It’s a long post, so grab yourself a cup of tea and settle in for the read!
This all started because I read a post this morning on living abroad and how it changes you. And it got me thinking about my own experience living overseas for an extended period of time. I have done it twice now.
The first time was when I was 23. It was 2002. I had just broken up with the guy I thought I was going to marry and life, well, for a lack of a better description, sucked. I was miserable in my job, at home, lonely, sad and just pretty much fed up. A girl friend of mine had mentioned to me that she wanted to go overseas to start afresh (she had her own reasons). We ummed & ahhh’d about it, then one day, after I finished a particularly horrible day at work, I decided then and there I was going to London. I called my friend, told her that I was going to London in 6months and she was welcome to come with me if she wanted to.
To get there within this time frame, I worked 2 jobs, 7 days a week. I had my normal Mon-Fri job, which was 8-5.30, then I went straight to my retail job and worked from 6-11.30 or midnight 4 nights a week. Within the 6months my flight was booked and our 2 year visas were arranged. We were going to do a tour of Europe though before we settled in. A Contiki tour, a tour for 18-35 year olds. I made tonnes of new friends, most of them were from Canada. It was fantastic.
Living in London was a shock to the system. Everything moved so quickly, it was so crowded, everyone was in a rush and for this laid back Aussie, it was quite the adjustment. My friend and I very quickly worked out we could travel together but couldn’t live together and parted ways, still friends, but living on opposite sides of the city. I thought I had failed. My grand plans for this new life had gone pear shaped. I called home crying telling mum I couldn’t do it. She told me to give it 6months and if I still hated it, then to come home. A friend from home had given me the number for 2 of his friends living in the UK at the same time. We had become friends and I approached them about finding a 3 bedroom apartment – what was the worst they could say? No? They said yes. I lived behind their living room door on a trundle bed for 3 months before we found something. It was quite the experience!
Finally, we found a 3 bedroom condo in the heart of London – Marylebone to be exact. I had made new friends, had a great job, great apartment and roommates – life was again a happy place. Every month, I would go to a different city, experience new countries – one of the advantages of living in London – easy access to the rest of Europe. However, sadly, being an assistant didn’t warrant me an extension to stay in London past my 2 year WH visa, and I had to come home. I wasn’t ready to move home and come back to reality. All the reasons why I had left came flooding back. I am the first to admit, I was scared to go home.
Moving home in 2004 was an adjustment. It felt like while I had been away, things at home hadn’t really changed. Everyone was still doing the same things they were when I left. The only difference was we were older. I felt so strange, like I was in an alternate universe. I couldn’t wait to leave again. I tried to keep these thoughts at bay, getting a good job, making new friends, catching up with the old ones, but something was always missing. I couldn’t settle down. Mum could see it as much as I denied it. Then in 2007 one of my Canadian friends who I met on Contiki suggested I give living in Canada a go. I was still eligible for a visa, so thought why not? Told her to have my bedroom ready and I would see her in 6months. 6 months later – she was picking me up from the airport. That was 6 years ago this year.
My experience in Canada has been very different to my one in London. Maybe it was because I had done this before, so it wasn’t such a shock or that I knew people here already and living with them made it easier. Making my own friends here was top of my priority list as I didn’t want to encroach on my friends, friends, or feel like she and her husband had to look after me. I got a job in the first month I was in Calgary. Thankfully, I moved here at a time where there were more jobs than people, and thankfully again, I got a job with an amazing company! After living with my friend for 2 years, I moved downtown into a condo with a friend of a friend. It was a complete disaster. At first it was great, the first year was actually a lot of fun. But then the second year, I discovered she was just a very mean person through and through. We parted ways and I found a fabulous 1 bedroom apartment I could call my own. My company looked after me and I obtained 2 additional visas before applying for permanent residency which I received over a year ago now.
Sadly I haven’t done the traveling I had hoped I would in this country, I’ve seen some things, but not nearly as much as I would like to have in the time I have been here. But after living here for as long as I have, and loving it for as much as I have I feel my time here is winding down. More and more, thoughts of home are pressing in my mind. My family, I miss them terribly, I miss seeing my friends kids growing up – Skype is great, but it doesn’t hold up to the real thing.
I have amazing friends, life long friends from around the world who mean more to me than they probably realise and for this I am eternally grateful. They have become my family overseas. No matter where in the world I am, I will always have them on my mind (and I certainly hope they visit me wherever I am!) In a perfect world, I would have the best of both these places at the same time. But it’s time. It’s time to move home and even though the thought of it terrifies me – having to start all over again, pick up and begin the next chapter, I now feel I am ready. I am ready to finally go home.
Living abroad has changed me, hopefully for the better, it is something I do recommend to anyone as it is something you will never regret. It takes a leap of faith and a firm belief that no matter what – even with a few stumbles and teething problems, you will eventually land on your feet.