As the green trees and endless fields gave way to housing estates and electricity substations, an unshakeable feeling of intense panic gripped me. More than anything, I wanted the train to stop, to reverse back up the track the 80 odd miles I'd just covered and take me back to where I'd started an hour ago. That was when I knew I'd made the right decision.
Crossing the M25 back into London, the six lanes of roaring traffic below a mere blur out of the train window, I realised that I wouldn't be leaving the confines of the M25 again for at least a fortnight. London's orbital motorway was suddenly my cage, keeping me trapped within. After a nourishing weekend in Clacton-on-Sea, filled with family, sunshine and laughter, returning back to my flat in London felt like a punishment to be endured rather than something to enjoy.
I recently made the decision to move back to Kent after nearly a year and a half of living in London. Several things, which I won't go into detail of, contributed to this decision. Had any of these factors alone reared their head, my decision may have been different. Their combined force, though, was pushing me in a south-easterly direction.
I still love London, and not because my job all but contractually obliges me to do so. I love the fact that there's always something new to discover, or see, or eat, or explore. I love living so close to world-famous landmarks (and in the case of my last flat, being able to see them out of my kitchen window). But I don't love London in the right way to live in London.
I am aware that it's partly a case of the grass being (literally) greener outside the M25. There were things I didn't like when I lived in Kent before: the long commute to work, the difficulties getting home late at night, the fact that the nearest Mexican restaurant is goodness know how many miles away. I know that none of this will have changed when I move back. I'm looking at Kent with those cliched rose-tinted glasses, and yet I know as soon as I leave, my rear view mirror looking back at London life will be rose-tinted too.
At first, my decision to leave London felt like a failure. Plenty of my friends have settled into London and made it work, and here's me, slinking back to where I started, unable to cope with the capital. I felt weak, silly and embarrassed - nervous to tell people about my plans in case they laughed in my face.
But then I realised - this is the right decision for me. It's not failure to do what's right for you, to follow what makes you happy, to go against the crowd. What would be failure is sticking with a life that wasn't right for me out of the fear of what other people would think, or because it's what I thought I should be doing. Some people are London people, and some people are not. I am the latter - but I don't in any way regret this year that I've spent giving it a go.
At the moment, I feel sick when I see The Shard piercing the distant landscape, or the cluster of City skyscrapers huddling together. One of my earliest memories of coming to London as a child is of reaching London Bridge station, and the last few minutes of the train journey between there and Charing Cross, the excitement of heading into the big city reaching a crescendo. It's a journey that Deserter has covered in some detail here - albeit in slightly different words than I would have chosen - and, all joking aside, for years afterwards, I'd get that same feeling of excitement as I approached London. I was no longer a ten year old, bouncing up and down on the train seat - I was a twentysomething, making her daily commute into work. But inside me, that 10 year old was still bouncing up and down with the thrall of being in London.
I don't get that feeling anymore. The fun and excitement and thrill has been sucked out of London for me. I want to fall in love with London all over again, and I can't do that if I live here.
I'll still be working in a London five days a week, in a job that requires knowing the ins and out of the capital, so you'll still be seeing plenty of London-centric blog posts on here, and photos on Instagram. Just expect to see a few more castles and lakes and flowerbeds in there too.