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Loving Where You Live | Isabel Marcelo


by Isabel Marcelo

by Isabel


I have traveled to many cities in my 22 years and I’ve lived in three. Some places I’ve enjoyed more than others. In the three different cities I’ve lived in, I’ve found that there is one key thing you need in order to love the city you live in—no matter where you are in the world.

But before I tell you what that one thing is, I’m going to tell you about my own journey in what it’s been like to live in three different continents across the world.

Let’s start with the city I was born in: Perth. The capital of Western Australia, yet I still manage to find people who have still never heard of it. (No, it’s not near Sydney or Melbourne. Not at all.) Perth has always been a city in progress. And I think any Perthian would agree the progress has been slow. But slow and steady wins the race and we’ve been able to grow by learning from the east coast. (Thanks Sydney and Melbourne for all the things you didn’t do right!)

Life in Perth is laidback and quiet. 90% of the time the weather consists of blue skies and sunshine. It doesn’t take much to live a good life; to earn a lot of money and fill your days up with morning coastal walks and flat whites with avocado on toast for brunch, and nights out in the city. A lot of people move to Perth for this comfortable lifestyle.

But despite this paradise of a life, Perth can feel like a bubble. For the impatient, big dreamers, yearning for more in little ol’ Perth, it can feel like you’ll never get anywhere by staying. I felt like this during my teenage years. And it made me hate the city. So much so, that when I finished high school, I moved to a place much much bigger than Perth. I moved to Los Angeles.

I’d been to LA only once before I moved there and fell in love with it instantly. During this time, Perth was still developing, and so I found Perth to be incredibly boring. LA was exciting and fun and there was so much to do. But after a couple months, my love for the city was overtaken with a strong sense of loneliness and homesickness. I realised how much I wasn’t ready to be away from home and came back to Perth.

My love for Perth grew as more shops, cafes and events started coming. Perth was turning into a city I enjoyed. But after a few years, I felt as if I’d outgrown Perth. I was 21 years old and I loved my life in Perth so much but there was something missing.

I was finding more and more things about my hometown that would frustrate me. Travelling to other countries especially made me realise how much I didn’t want to stay in that bubble any longer. I couldn’t connect with the city or its people anymore. I wanted more out of life. I wanted the bustle and rush of a big city. So, I moved to London.


Isabel in her flat in London

I could never quite put my finger on why I loved London. It’s the complete opposite of Perth and that’s what made me want to move there so badly. There was something about the city that connected with me. It somehow made me feel so much more like me. But living in a city you love is very different to staying there on a holiday. And as if I didn’t learn this the first time around in LA, I’d have to learn it again.

There are so many amazing things about London. There’s always something going on somewhere, no matter the day. (I feel like that’s such a cliche things to say about London–but it’s true.) And being so close to Europe, you’re only a short flight away from some of the other most amazing cities in the world.

But living in London is difficult. Everything is expensive. Everything. And getting a job doesn’t make things that much easier when you’re only getting minimum wage. (Or lower than that in a lot of cases.)

I always had this joke before moving to London, where I wanted to know what it felt like to struggle. My London mates would tell me I wouldn’t have a problem with that. And after living here for a few months now, I can safely say they were right.

For a moment, it didn't feel like I was living in London. It felt like I was surviving. Barely. And it really got to me. It got to me so much that I almost made the decision to move back home. Back to the safe and easy life of Perth.

Then one drunken night out in East London, I had an epiphany. I realised how unhappy I was within myself. I realised that every time life got a little difficult, I’d try and fix it by moving to a new city. But it would never really fix the problem because all I’d be doing was trying to escape it. And soon enough, those issues I thought I’d solved would come creeping back and it would make me hate the city I was in again. And so, for the first time in my life, I decided to stay where I was.

I decided to face my problems head on and not take the easy way out. And as I found happiness within myself, I found happiness in London. The thing about where you live is–there’s only so much you can change if you’re unhappy about it.

What really makes a difference is your mindset. And how do you have a positive mindset? Self love. When you really take care of yourself to feel happy within, it radiates an energy out into the world. Your perspective changes and you see your situation in a new light.

I always thought my environment affected my mood–and yes–in some ways it does. But I’d always end up blaming my surroundings on my discontentment and never looked at the one factor that was always there: myself.

It took me living in three different cities to understand that no matter how much I moved–if I didn’t love the life I was living and more importantly, the person I was–I’d never truly love the city I was in. Third time’s a charm, I guess.

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