Leaving the Big City


I’m writing this on a plane from Dubai’s bustling and very glossy international airport, to the far smaller, far, far quieter airport in my new home base, Erbil, Kurdistan, Iraq. It’s not very glossy down there. There’s not a lot to see. Soon, we’ll begin our descent and out of the window I’ll find myself gazing at... a lot of undulating yellow shrub and dust, stretching out in the distance, a lot of grey buildings, not quite finished, and a lot of... emptiness.

My new home may be a lovely place for a lot of lovely people. But it isn’t that for me. 

Home, where I grew up, is buzzing right now. There is always something new. There is always somewhere new. Every thing is very shiny and sparkly and definitely not dusty. There are no grey husks of unfinished buildings and there is no sense of being cut off from the rest of the world.

In Iraq, I feel cut off the from the rest of the world. Thank god for the Internet. And a good VPN. 


But this isn’t about living in Iraq, because I have  other posts about that (and it’s not all bad, honest). 

This is about what to do when you have to leave behind a big city. And you’ll know how frightening that is if you currently live in a big city. 

There’s an inherent difference I’ve found between living in a big city, and you know, just a regular city (or in my current case, a really small city). I feel like if you’ve got a TimeOut dedicated to your home base, you’re living in a good place to be. Maybe a silly measure, but you’d be surprised the difference it makes, once you’re somewhere that really doesn’t have that same presence on the map. 

There’s the big picture, the feeling that you live slightly apart from everyone else. And then there are the million little pictures: the lack of activities and things to do that you’re used to, and probably took for granted. The lack of friends and in many cases, even potential friends (I can go two weeks here without seeing a single other foreign face, quite, quite easily). 


There’s the fact that you can’t buy the same essentials in the supermarket, you can’t get the same morning coffee to treat yourself, you cant’ navigate the city on your own because it really isn’t as people friendly as what you’re used to. And there’s the monotony; the lack of new openings, new events, new publications, new… everything. 

Nothing new happens here. 

And then there’s the language issue. English is not a thing where I live. It’s hard to live in a big city and not at least have hubs where your own language is prevalent, sources where you can get local news and fun local news, not just the basics, in your own language. That’s not the case here and I really, really miss it. 

I feel totally disconnected from my surroundings, and whilst I lived in Dubai I felt totally connected to my surroundings. Between magazines and websites and the radio, I always had an idea of what was going on, what was of interest, what was coming up. I miss that. 


I miss things that people may deem very first world, but this is about being honest and I miss them. I miss bagged salads, and big brand coffee takeaways, and actually being able to buy new book releases in a bookstore. Frankly, I just miss bookstores. There aren’t many, if any, English language bookstores around here. 

I’m not going to deny making friends in a big city can be hard, because I have spent my fair share of time complaining about it over the years. But. I take back what I said. I take back every bit of what I said. Making friends is always hard, but it’s that much, much harder in a small place like where I live now. I miss the abundant number of diverse people coming in and out of the big city, month after month, and the constant potential to meet and make new friends, if you so chose to make the effort. 

I don’t want this post to a be just one long complaint, although, let’s face it, it kind of is shaping up to be just that! It’s just a little start of an exploration for me into a wider issue: what do you do when you live somewhere bustling and cosmopolitan and then… you no longer do. What do you do to remedy the fact that you will really not be able to adjust easily, if at all? I can’t be the only person in this situation, and so I hope my exploration over time, may actually be beneficial. 

For now. I’m just going to sit here in a little funk missing my bagged salads. And maybe download the Virgin Radio Dubai app.