Arriving in London Alone and Without Any Money

My infected foot was not getting any better which seemed almost impossible to do in the dirty and humid air of Indonesia.

Like a purple puff adder, it had swollen to double its size. Inflamed skin surrounded the open festering wound the size of a penny on the top of my foot. Walking on it was almost impossible due to the pain.

What happened to it?

I can’t really say. I had fallen down thousands of times on my Sumatran jungle treks and scraped myself against coral whilst snorkeling, so it could have been a simple scratch gone pear-shaped.

I woke up one morning with this small sore on my foot weeping. It doesn’t take much for small hurts to fester and get infected quickly when you are backpacking near the equator.

It was during the last few days partying with our friends in Bali, that my foot began to fester, and no amount of antibiotics or doctor visits seemed to help it heal.

Hard Decisions

After great deliberation, I decided it was time for me to leave the girls, skip out on Thailand and head to England a month earlier to get my foot seen to, allowing it time to heal away from the humidity of Indonesia.

My bank balance was really low anyway, so I needed to start earning some travel money again.

Leave
Photo: Biggolf

Saying an indefinite goodbye to my mates and cutting my adventure short was devastating to me. My friends had left me to continue their journey the night before I was due to fly to London on my own.

I was bitterly disappointed, and in my own quiet space the tears would not stop falling.

I felt as Peekay did in my favourite book “The Power of One” by Bryce Courtenay when he says,

“I felt the loneliness birds enter once more and settle in my soul.”

I hoped the birds would soon fly away, and leave with me instead some courage and strength to pick myself up, move on, and live the life I had always dreamed of.

No friends, No Money, Infected Foot, Strange city

London from the Stone Gallery
Thriving Metropolis

I was so terrified to be going to London on my own. I had only just moved out of my parents home 3 months earlier when we departed for the beginning of our adventure in Indonesia. And as daunting as that was at least I had two girlfriends for support and strength.

This was the first time I would ever be doing something so life-defining on my own. The first time living out of home, the first full time job that I had yet to find, the first time without any friends or family for support.

I was turning up unannounced to this thriving metropolis, with no job, no friends, little money, and an infected foot.

In my journal I wrote my thoughts as we began to near London airport for landing.

“The flight has been a rather long one but manageable. I was able to sleep for most of the way, thank goodness. A couple of friendly people on the plane helped me to relax and let go of the fear and loneliness. Maybe England wouldn’t be so intimidating after all.

 My foot blew up again due to the air pressure. It’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen and embarrasses me a little. I can see people sneaking peaks at it from behind their airline magazines.

I am starting to feel a little less scared and my excitement is growing as we begin our descent into London. I can’t believe that my dream is now becoming a reality. Dreams really can come true if you want it bad enough and work hard to get it. I was now going to be living all those stories I had heard from other’s lives that inspired me to move here and live the dream.

I can now decide how to think, feel, and be. The exquisite taste of freedom burns within me just thinking about the joy of living life on my terms. I don’t feel so overwhelmed with fear anymore, more like I am now ready for my destiny.”

Exchange Rate sucks up my Money

My Mum had managed to chase down Doreen, a family contact in Wigan, although a stranger to me, who said I could recuperate in their home before moving to London. Knowing there would be someone to take me in helped ease my mind.

All I had to do was to find my way from Heathrow airport to Wigan. Where was Wigan anyway?

Upon arrival in Heathrow, my first stop was to change my money into British pounds.

I went straight to the exchange counter and handed over my cash. I sucked in my breath sharply when she handed me, not the thick wad of notes I had envisaged, but only two bills and a couple of coins.

English British Pound
How much?

“Excuse me? I think there’s been a mistake, I gave you a hundred.”

“That’s right, love and I gave you £33, look on your receipt, you’ll see the exchange rate quite clearly.”

I looked down, and clearly did see, that I was in a whole world of trouble.

An international border had just sucked up two thirds of my money.

Why didn’t anyone tell me London would steal what little I had left of my travel money on arrival?

