I rode my first train in England when I was 21. Led by our British native professor, a group of us English majors ventured across the pond to experience the ultimate literary tour around London. I held one of Charles Dickens’ actual quill pens. I gaped at the Globe Theatre that was rebuilt near where Shakespeare’s plays entertained in the original. And I swooned in Keats’ Regency home filled with his story. It was my first real adventure. My first adventure away from North America.
We had a free day where everyone pursued their own Anglophile interests, and when a classmate said he organized a trip to Thomas Hardy Country (also known as Dorchester), I asked to tag along — a completely irregular question for my shy introverted college self. I’m not necessarily a Hardy fan like I am of Austen, but I wanted the England away from the city crowds, and I knew I would not have gone on my own at that point in my life.
It was that same train ride where every sheep-dappled field and every moody cloud snatched my soul and refused to release. I was enchanted. It’s a difficult gut level feeling to explain when you feel at home. I had never really felt it before, especially in a place I had never been before. I moved often, involuntarily and some voluntarily, since I was a baby. There were different coastlines, cities, and towns, and home is, of course, where you make it. But this reached beyond present moment. I hadn’t believed in past lives until that train ride. I still don’t know if I do. That homesick nostalgia I felt preoccupied everything that day.
It was that same nostalgia that fueled my search for a post-divorce interim home. After searching for “best UK coastal towns,” my top choice became Brighton for its diversity and its location (which is only 30 minutes by train from Gatwick Airport). From there, a good friend recommended its neighboring town of Hove. Great proximity to Brighton, more affordable, and more residential. It was like Chesapeake is to Virginia Beach.
Finding an AirBnb that accepts 5 months’ rentals and cats is not easy I discovered. There’s no filter for length of stay so the search began starting with budget, kitchen, pets allowed, washer, WiFi. There were a lot of private messages to homeowners about their long term availability and pet policy. One said that they didn’t know what December looked like for them. Another wanted to go through a UK rental agency that would require all five months’ rent upfront. And a few just simply did not even respond back.
In business, I’m not afraid to ask. In anything emotion-related, that’s a different story, but professionally, I take an assertive approach because nothing ever was accomplished sitting there passively in hopes something would magically grace your inbox. Bold requests have led to successful contracts, lucrative partnerships, and wonderful friendships. I don’t take “no” personally; it’s just business.
While my topsy turvy world is currently emotionally charged, I adopted the same executive mindset for my UK home search. I channeled that homesick nostalgia, determination that the right place is out there, and the knowledge that this was the next step in what would be my new normal.
When I wrote to the next AirBnb on my wishlist, I reminded myself that fortune will always favor the bold no matter what happened. So the moment I received:
I'm an advocate for going off on a new adventure after a divorce, currently doing just that myself! And I would allow cats.
That gut feeling of “I found my new home” fell into a knot in my throat. This place has floor-to-ceiling windows with tons of natural light, a modern galley kitchen, stylishly eclectic decor, and enough indoor space for Pickles and Anchovy to explore. It is a 3 minutes’ walk to the sea, a 15 minutes’ walk to the train station, and a 5 minutes’ walk to Tesco Supermarket. It is perfection.
So what culminated from a bold question to tag along on a train ride almost 20 years ago created this. I have a new home this December, and it will be the start to finding hope again.