I never expected it to be as different as it is.

Why is living in England so much different now than it was 6 years ago, when i have lived here my whole life you may ask? let me tell you. Since moving back to England I have noticed a few things that really get under my skin. In America, the houses are so much bigger, like twice the size of a regular British house and not only that but they have wall sockets everywhere. I use to think, why? why would you need so many wall sockets in one room? well, now I know. it makes life so much easier, you don’t have to stress that your T.V can only go in one of two places, your floor lamp can be plugged into any corner of the room without having to buy an extension cable to do so. I remember the days where i would want to move my bedroom around but I was restricted to where I could put things due to the fact there weren’t enough wall sockets!

Storage is another one. I noticed that when I was searching for a house here in England that not many houses had much storage. Most houses here don’t come with garages or sheds already built in the garden. The kitchens have just about enough space to put your food, pots and pans plates etc. And even then its a squeeze to fit everything in. Or maybe I just suck at organizing. American houses pretty much automatically come with a basement. In our 4 bed house in south Dakota we had a split level house which meant, as you walked in the front door you have stairs that lead upstairs and stairs that lead downstairs. Upstairs had the living room, bathroom kitchen and 2 bedrooms. Downstairs had another living room the same size as the upstairs living room, 2 more bedrooms a bathroom and a laundry room. When we moved back to England we moved into a 4 bedroom house but we had furniture from a house that had two living rooms. So of course, we had 2 sets of couches to fit in one living room, obviously that didn’t happen and we ended up having to sell quite a lot of furniture.

Having a second basement gave us the choice to put things in that space that we didn’t want in our main living space, but also didn’t want to get rid of. We didn’t use it as a storage room but it did help to allow my husband to have a space he could call his own, without his style clashing with mine. Now were finding ourselves trying to fit everything into one living room and trying to make it fair on each other without the other ones style taking over the other.

Fridges, freezers, fridge/freezers are also a lot bigger. We are a family of 5 so we tend to buy a lot of food. After living in America and wondering why our fridge never seemed full I now know why. They’re much, much bigger. now I can’t find enough space and find myself having to limit the amount of food I buy because there is no way we would fit it all in. I also became accustomed to having ice in my drink and the bag of ice we buy takes up a whole drawer in the freezer by itself. Now, I could just buy a bigger one right? but those buggers are so expensive! I don’t really want to have to spend that kind of money if we end up moving back again in few years.

One thing I do love about being back home compared to being in America is the fact that a town is within walking distance and buses can take you anywhere you want to go. America seems to have designed their houses to be on one side of the town and the shops on the other. You literally HAVE to drive everywhere. Want to nip to the shop to get some milk? better grab your car keys. Want to nip into town on a nice warm sunny day? Don’t forget to grab the car keys. Public transport is pretty much non existent in America. Apart from the big cities of course, like New York etc. But in little ole South Dakota, jumping on the bus was never an option. The reason being that there are too many agencies at all levels of government, especially at the local level, and not enough coordination between them. The newer cities are sprawled out which makes good transit hard, and the older cities are too paralyzed by political dysfunction to expand the systems they have. So I found it highly frustrating that getting a bus wasn’t an option or easy. My kids had actually never been on a bus until we came home for my mums wedding in 2019. They still haven’t been on a train either.

Being able to walk into town was something I really started to miss. Sounds stupid right? but when that is all you have known and have always done, not being able to do it became quite a big culture shock for me. I love driving so that was never an issue but the fact that I had to drive everywhere became tiring at times. Like seriously, I just want some milk for goodness sake, I shouldn’t have to put petrol in my car so I can go get milk!!

Anyway, I find it funny that these things bother me because when I first met my husband, and when we were dating he use to always complain about the exact things I now find frustrating. But because I had never experienced anything different, it was normal to me so I never truly understood how something so small like the wall sockets, could be a big pain in the butt to someone who had 10 in one room vs the 3 in one room we get in England.

Last but not least, I really struggled with adapting to the food in America. My husband can go anywhere on earth and have a commissary on the base that carries all the food any normal American grocery store would have. But for me, I was never able to have the home comforts of food unless I paid out the butt to have them shipped to me. Of course, I adapted quite quickly and actually ended up preferring most food over British food. But of course, nothing can ever compare to a hot sausage roll or sausage, bean and cheese melt from Greggs!

