I can't help but think that I've gone full circle and ended up back where I started. Yet instead of circling back to the point of origin I've spiralled into something else that I don't quite fully understand yet.
Last Sunday I took a walk around the area I now live in. Everything is incredibly countryside. The area near the station has only a handful of shops, and almost all of them are closed on a Sunday. The one shop that was open offered household goods, and while I was wandering around in the shop some local children came and greeted the shop owner by name, obviously familiar with each other. I walked on a bit further and realized that there was nothing else to do. The local chav youth, of which there are lots, were bored and hung around in the square in front of the station. I found a nearby mini-forest tucked away between the residential streets and wandered from one end to the other, which took me all of 5 minutes. This is the countryside. And yet it's convenient.
I'd like to think that the place I stayed at in Japan, Atsugi, was not countryside. It was conveniently located on a major train line towards Tokyo, all of the area towards Tokyo was suburbs and city centers, and Atsugi itself had a voluptuous shopping area. Yet somehow it was countryside. I could head out for a cycle for 10 minutes either south, west or north and I'd hit rice fields. It had just the right balance. My new place here in Greater London reminds me of Atsugi because my room is once again small (but just the right size for me) and the area around here is extremely suitable for cycling.
But of course this area resembles Holland way more than it does Japan. The little houses, the local people, the gray days, the cold winter, it all reminds me of my time in Holland. I used to live in a converted warehouse with no central heating. It was always a struggle to stay warm in some of the rooms. This place was bloody cold too, but I've since bought a better heater.
Back when I was staying in Ealing I was never able to properly get away from things. I never felt quite comfortable to walk out the door at any time of day to just take a walk, or to go cycling. There was no place to run away to, I guess. Even after coming home from work I'd still feel the stress and the environment didn't change at all. Now though, I can leave the annoyingness of central London behind the moment I step in the train home, and I forget all about work. It makes me realize that there's more to life than "a job in the city" and that there's a lot more agreeable methods of getting to where I want to go in life.
Keeping in the theme of strange circles, I plan to buy a new touring bicycle soon. I considered saving money and buying a second-hand road bike, but my brain doesn't seem to have a problem with spending a sizeable amount of money on a proper touring bicycle, made from the right steel, with a comfortable frame, excellent brakes and sturdy wheels. I sent an e-mail out today to Drover Cycles, which appears to be famous in the UK for touring bicycles, and they responded to me immediately with great information. On their advice I'm considering the Surly Disc Trucker for exactly the reasons mentioned above. It does need a lot of add-ons to bring it up to full touring spec, though. We'll see. I have to get a test ride first.