Coming from a small town whose nightlife is defined by a single Wetherspoons and whose high street continually ranks among the worst in the country, moving to Manchester has been a major change in my life. With somewhere different to go every weekend and a wealth of new cultures to explore, the possibilities feel endless, and I have loved finding my feet in an entirely new city and having so many opportunities on my doorstep.
However, the long Christmas period was a welcome break from city life. I was reminded of why I love living on the edge of some of the best countryside in the UK, and the joys of being surrounded by natural beauty. I’ve had time to reflect upon the pros and cons of living in a city compared to a rural area, and why I think we need the best of both worlds.
I gravitate towards cities because I love being surrounded by all kinds of people. Taking a bus into the city centre or having a coffee break is the perfect chance to people-watch and let the world go by. I find it liberating to be surrounded by thousands of strangers and deeply interesting to get a glimpse into the spectrum of different lives unfolding around you. Although the familiarity of my hometown creates a real sense of community, it’s exciting rather than isolating to find yourself in a place where everyone is new.
Over the years I have spent time in cities up and down the country but to me, there’s something special about Manchester. Though the weather may be grey, the city is not. Manchester represents an inherently modern city, and it really feels like a thriving, dynamic environment to explore. Every time I walk down Oxford Road, I notice that somewhere new has popped up and there seems to be something happening behind every window. It’s easy to forget what’s right in front of you and what makes Manchester so uniquely special.
Admittedly, the speed of life here can build up – with constant course deadlines, socialising, and sleep to balance there’s always something that gets left behind. But, there is also time to recharge. During the week particularly I often found myself going back to my flat exhausted after an early class and wasting away the afternoon in bed. Instead, finding something to do just for me during those hours has been really valuable.
Recently, I’ve been enjoying wandering new areas of Manchester after lectures. Day by day I’m adding to my list of the best thrift shops in the vibrant Northern Quarter, the cheapest cafés to do my work in, and the most exciting new art exhibitions opening across the city. Initially, I missed being able to step away from it all as I do back home, but I’m starting to realise that I can.
You don’t need to live amongst fields and woodland to find some escapism; going on walks with friends here has opened up Manchester for me. From discovering green spaces to watching skylines and sunsets, to just getting the chance to have a proper chat, it’s these times which help me manage the daily rush. You don’t need to be in the countryside to find slower, more mindful moments in daily life.
Though I love the area I’ve grown up in, at this point in my life I think that city life is where I’m meant to be. With all the highs and lows, my time in Manchester so far has fulfilled a different part of me. I’m able to feed my interests – the incredible live music scene which plays such a large part in Manchester’s cultural heritage is just one example of what makes the city so impressive.
I’ll continue to relish the long holidays, but living here doesn’t mean abandoning what I enjoy about home. In fact, both places are refreshing in their own ways. It is possible to find some balance between urban and rural lifestyles and to find the pace of living that suits you. For now, I’m going to be trying to make the most of the opportunities that Manchester presents to me, whilst also keeping time for myself to unwind and re-energise.