I felt a sickening fear and dread in the pit of my stomach. As if I already didn’t have enough to try to come to terms with on my own.

Feeling the loneliness birds fluttering madly within me, I picked up my heavy bag, and with head down and eyes brimming over, hobbled off on my infected foot.

Frenetic London

My whole £33 was soon swallowed up by my train fare to Wigan via central London.

The frantic pace of the city left no one willing to put their head up to help me or smile even. My bag continued to weigh me down as I went from one tube station to the next, lost as to how to get to King’s Cross Station.

I didn’t even know how much to put in the payphone to call Doreen and ask for advice.

The London Underground - Piccadilly
Total confusion Photo: Stuck in customs

After traipsing across most of underground London and popping up in strange streets in places like Euston and Green Square, I finally figured out the tube map and pushed my way to a seat on the blue line to King’s Cross.

Not far into the journey an announcement came over which snapped me out of my reverie,

“Attention, ladies and gentleman. Green Park station is currently closed due to a security alert. London underground apologizes for any inconvenience caused.” 

I knew about the issues with England and the IRA but really didn’t think it was much of a problem anymore. My heart began to pound and I glanced around nervously at the faces on the train, expecting to see mirrored looks of terror, but their faces remained expressionless and slightly cast down avoiding all eye contact.

Hmmm, bomb scares must just be a natural occurrence in the city.

Had I made the worst decision of my life coming here alone?

Strangers become friends

I was glad to finally get off the suffocating tube and onto the train pulling out of London. The bustle of the city soon gave way to rolling, green countryside and I began to breathe again, delighting in the small villages of English country cottages.

The Doherty family was exactly what I needed to transition me into life in England. They welcomed me in their home and showered me with warmth, kindness, and attention.

After 3 months of a rough backpacking lifestyle, this was heaven. I was given a comfortable bed and home cooked meals, taken on trips around the village, invited to a wedding, and welcomed in by the whole town.

I was the Aussie newcomer, the celebrity on the block. Everyone wanted to talk to me and discover my story. Wigan was an unexpected gift giving me the boost of courage and confidence I needed to move forward.

Mum had sent me some survival funds via an international money transfer, but still, even after staying with the Doherty’s my balance was really low. It was time for me to move to London so I could start working.

An acquaintance from my hometown was living in London. I did not know her all that well, and being so insecure, I felt a little uncomfortable and apprehensive about asking to stay on her couch until I found a job and place of my own.

I had no other choice but to swallow my fear, call her, and ask if I could come down from Wigan to stay with her.

“Yes of course!” she exclaimed. soon learned how instantly you can become close friends with someone just by having a small connection, and an open mind of acceptance and gratitude.

Check out our other posts on London:

22 years of global travel in podcast

  1. Episode 1: Solo Travel and Working Abroad before we met
  2. Episode 2: Our 5 year honeymoon living and traveling the world
  3. Episode 3: The Dark times and Birth of the girls and travel blog
  4. Episode 4: Embracing Family Travel and our 18 month Australian road trip
  5. Episode 5: Getting a green card and traveling the US (our dream realized)

Have you arrived in a foreign country on your own without any money before? How did you cope?

39 thoughts on “Arriving in London Alone and Without Any Money”

  1. Beautiful story! It’s always so interesting to read about travel veterans started out–and how they overcame the obstacles. In the end, what on earth was wrong with your foot?

  2. How crazy! I’ve never arrived in a new country without any money, but I’ve certainly been low on funds and completely alone. So far, I’ve figured out a way to manage quite nicely 🙂 Getting hurt like that is definitely one of my biggest fears–I’ve yet to have to seek any medical attention abroad, thank goodness!

