How Old is Too Old to Run Away?

When I was a kid I had this fantasy about running away to England.  I mean, I really, seriously wanted to run away.  To England specifically.  When life got miserable, and believe me, my childhood was seriously miserable at times, I would daydream about how I was going to do it.

Part of this fantasy, of course, involved setting off without telling anyone.  I didn’t just want to move to England, I wanted to disappear to England.  I wanted to go without taking anything with me and without telling anyone where I had gone.  I’m sure that all came from some sense of wanting all the people who were so awful to me on a daily basis to wonder where the heck I’d gone, maybe to get a little worried and send out a search party for me.

The reason I never went was because I was smart enough to figure out that there are some inherent problems in just disappearing to a different country.  For one thing, you would have to take cash.  Credit cards are traceable.  Passports are also traceable, and you can’t enter a foreign country without one.  I toyed with the idea of somehow getting a fake passport, a new identity.  I think I even came up with a few false names for myself.

In the end I never went.  I didn’t have enough money.  It always came down to money.

So here I am, almost 38 years old.  What is my biggest secret fantasy?  What do I sit around and daydream about?  What do I plot and plan and do mental gymnastics to figure out the logistics of?

Running away to England.

Oxford as photographed by me.

I had my first trip to England in the summer of 2010.  I went with my cricket team to Winchester and Oxford.  A lot of completely and utterly life-changing things happened to me over those eight days.  A LOT.  Oxford was beautiful.  Walking through the cobble-stone streets of a university that has been operating for a thousand years, finding myself in nooks just out of earshot of motor traffic and looking up to Medieval buildings, actual Medieval buildings, all around me sent chills through my bones.

High Street, Winchester. Home of the best pasty EVER!

Walking down the High Street in Winchester was even more soul-shaking.  I felt like I was home.  I wandered through Winchester Cathedral as though I knew every stone, had felt every ray of sunshine before.  I touched Jane Austen’s gravestone, sat outside the house that she died in under a tree in front of a wall that she may have looked at while she dreamed.  I drove around Hampshire feeling like I’d never seen anything so beautiful.

I’m not sure about reincarnation, but if it’s the real deal then I know I lived in Winchester hundreds of years ago.  It hasn’t changed much.

I want to go to England.


But here’s the thing.  I have debts.  I have stuff.  I have cats.  I have a job in the good old U.S.A.  I don’t have a job in Winchester or Oxford or Derby or anywhere in the U.K.  I’ve gone online to see about getting a work visa and basically you have to jump through a lot of hoops and already have a job with a U.K. company to even apply for a work visa.  You can, however, get an artist’s visa if you’re, oh, say, a writer with an independent income.

The problem is that I’m not.  Yet.

Beautiful Hampshire!

Then there’s that voice that says to me “You’re too old.  International moves are for college students and people who’ve just graduated.”  Of course I also know that’s not true, but that’s the same voice that tells me I have too many debts in American dollars to pick up and move to the original side of the pond.

And yet, that’s where my soul is.  I’ve been told by several people that I’m British at heart.  In fact, 20 years ago, long, long before I’d ever set foot on English soil, a South African friend told me that I was more English than most English people he knew and that if I ever went to England I would never go back.

In a way he was right.

But can you really just pick up your life, leave behind your debt, your job, your family, your friends, your house, and your cats and make that change?  Is there a statute of limitations on following your soul?  Or does the evil specter of money make returning to your heart’s true home nothing more than a dream?

Another reason to love England: Pubs!

Once again, credit cards are the reality check in my desire to run away to England.  Only this time I’m not as concerned about people tracking me by my credit card use as I am paying of a dollar balance with pounds.  I’m sure there are ways to do it, otherwise no one would ever move internationally.  And there’s still the nagging issue of the non-existent, good-paying job and visa I would need in the U.K. to make this fantasy work.

Plus Kristine would kill me and Stewart might never forgive me.

Then again, if they ever move to NYC, like both of their careers lean towards….

So what do you think?  Do you think I could do it?  Do you think 38 is too old to make a 180 and change your life entirely?

Me and some cricket friends on a stop while punting on the Isis.


15 thoughts on “How Old is Too Old to Run Away?

  1. Please don’t ever say that you can be too old to do this. I waffle between England and France, but I constantly dream of becoming a successful novelist so that I can run away to Europe. Of course, I also have a husband who would need to be convinced, but I bet I could do it.

  2. Oh good god no!

    Just this very day I received an e-mail from a friend in New Zealand. She was my boss in the second job I ever had and now is aged round about 60. She’s been married and divorced twice, with at least one other significant relationship. She had three children, good relationships with her exes, has changed careers twice and last year became a grandmother for the first time.