I never knew moving away would have impacted me so much. I’m not sure what I was expecting from moving back home, of course things were going to be different, things were going to feel different. I wasn’t expecting moving back home to be almost as much of a cultural shock as moving to America was in the first place.


Moving back to England

England 2020

Moving back home was the happiest I have felt in a long time. I really struggled with who I was and what I was turning into, Being in America and away from everything I knew. Raising little humans in a different country, without a support system, I lost myself. I lost the fun, outgoing, willing to do anything kind of person I once was.

As soon as that plane hit the tarmac in London Heathrow Airport, I let out a big sigh of relief, were home, this is it for the next 3 years at least. Although I am so thankful and beyond happy i am back home I also did not realize how hard it would be.

Raising my family and being on my own taught me to be strong and to not rely on anyone. It has just been me, my husband and our children for the best part of 6 years. I missed the crap out of my family, and I had mentally prepared myself that I was not going to fit right back in where I had left off. That place I had before I left was no longer there. The world keeps spinning and life keeps moving whether you are there or not.

Although I had been mentally preparing myself for a while before coming home it really didn’t prepare me enough for how hard it was going to be. Obviously, our move back home was welcomed, I am so lucky to have the support from my family and friends which allowed me to be able to have the strength and courage to move away in the first place. I guess in the beginning I was fighting my own demons.

People change, I changed, and life changes. I became so independent that I really did find it hard in the beginning to let my family take the kids for a day out or have them for a sleepover. I also had to think about the kids fitting in, not just me. Me and my husband are all our children have known. They have never had a sleepover with cousins or their nana or grandad. They have never really spent time away from us, so the first time they had a sleepover I was expecting to have to go and pick them up. I was prepared for that phone call to say that my kids just couldn’t cope and needed me. But, once again they surprised me with how strong they are, and that phone call never came. In fact, they had such a wonderful time they did not want to come home. And now, many sleepovers later they can’t wait for the next time they get to have one.

The first-year home was amazing, I got to celebrate my birthday with those closest to me for the first time in 6 years. The kids got to have a birthday party with those closest to them, I got to spend birthdays with so many other people for the first time in a long time, and got to spend Mother’s Day with my mum for the first time since leaving. And with Father’s Day coming up I get to spend that with my dad also. We really do take for granted something so simple as just being in the same room with the people we love. We also feel like we should be doing something, going somewhere, when something so simple and sitting in the garden with a cup of tea while the children play and have a good time is all we need.

Once I got out of my own head about how we were going to find our place back in everyone’s lives I started having fun and really loving the fact that we were home, around the people we love, and we finally have a support system.

Its so weird though because when I was in America I missed “Home” so much I wanted to come back. Now, don’t get me wrong England is where I would love to stay and we will do our very best to try and make that happen but now I’m here, parts of me really miss being in America. I see America being the place where I became independent, I became the person I am today, and my children became the people they are today. We achieved so much, saw so much and experienced so much. I guess I can call it my second “home” now.

I guess what I can say is moving away is so scary, it is a life changing decision for anyone to make. It can either make or break you. I don’t view myself as someone who is strong enough to do it because I didn’t feel like I was, there were many, many, many days where I just wanted to go home. I just did what I had to for my family. After all, I did marry a military man and it was no surprise that we would have to move. Looking back, I’m quite sure I suffered with some form of depression from having to do everything myself, with next to no help but me being me I just viewed it as raising a family is hard especially without support.

I thought It was normal to feel the way I was feeling, having 3 children under 4 is hard for anyone so why would It be different for me. You’re going to upset someone with any decision you make in life, but your life is yours to live. People can either join you and go on that journey with you or they can resent you and be against you. No one is going to make your life better or give you opportunities in life other than yourself. What is there to be afraid of? Living a better life? giving your children the best start in life possible? Giving them real life, worldly experiences that not very many children get to have? Don’t hold back on the life you wish to have in fear of upsetting someone or fear of missing out. You will miss out more on the things you don’t do more than you would if you didn’t.


Photo taken by myself at The North Shore.

