Taking the plunge

“… I have a dream to follow my heart to the sea, to write, to teach, to love, to cycle, to swim, to jump off rocks into the water, to stretch on the sand, to have endless visits from my lovely London friends (please), to have more spare time, a slower pace of life, more space to create and to make my heart and spirit sing – in a small or a big way – every day” – Ode to London, I love you … but I’m leaving, October 10, 2013

I’m here. It’s happened. That dream has come true.

Two weeks ago, I packed up my lovely little London flat, put half of it in a storage cupboard and squashed the other half into a small car and headed south to the sea.

Swimming off the rocks

Swimming off the rocks

Since then, I’ve swum off fabulous sandy beaches – once at night under a full moon – I’ve jumped off rocks into the water and I’ve stretched out on the sand in the sunshine. I’ve spent lots of lovely time with my boyfriend, I’ve worked on my book most week days and I’ve experienced a slower pace of life. I have some teaching work at Bournemouth University lined up for the Autumn and four of my London friends will be visiting here over the next few weeks.

It’s a year and ten months since I wrote on this blog that I was leaving London, so the move took a while, but as I write this today, I’m a little bit amazed that my dream to live by the sea has come true. For a long time, I think I assumed everybody else’s dreams came true, but not mine. But now I know my dreams can come true too. And I understand the importance of having dreams, of writing them down, of drawing pictures of them (which I did – I have a number of pieces of A4 paper with colourful drawings of me living by the sea) and of taking small steps towards them, little actions to make them happen.

It would be easy to dismiss or ignore my efforts in making this particular dream come true. I’m good at that – good at not celebrating my successes. But I had the courage to dream, to write that blog post, draw those pictures, to put the ad on Gumtree to rent my flat out for six months and, when a good tenant came along, to say ‘Yes’. I drew up the contract, sorted all my flat safety certificates, had the cracked windows fixed and did all the other grown-up admin – reams of it – that comes with being a landlady. I arranged a room to rent down here so my boyfriend and I could have a little bit of space apart from each other and I managed to pack up 13 years of London life and all the mementos from years before into large plastic boxes and, with the aid of my very helpful and patient boyfriend, squeeze a lot of it into his car. I knocked on the door of Bournemouth University’s Media School, a number of times, and found some teaching work, and, once here, I got myself out of the house in the early morning and at night under the full moon to go for a swim in the sea.

An early morning dip

An early morning dip

Sea swimming makes my heart and spirit sing. When I plunge my head into the cold water, something lifts inside me. I skip on the inside. I smile. When I lie on my back, looking up at the sky, or when I explore a little bit of the world under the sea, everything is put into perspective. No matter what day I’ve had or what worries I’m carrying, everything seems brighter. And the other day, when the wind was up and the waves were bigger, I went body boarding, which was such a giggle. My inner kid loved that. She felt truly alive.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing, though. Packing up my flat, separating the things I wanted from those I didn’t (I seemed to want and need everything with me – it was painful to let go of anything from my past), journeying through 13 years of notebooks, diaries and photographs as well as memories from my childhood, my university life or the days I spent living abroad, was hard and brought up lots of feelings.

Giving up my safe haven has been hard too – that space where I can be completely alone, where I can shut the door, pull down the blinds, eat whatever I want and watch whatever I fancy on TV; the first home I’ve ever owned and the first place I’ve invested in and made my own. It’s been tough to leave my cosy flat and divide myself between a rented room in a friend’s house and my boyfriend’s place – neither of which is my own; I can’t do exactly as I please or shut myself away from the world anymore.

And although living at the beach is a dream come true, there have been times in the past few weeks when I’ve felt all at sea.

I’ve felt grief, grief for all the things I’ve left behind. I’m missing my London friends a lot and all the networks I became part of over those 13 years – church, my recovery meetings and the huge number of relationships that sprang from those. I’m missing the Southbank, the Thames and St Paul’s, Clissold Park, the fab grocer’s on Newington Green and the buzz of Upper Street at all hours. Sometimes I cycle, scooter or drive around my new home town and ask myself, “Where has everyone gone? Where are all the people?” And I see my London friends’ photos on Facebook, of them out enjoying London things, and feel a pang.

But such a big change was bound to throw up grief. Choosing to come to the beach meant choosing to leave London. Every choice involves loss, leaving something behind, and if we’ve experienced a lot of loss in our lives, loss is going to be especially hard. I’m also still in transition mode, finding my feet, exploring friendships, groups, activities and meetings, discovering a routine that works, working out how to get around.

It’s early days.

The good thing about this particular decision, though, is that I’ve never really had second thoughts – and for someone who finds decisions so hard, that’s amazing. I’ve felt grief and sadness and experienced loss, but I don’t want to change anything. All I want to do right now is to get more involved here, make more friends, find networks that feed my soul and places that bring me peace and joy.

