On putting down roots – 5 years in the Lake District 

This month marks five years since I arrived in the Lake District. Two backpacks, no plan, just in need of a place to find my feet again and regroup. I’d recently returned from a backpacking trip in South America, newly single, no job and very little direction. 

This wasn’t uncommon for me. I happily spent nearly all of my twenties working season to season, moving from country to country, looking for adventure. I thrived on change and the newness of discovering new places—I had little interest in climbing the career ladder and more interest in seeing the world.

I always believed I would hold on to this wanderlust for many more years of my adult life. But on that backpacking trip in South America, I felt something shift slightly. I no longer found the same thrill in moving at pace, of packing and repacking, of telling the baseline of my life story over and over again to strangers. 

In truth, I was a little startled by this; I’d actively always avoided staying in one place for too long, not buying plants for my windowsill or spices for my cupboard as I knew in a couple of months I’d be off again to someplace new, plants would die, spices would go off. 

But I hadn’t quite found the right place to settle. I spent a couple of years back in my childhood home in Nottingham during my early 30s (a city I still adore), where I had great fun running my own part-time cake business for a couple of years. But the area never quite felt ‘enough’; something felt missing. 

And so I found myself on a grey March day, amidst sheeting rain, attending an interview for the youth hostel in Keswick. Two weeks later, I turned up with my bags to live in the staff house, where I had a sizeable room with views of the River Greta and Skiddaw, England’s sixth-highest mountain. 

I think the key was I turned up with no expectations. 

I’d only been to the Lake District twice before (a camping trip with friends during university and a quick trip to Coniston and South Cumbria with a friend to eat at the Michelin-starred L’Enclume), and I did very little research on the place before arriving. I had no intentions of staying long term; I just wanted to work the peak season and see how it went. I just wanted to find a place to find my feet again. 

I’ll always look back on that summer of 2019 with the fondest of memories. Of falling in love with the Lakeland fells, of rebuilding my confidence in myself by hiking hill after hill, dipping in the lakes, completing Couch to 5k by running along the shores of Derwentwater, of being surrounded by friends and colleagues who were doing mad and inspiring things such as training for the Bob Graham Round, running in the hills by head torch on dark, starry nights and bivvying on mountain tops. 

Here was a place that equally inspired and challenged me, especially when hiking alone in the hills, learning to fend for myself. On finishing each new hill, I gazed back up and felt a sense of pride and achievement.

It wasn’t until the pandemic hit, just after I had moved to work at the Hawkshead hostel, where I spent an equally unsure and blissful time locked down in the empty hostel, that I knew I wanted to find a more permanent base in the Lake District. 

I was lucky to find an affordable room to rent in a houseshare in Ambleside, where I still live today and begin to carve my own footsteps – niching down the blog to focus on the Lake District, on finding a love for writing, photography and creating content for local businesses. In truth, as I try to grow my freelance work alongside a day job to help pay the bills, the days in the hills this past year have become a little less frequent.  I look back with nostalgia at that carefree summer. But I’m hopeful that the balance will soon tip back the other way once I’ve built a strong foundation of freelance work. 

And so, that illusive question – will you stay long term, forever, even in the Lake District? For as long as the Lake District still makes me feel challenged and inspired, I hope I can stay . 

You can read my reflections on living in the Lake District here

3 lessons from 3 years of living in the Lake District

Five lessons I’ve learnt from a year of living in the Lake District