After 2 long flights, we made it to Hawaii. When I think about Hawaii I have visions of hula girls greeting us at the airport with leys (the flower necklaces you see people being given on TV) but that is far from the truth. Nothing is ever as it seems on the TV. It was, in fact my husband’s colleagues who greeted us and although there were no hula girls I was thankful that there were people there to help us with our luggage.

They took us to a hotel near the airport which was called Honolulu Airport Hotel. A funny story here, being British, myself and having an American Siri on my phone, we didn’t get along well. Whenever I asked her to give me directions back to Honolulu airport Hotel she would always reply with, “I don’t know a Honolulu APPLE hotel”. I wanted to throw her out the window so many times. Anyway, back to the story. I remember walking out of the airport and it being muggy and hot, It really wasn’t pleasant after being on a 10 hour and then another 6 hour flight. I was happy to get to the hotel room with air con and a shower.

Our first day consisted of my husband going into work and doing his In processing stuff and arranging some days off to allow for house hunting, and getting a rental car. Although leaving my family was hard this felt like I was on holiday. I had to keep remind myself that I won’t be going back home. Not to live, not for a while yet anyway. The morning sickness started hitting me hard yet again.

After a few days of house hunting we found a house we fell in love with. We moved in and everything seemed great. The veiw was breathtaking, the only downfall was that the landlady lived in the house beneath us, but it was hawaii and houses were flippin’ expensive. Despite the landlady living beneath us we got a pretty good deal. A few months went by and life was good, my mum came to visit us that summer as well as my best friend my dad and step mum and my other friend as well as my husbands mum dad and grandma. All at different times of course. We had a blast. My second daughter was born while my mum was visiting which was nice because she got to meet her new born granddaughter and spend a few weeks with her before she had to go back home. My daughter wasn’t due to be born for another 3 weeks but she came early and I’m so glad everything turned out that way and she got to meet her. That really was a special moment for us to share together.

We were settling into our house and things became “normal”, well that was until my husband would see the landlady pottering around doing the gardening every time my husband just so happened to chilling in his underware. The landladies brother had actually made a deal with her in the fact that she could live there rent free if she kept up with the gardening around the property. Now the contract stated that she was to give us 24 hours notice before coming anywhere on to our property. After a while, living above the landlady got to be too much. She let herself into our house without notification at one point and after my husband feeling like he was being stalked we decided to move and live on base.

Hawaii isn’t really what everyone would think it is. What do you think of when you think of hawaii? You think of resorts, palm trees, beautiful beaches everywhere. Well that’s not the case. It’s expensive, there are homeless people EVERYWHERE, there’s graffiti on almost every building and it took an hour to travel 15 minutes down the road during rush hour. We were on the island of Oahu which is the busiest island of them all and it wasn’t until you went to one of the resorts that you actually felt like you were in Hawaii. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the experience, but to live… Never again.

Hawaii is beautiful though. I know I have mentioned a lot of the bad parts about Hawaii but we did have a good time. I think because Hawaii was the first place we went to as a newly married couple and parents to a 6 month old we were juggling our new marriage as well as a baby and that in itself is a lot. Me and my husband had only been together a year before we had gotten married so we were still learning things about each other and raising a baby and being pregnant at the same time. There was a lot going on in our life at that time, a lot of emotions, a lot of responsibility.

We got to experience going to a Luau which is an Hawaiian party/feast that has traditional Hawaiian dancing and their famous delicious food including my favorite Kalua pork. Yummy. We took everyone who visited us to a Luau and everyone enjoyed it. The views and things we got to see were incredible. I just wish my children were old enough to remember it because we really did have some special memories from Hawaii. I guess i was just so shocked at how different it actually was vs how I imagined it to be.

A little over 2 years of being there we fell pregnant with baby number 3. We were praying and praying for a boy but God had other plans and blessed us with a third baby girl. I had given birth in November and we were due to move onto our next assignment to South Dakota 2 months later. I thought the first year in Hawaii was hard. But that was nothing compared to the first 6 months in South Dakota.

South dakota

This photo I took at Badlands National Park.

That time arrived again, it was time to move onto my husbands next duty station and this time we were heading to South Dakota. We got a flight from Honolulu to LAX. We had actually decided we wanted to do a road trip from LAX to South Dakota. On our way there we stopped in Vegas, Utah, went to see my husbands parents in Colorado springs and then onto south Dakota. It was a really nice road trip and the kids surprised me in how well they managed.

