5 Lessons You Learn When You Move Abroad
Sometimes you have to try things out to find out whether they work or not. Not just sit around and think about them, tossing and turning in bed, questioning the what if's until you fall asleep. You just gotta pack your entire life into a suitcase, hop on a plane, make a new home in a new city and wait and see if it works.
After three years abroad across two continents, here is what I’ve learned:
1. You won't be able to control everything
At home, life is predictable and familiar. You know exactly what to expect. On the odd occasion when things go sideways, you know exactly what to do to fix it. The same thing can't be said when you move to a foreign place. Nothing has spat me out of every comfort zone I knew more violently than moving abroad.
My first few months here were difficult. The time difference made reaching friends and family back home a fairly difficult task. The process for getting a visa turned out to be more complex than expected due to recent changes I wasn’t prepared for. I found myself without a visa, no longer able to find legal employment or apply for a business license. I couldn’t even leave the country without incurring a hefty fine. As someone who has always been ambitious with the need to keep doing and keep moving, I felt misplaced, trapped and lonely.
The dreary, grey and unbearably cold European winter, where the sun hid behind the clouds for months, ensured any sparkle of positivity left within me would be extinguished. I found myself crying a lot. I was aching for my independence.
Which leads me to...
2. Everything will be okay
The wonderful thing about life is even if you feel your world is coming to a halt, the earth will still continue to spin.
The sun eventually came out, the days became longer and the flowers started to bloom. In the springtime, my residency permit was granted and work closely followed. I discovered the right people to spend my time with and the right activities to spend my time on. Summer soon arrived and travel became my new obsession. I made huge strides with my side projects and hobbies. My language skills improved immensely and I regained my independence. I had finally found my place on this side of the world.
Maybe it wasn’t so much of a lesson, but rather something that finally sinks in when you step out into the world. You will be fine. Life is good sometimes and bad others. You just gotta keep going and get through the bad times, because the good times will always be waiting ahead for you.
3. There is no place like home
Moving abroad has made me realise just how many things I took for granted in Australia. The vast amounts of nature, the wide open spaces, the glorious weather and beaches. The warmth and friendliness of the people, who are often too relaxed for their own good. The innovative and vibrant food & coffee culture, and access to authentic and high-quality cuisine from all over the world. And as terror strikes many places around the world, Australia sits safely in its little corner, watching from a distance.
You also realise that you never fully appreciated where you came from until you leave. Until you have to defend it and explain it to others. Only then do you realise why everything is the way it is back home, and why you do indeed love it so much. If moving abroad does one thing, it shows you your roots in a way nothing else can.
4. You never really "find yourself”
So many of us believe that embarking on a journey around the world will help us “find ourselves.” You’re lost and confused so you book that three month trip to Asia right after high school with the hopes of finding that missing piece. You return with new beliefs and perspectives on life and become addicted to the personal growth. So you set off again and again. Over 20 countries later and you’ve realised you still don’t know much at all.
One summer I fell in love with a bustling, crowded and exciting mega city in Asia and saw a future there. That is, until the future arrived and I realised my health is more important than the adventures the city could offer me. I once thought social media was a waste of time, but then I moved away and found myself happily writing a blog post. I thought I knew what I wanted in a relationship until I met someone on my journey who completely changed my mind.
Your foreign experiences are constantly reworking your belief system and challenging everything you think you know.
You don't know if this career path you've chosen is what's best for you or if what you value in a daily routine is actually want you want in the long-term. You don't really know if you're actually missing things back home or if you just like the idea of missing them.
You learn after so many years away from home that you should just stop trying to figure yourself out and to just keep moving.
5. Live in the moment
If life continues in the same direction it has in the past few years, I probably won’t be sitting in my current apartment a year from now. Life will continue to move and flow. The friends I enjoy dinner with tonight may end up being a 20-hour flight away and the neighbourhood that I now call home might become the source of my homesickness.
So you just gotta live in the moment and appreciate everything for the way it is right now.
I’m sitting here in my beautiful apartment, sipping on a glass of wine and listening to the birds sing around me. This moment is fleeting, and I'm so lucky to be in it.