So far, I’m pleased I’ve found a lovely working space for a few days a week (The Old School House in Boscombe) and my Vespa is back on the road, so I can work in my lovely shared office – or at home – and then nip for a swim at lunchtime or in the early afternoon. Going forward, I’d like to buy a new (or second-hand) mountain bike, a wetsuit and maybe a kayak or a paddleboard (all of which involves finding more work and increasing what I earn, so that’s my next big challenge); and I’d like to make sure I swim in the sea as many days as I can, with or without sunshine.

Happy after a sea swim and snorkel

Happy after a sea swim and snorkel

Moving hasn’t been easy but it’s definitely been the right thing for me right now. It’s a fresh start, a move towards a lifestyle that I think suits me better than the big city. It also gives my relationship the space to grow, which is a good thing.

And if I ever do have doubts, I can jump on a train to London, which is only two hours away, and spend time soaking up the buzz and seeing my lovely friends. Or you can come and visit me, we can get up early, scoot to the beach, dip ourselves in cold water … and smile.

Let’s keep dreaming. Dreams, I reckon, are good for the soul.


About Katherine Baldwin

I am a writer, coach, midlife mentor, motivational speaker and the author of How to Fall in Love - A 10-Step Journey to the Heart. I specialise in coaching women and men to have healthy relationships with themselves so that they can form healthy and loving romantic relationships and lead authentic, fulfilling lives. I coach 1:1, lead workshops and host retreats.
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13 Responses to Taking the plunge

  1. Well done and good luck! Dream on.

  2. loribeth says:

    Not sure I’ve commented before — but my hat is off to you!! I’ve always loved being around water — it soothes my soul — and your new home looks gorgeous!

  3. Pingback: by-the-sea.co

  4. Margarita says:

    Hi! I liked a lot the lines you wrote. It’s nice to dream and do all the things we want.
    We can change our lifestyle, the routine is boring. We need dreams. They are part of our soul!

  5. Sue says:

    Loved reading your blog, been in Dorset for 30 years and before that lived in Cornwall for 4 years. Never leave the sea, you will just keep coming back! Good luck for the future!

  6. Hale says:

    Happy swimming. I become alive when i swim too. I find myself and all the answers to my limitless questions. There is definitely no sea swimming in De Beauvoir. :)) One day i will also realise my dream of living next to the sea. Until then, i will enjoy loads of flats whites in Hackney. Thank you for the inspiration. Please keep us updated.
    Hale, from Sun 63 Studio 🙂

    • Hi Hale. Thank you! Love being near the sea, especially when it’s sunny. Enjoy the flat whites. The sea is here when you need it! Take care and I’ll see you when I’m back visiting the neighbourhood. Katherine

  7. PalomaB says:

    Hi Katherine, I’ve just stumbled upon your blog – it’s so inspiring. I too am a journalist, living in London, wanting to move with my family to the sea. To Bournemouth. I keep worrying though! Is the town centre a no-go area at night? I have an impression of marauding groups of stags and hens ( exaggerated I’m sure.) Will I meet any new friends, or fit in? Do the locals hate Londoners? It’s all so scary, but then the thought of the sea keeps pulling me back. The beach there is so beautiful. Any advice would be really welcome. Thanks so much x

    • Hi Paloma,
      Nice to hear you stumbled on my blog and that it struck a chord. There’s a lot I could say about my move down here but in brief, I’m not aware the town centre is full of stags and hens! Although I haven’t been out much at night in Bournemouth town centre. I was out there in the evenings a few times in the summer and it was all very nice, a family environment, but that was early evening. I don’t go out much in Bournemouth as I live in Poole, so we mostly hang out there. Will you meet new friends? I’d say definitely yes. I have. I was worried I wouldn’t fit in, that I wouldn’t find my ‘kind of people’ here or the cultural niches I loved about London. But it’s a case of looking and finding. It’s not as obvious as in London, where there are cute shops, cafes and cultural things all over the place, but there’s plenty going on here. I rent a space in this really lovely studio http://by-the-sea.co/ where I’ve met lots of like-minded creatives. And I work a few days a week at Bournemouth Uni where there are loads of interesting academics and ex-journos. Do the locals hate Londoners? A lot of the now locals are ex-Londoners so no! I stopped by the beach yesterday morning and this morning on my way into work and if I hadn’t had a cold, I’d have swum in the sea. I was on the beach on Saturday and cycling on the Purbecks, by Old Harry, on Sunday. This Thursday evening, we’re going to see Durdle Door all lit up as part of a festival of light. I do different things down here – if I were in London, I might be at a nice restaurant or bar or cultural event. My life here is much more outdoors. That suits me down to the ground right now. If you need any further information, do email me on katherinebaldwin@hotmail.co.uk
      Hope you make it down here and do let me know if you do. I can introduce you to some nice people!
      Best wishes, Katherine

  8. PalomaB says:

    Katherine, that’s so generous of you to write such a fulsome response. Thank you. I feel really excited about moving now! I’m going to email you……

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