anxiety from my work, the L train, and my non-existent savings account, I’m grateful for what New York gave me and now, I’m ready for the everywhere else.

“When you start to travel and expand your experiences past the Hudson and the East River, you realize how niche New York culture is. I found myself easing into a new pace to really soak in the new country I was in.”