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Local Stories: Borneo Raised London Based

Isabel Chai

I come from a place called Miri in Sarawak, which I’m certain many of you have never even heard of! Even though it was officially declared a city in the year 2005, I still, to this very day, think of it as a small town on the northwest coast of the island of Borneo. Picture palm tree lined beaches, lush tropical rainforests, incredible food and all year round sunny weather (minus the occasional downpour during monsoon season). Why did I ever leave, right? Well, despite those perks, I always knew that living the simple town life wasn’t for me, and I had to see more of what was out there in the world. So, when I found out that I was accepted into a university in London, I leapt at the opportunity and never looked back.

girls on swing in front of palm trees near water borneo

I was only 19 when I moved to London and decided to live here on my own, a year before I started my course. Thinking back, I still can’t believe I took such a huge step without even the slightest bit of hesitation. Thankfully, I already had friends from my hometown who were studying here at the time, and they made me feel very welcomed. It still took some adjusting though, and there were definitely rough days when I wished I wasn’t so far away from home, but for the most part, all this time spent in this city has changed me as a person. Now, I know what you’re thinking: ”Small town girl leaves her comfort zone to ‘find herself’ in the big city.” Yes, a bit of a cliché story if I do say so myself, but it doesn’t make it any less true that you’ve got to push boundaries in order to grow as a person. Being in a completely new environment, and one of the world’s largest and most important global cities no less, kick-started my love for discovery and travel. During my first year here, I would spend most of my free time exploring different neighbourhoods and scouting out the very best must-dos and must-eats around. This soon led to frequent day or weekend trips to nearby cities in the UK, and eventually, other countries in Europe and beyond.

girl standing in front of tower bridge

When I was younger, I viewed travelling as a fun way to escape reality for a while, often before the start of the next school term. It was enjoyable, but never quite a passion of mine, and I sometimes do wonder if my perspective would have stayed the same if I never left Miri. I’ve chosen to make travel a huge priority in my life now, so much so that I left my 9 to 5 job in order to work online and gain the freedom to travel as much as I can. When I’m not off exploring different corners of the globe, London now serves as my base. Here, you’ll often find me, camera in hand taking shots of just about everything, spending some downtime in one of the many lovely city parks like Hyde Park or Greenwich Park, and staying up-to-date with the food scene by trying the latest restaurants and cafes, especially those around Soho and Shoreditch.

girl standing in front of st pauls cathedral on a rainy day

As much as I love exploring and sharing my stories with others, it did, however, take me many years of mulling over the idea of starting a travel blog and creating travel-related content before I finally committed to doing so at the start of this year. Not long after that, I was introduced to Like Locals and their fantastic idea of self-guided tours put together by the ones who absolutely live and breathe the city they’re in. It was right up my alley, so imagine my surprise when I was given an opportunity to work with them on a footprint and now as a featured blogger! After meeting the people behind Like Locals and learning more about their ideas and mission, I knew that it would be a fantastic platform for me, not only to share my own recommendations gathered over the years, but to continue discovering this city I’ve come to love, and now call home, with the help of unique tips given by other adventurous locals.

It’s coming up to my sixth year in London now, but sometimes I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface of this dynamic city. I’ve still got a lot of uncovering to do, and I can’t wait to start sharing my discoveries in some upcoming blog posts! In the meantime, you can follow me on my journey on Instagram.

If you want to read more about the community of locals who are the faces behind our platform, you can check out their stories on our meet our locals section on our blog. 

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