    But this story’s not about her; it’s about the man who fell in love with her.

    Last year she scraped some money together and went to live in a village in France for four months. I’ll let her tell the story from here.

    “Met by chance towards the end of my four month stay in France last year, when the scooter I had bought to get around was vandalised and the fuel line cut. Because it was new, I had to take it back to the place I bought it which was half an hour’s drive away and while I was musing aloud on what to do some English friends said ‘we know, T will help you – he’s got a trailer!’ (T is originally from Yorkshire, but had been in France for 12 years.) They rang him on the spot and he turned up next morning, we had an hour’s conversation there and back, an aperitif a few days later, then lunch and another trip to Beziers to help me buy a suitcase and it was all on!

    …We’d only been together a week before I left for a three week trip with a friend around Brittany and T went back to England to see his family, but at the end of that we spend five days buried in the Cevennes where the decision was made that we would not mess about travelling backwards and forwards across the world, but he would pack up and come to NZ with me, which he did in the space of two weeks flat. A highly impetuous and rash decision, but absolutely right.

    …He is such a kind and gentle soul I had no doubt he would slot in just fine

    …We are ridiculously pleased with ourselves for having the nerve to do this, very happy and planning to marry in September. So there’s the story! You’re never too old…”

    How inspirational is THAT girl?!

    I say make a plan. First, aim, plot & manoeuvre to get a job with an international company that has offices in England. Pay off your debt asap. Make this your financial priority No. 1 at the expense of everything else. Explore secondary channels of getting a job over there simultaneously. Put your head down, make it THE priority in your life and I reckon you’ll be able to do it.

    Now whether you will, when it really comes down to the crunch, only you will know…!

  3. I did it at 51, Merry! Ask Julie to tell you about it or pm me on FB and I’ll give you the scoop! Never say never! I’m very happy in England and I’m sure I was here before!

    • Woo hoo! That is awesome and inspiring!

      Of course, the other thing is that I have so many contacts through cricket these days that I bet someone could help me out that way. Really I think I would love to try to get some sort of job involved with cricket or cricket scoring. I’m already working on becoming an internationally certified scorer (which reminds me that I need to do my homework for that class).

      It’ll happen someday. But I think it may seriously have to wait until Stewart and Kristine have moved first. Money is one thing, but people really keep you places. But not forever. =D

  4. You’re never too old to run away! Yes, debts can follow you around, and yes as we age we gather so much life laundry it seems to tether us firmly in one place. Vanishing isn’t that hard to do. But rather than slipping away in the dead of night, make plans for a realistic adventure. Debts are transferable but your life isn’t.

  5. Totally loved this post! I have a special place in my heart for the idea of picking up and heading off to parts unknown and fantasize about doing just that frequently. I, too, had a SA friend (when I was living in NZ) who had a theory that when you finally ended up visiting the place where “your people” had come from, you’d know it immediately on some intrinsic, primal level. I’ve never been to Ireland where both my grandparents emigrated from, but I believe, as per my friend’s theory, that as soon as I do, I’ll meet people there who are more like me in temperament and psychology than I ever have here in the States. My friend said that things that you never really understood before will become immediately clear to you when you’re suddenly among your own kind. I’m keen to see, anyway!

    • I totally believe that theory that when you find the place where your people are you will know it. Maybe it’s written in our DNA somewhere. Or our souls.

      I’ll get there someday.

  6. You’re never to old to follow your dreams! And, man! do I ever understand your desire to run away to England. My husband is afraid to take me because I’ve told him if I ever get there I am NOT coming back. He knows I’m serious! If you want it, Merry, go for it. Your cats will love it over there.

    • Aw, see, that’s another thing. I don’t think I could take the cats. There are laws about transporting animals overseas and I’m not sure I would want to put my babies through that. =P

  7. Definitely not too old! But I hear if you’re going to run away to England at 38, you have to take that nice lady you met on Twitter who happens to be 30 and also a writer. It’s just some rule I heard somewhere. I’m sure it’s true, and I just so happen to be a nice, 30-year-old lady who would like to run away to England. Funny how that happens! 😛

    On a more serious note, I will live there at some point. It may not be soon, but I will, and I’m sure you will, too. Things will fall into place in their own time. 🙂

    • In the meantime, I think that same rule says that the 38-year-old has to plan an exploratory summer vacation to England and to take said 30-year-old fellow writer pal along as a traveling buddy. 😉

  8. I have far too many ties to do that, but it doesn’t stop me dreaming. If you’ve been thinking about anything for that long, you certainly owe it to yourself to consider it properly.

    It’s pretty great living over here, by the way 🙂

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