  3. I landed in Australia the first time from SE Asia, with similar to you – infected (getting to ulcer stage) bed bug bites up my legs and enough money for 3 nights accommodation!
    After a hospital visit on the first day the prescribed medication sucked my wallet dry, but luckily I found a job washing dishes in the YMCA where at least I was fed!
    I think its called ‘character building’ being confronted with uncomfortable problems you need to solve 😉

    1. I think it definitely is character building. when you are placed in situations like this you are forced to draw upon strengths you didn’t know you had

  4. What a story, I can’t really say I didn’t have money when I moved to London, but almost so. When you travel you can always stumble on any kind of situation, you just need to face them all. I think you made the right choice of living Indonesia and get to where you felt more familiar and comfortable, there is always time to travel again.

    1. Absolutely. Sometimes you have to make hard decisions when travelling and usually they work out for the best. It all just makes you stronger

  5. Oh your story is bringing back the memories of arriving in London on Christmas Eve after 3 months in the Middle East. No money, no job and no where to live. But I rang up a friend of a friend, dossed on their floor and 2 years later was still dossing there!

    1. All ended up great. I dossed on my friends couch, started working, went to the greek Isles for 2 weeks and had a wonderful time in London for 2 years. My foot healed pretty quickly after the right doctor looked at it.

  6. Thank you for your sharing your story. When I got lost in the London Tube system on my first day abroad, I remember sitting on a bench alone and sobbing. What followed was the most amazing time of my life.

  7. Wow, awesome story! I’ve always wanted to move to London for awhile by myself and this gives me a little bit more courage : D

  8. hiii i am yash ranka i wanted to run away from india and my house and shift in London or Canada i will not have much money i will hardly have 2 or 3 thousand rupees and i am not studied that much so can i settle in London or Canada without money and will i get any job there ?

    1. It’s difficult for me to say Yash as each person is different in regards to their circumstances, opportunities and most important work visa restrictions. Start by looking at the work visa requirements to see that you follow those and then research possible job opportunities for you.

        1. I don’t know Yash. that is something you have to decide. You wll have to research with the British embassy in regards to visa. It is different for each nationality. i can’t advise you on that.

          1. okkk and last thing i wanted to ask that as u stayed there you mush be having idea how much minimum money should i carry with me

          2. Again, it all depends on how you spend money and what sort of living arrangements you will have. Each person has different spending habits. I would research what your living costs would be for how you would want to live. Make sure you factor in one off costs that come with moving to a new country. Make sure you have at least a month of living costs saved up. This will help cover your expenses while you look for work.

  9. such a wonderful nice story starting with sadness and its been ended with happiness. I love your boldness and ur surivial techinques.. all the best for ur future traveling.

  10. My dad got lot of money but i wasted his money and now i ran from my city to london .i got nothing to do here. I can go to my family here cause i cant tolerate this is embarssing and anyone know how to get easy job here?

  11. i will be moving to London pretty soon, without any family or relatives there, no one, just a little cash on hand. any advice on what I should do?

  12. Alba del Carmen Aguirre

    Hi my name is Alba and my dream it`s to travel around the world I also don`t have the money to afford it , but even with that I have take the desition to start my trip and the first of the countries I have on my list is United Kingdom , your words are helping me a lot , thank you so much , GOD BLESS YOU, have a happy new year !

  13. Hey great story.. I’m John (american) who wants to up and leave for London. I have little funds and nothing lined up for me. What advice or wise words do you have?/

    1. Look into working over there. IT depends on your visa options but that’s how I made it work. I’d possibly search out jobs before you leave so you have that security blanket

  14. felicia shigley

    I think that she was brave to move to london by herself with no money no friends i hope she makes it

  15. I am profoundly deaf 76 age who aren’t very lonely here so I wish like live in Camden Town Hall apartment but I think can’t afford to expensive rents there so I need have plenty of old gay too I would like share a partner very future if possible so hope keep touch with you okay with many thanks Reggie

  16. Hi Caz,

    thanks for the inspiring story you shared.

    I found it by searching google for “going to london with no money”, what is exactly what I’ll do!
    Have no idea and only one acquaintance, probably just a few GBPs, no job, but an enrollement for a course.

    But some thing tells me: it can be done!

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