Although it certainly doesn’t feel like it, last weekend marked one whole year since I took the plunge and left my home for a new life overseas. I quit my job, sold my car, packed my whole life into a couple of suitcases, said an emotional goodbye to friends and family, and left everything behind. In all honesty, I had no idea what to expect but knew that if I didn’t do it soon, I probably never would. Everything moved pretty quickly – I was offered a job in Vancouver and had just a few weeks to find an apartment, get my shit together before I started my new role, and move my whole life to another continent.
The anniversary has come round extremely quickly and has certainly had me reflecting on everything I’ve been up to in the past year. In a nutshell, I’ve faced new challenges and successes in a new life and a new role, with new people, all whilst seeing new places whilst travelling across the continent. To those of you thinking of moving abroad, here are some of the key life lessons I’ve learnt.
1. Gaining independence
This is undoubtedly the most obvious thing I’ve noticed since moving. I’d never really lived alone before moving to Vancouver, having always shared houses or apartments previously, or having always had guidance or people in a similar situation. I was a little worried that I’d be lonely – having made the move alone – or that living alone would prevent me from meeting people. It certainly takes some adapting and can be a little on the pricier side (especially in Vancouver), but I’ve really embraced it, developing my own routine and lifestyle. From little things like struggling to opening jars, to paying full rent for one, and learning to deal with issues alone when you’d normally have a housemate to cry on, it’s not always easy but has been an incredibly valuable lesson for me to learn.
2. Realising who’s important
This is a little cliche but really couldn’t be more true. I was always concerned about losing friends and damaging family relationships before moving – it can be hard to sustain when you’re not there in person to attend events or simply catch up for a weekly coffee like you used to, and we’ve all heard the phrase ‘out of sight, out of mind’. This isn’t to mention the time difference – being eight hours behind all your friends and family makes everything that little more tough when you’re both leading separate lives. It’s been a valuable lesson, and I certainly have seen some relationships I’ve had in a new light, but luckily most of them understand and support my adventure. Living in a new city also proves that you’re never too old to make new friends, and it’s quite a privilege to have them both sides of the Atlantic.
3. Experiences over material things
Having limited funds due to shelling out most of my money on rent (not to mention the price of Canadian groceries!) has certainly made me shift my spending pattern. Before moving, I was most definitely partial to a bit of clothes shopping – I had expensive taste and enjoyed at least one luxury holiday a year, but this really hasn’t been possible for me since moving. I’m lucky enough to have a job that enables me to travel, and it’s really shown me the importance and value of exploring new places, seeing new things, and meeting different people – particularly when you’re young. Although I’m often frustrated that it’s unlikely I’ll be able to buy an apartment or house in Vancouver or when I can’t afford that dress or more make-up, I realise these things will come in time, and for now I’m meant to spend my time living life and making the most of the opportunities I’m handed and working hard in my new job.
4. Becoming better at handling situations
I definitely feel like I’m becoming a more well-rounded and experienced person now that I’m living in a new place. Since moving, I’ve been dealt different situations I would previously been unsure how to deal with, but when you’re alone and abroad you really have no choice but to handle them. This certainly applies to people too – it’s been a learning curve meeting, socialising, and working with people of all ages and different cultures, some of which brings challenges. Even with Canadians, despite speaking the same languages, I constantly have to readjust my vocabulary and realise people aren’t going to understand me when I say ‘water’ in my British accent. But it’s all about working to adapt, learn, and react, and I feel much richer for doing so.
5. Perseverance is key
Sometimes things get really tough. Those times when you’ve had a shitty day at work and want a shoulder to cry on, or when you miss your mum’s cooking, or you’ve simply had enough and want to escape and go home – but you can’t. The last year has been turbulent for sure, and I’ve certainly had wobbles where I’ve questioned all of the decisions I’ve made, but by sticking with it I feel proud of myself and my achievements, remembering not everyone could up sticks and move overseas alone. Perseverance is, as they say, a huge character building exercise, and now I know I’m capable of doing so. Hopefully others will recognise that in me too.
6. Relationships can be a challenge
Sometimes I think I never fully appreciated how small England is! It’s one thing getting into a relationship with someone from another town over there, let alone meeting someone from another part of the world’s second biggest country. Before moving, I naively thought moving would solve all my romantic troubles, that I’d find my very own Canadian other half and we’d live happily ever after – but unfortunately it isn’t always straightforward! Unless either of you are prepared to make big sacrifices about where you live, and can live away from friends and family back home, it can be a little tough.
7. Living abroad isn’t always glam
It’s difficult – you’ll often miss people, wish you were at home, miss food from home, want to walk away from everything, wish you had more money, worry about what you’re doing with your life… but you’ll experience things you never have before, meet people from all corners of the globe, and see places you’d never have previously dreamed of visiting. So, should you do it? I certainly don’t regret a thing.
What have you learnt from living overseas?