Before we left Honolulu we actually already had a house that we were in the process of closing on. We had bought our first house and we were excited. It was in the perfect location, close to town, close to the school and close to my husbands work. We moved in and started working in re decorating to freshen the place up and put our own little stamp on the place. It took a few days and we were happy with the results. Our house hold goods turned up roughly a month later and I was dreading unpacking, just like always but also super excited to have our stuff and to start making this house a home.

After unpacking we had a bunch of cardboard boxes left over and downstairs in the basement we had a wood burner. I was getting sick and tired of all these boxes being in every corner of the house and our recycling bins just weren’t able to keep up. My best friend was due to arrive from England so we were cleaning the house to get ready for her arrival. My husband had come up with a good idea on a cold morning, to break down the boxes and burn them in the wood burner to get rid of them and also warm up the house.

A quarter of the way through my husband burning these boxes I noticed there was more smoke in the house than there should’ve been. All my kids were upstairs in the living room playing, I had gone down to the basement to check on my husband and see what all the smoke was about. As soon as I got down there I had to open the window immediately, I saw that the fire inside the wood burner was getting bigger. My husband panicked and took the box, that was on fire, out of the wood burner and ran it upstairs and threw it out the front door. Before he even got to the stairs the box broke in his hand, landed on the carpet and immediately a fire broke out. We were in such a panic that we didn’t even think to throw water over it. All we knew is that we needed to get rid of the problem and the problem being the box.

I remembered that we had a fire extinguisher in the cupboard under the stairs so I grabbed it and immediately tried to put the fire out. Unfortunately this fire extinguisher, that was left by the previous owner gave 2 big bursts and then ran out. It was tiny, the fire went out for a second but reignited. It was in that moment I realized there was nothing I could do. I shouted up to my husband to get the kids out. I was on the other side of where the fire had broken out so going up and out the front door wasn’t an option for me. The fire was climbing up the stairs, thick smoke had filled the entire house by this point. Once I knew my children were out I climbed out the basement window, ran and told my neighbor to call the fire department. I sat and just sobbed into my 5 month old’s chest.

My house was going up in flames. When you see adverts of fire fighters talking about how fast a fire can spread they’re not joking. The fire fighters arrived pretty quickly but when you’re watching your house burning it feels like an eternity. Nothing in my house was able to be saved apart from a few bits and bobs. But my kids were safe, they’re not replaceable but material things are. I am so blessed and thankful that no one got hurt.

It took about 5 months for our house to be gutted and rebuilt from the inside. Thankfully the structure itself wasn’t damaged and it was only the inside that was damaged. The worst part about it was that my best friend who had spent hundereds of pounds to come and visit us is now suffering the devistation with us. Me, my husband our 3 children, 3 dogs and my best friend were in a hotel room for her entire 2 week stay. It wasn’t until after she had left that the insurance company was able to find us a house to stay in until our house was finished getting fixed.

This is the upstairs of our house. The fire didn’t reach this far and this is just what the smoke damage did.

5 months had gone by, our house is finished, the builders did a fantastic job in rebuilding the inside and laying the new carpet and putting in the new kitchen and bathrooms etc etc. We were so happy to be home and actually start enjoying our time here.

Our time in South Dakota went smoothly, my mum came to visit in the summer Just like she always did. My dad had come that September and my other friend had come the following year. We were only in South Dakota 2 years until my husband volunteered to go to Alaska for a year. By going to Alaska for a year we were able to choice our base of preference which we chose would be England. Base of preference only gets given if there is a job for you to fill and luckily for us there was.

I like South Dakota. You get the right amount of snow, the weather is never predictable. There was a time where we had all 4 seasons in one day. Snow, trees changing color, hot and sunny and rain. All in the space of 12 hours. I had never seen anything like it. The wind is crazy too. They don’t joke when they say its windy in SD.

The time we spent here I really enjoyed. We were in a better place financially, we had our own house, my eldest had started kindergarten, and life was great.

The time for my husband to go to Alaska was getting close, we had actually decided that me and the kids were going to follow him and experience Alaska too. My husband had to go to Colorado springs to do some classes for his upcoming job in Alaska. While he was there I was busy getting the house packed up and put into storage. We had actually decided to drive from SD to Alaska and boy am I glad we did.