Having just passed my eighteen month anniversary in Australia, I thought now would be an appropriate time to reflect on my journey thus far, and write about the things that moving abroad has taught me; the good the bad and the ugly. I’ve already written in depth about what life has been life for me as an expat, navigating my way around a new city, new friends; a new life.
And so, if you’re thinking of taking the plunge to leave life as you know it behind, here are some of the life lessons that living abroad has taught me.
Homesickness eases, but never quite disappears: I remember with absolute clarity the first few weeks of life down under. I experienced a kaleidoscope of emotions – awe at this new life and this new city of mine, fear of the unknown; excitement at the adventures that lay ahead. And while many of my emotions plateaued in the weeks to come as I settled into life in Australia, my homesickness didn’t. The anguish of living on the other side of the world to my beloved friends and family often felt like a weight that would never lift; a sudden memory, a night in alone, a bad day at yoga teacher training and the distance would feel insurmountable. Until, suddenly it didn’t. But while the homesickness eventually stopped occupying my every waking thought, eighteen months down the line it’s still there; there’s still a sadness – albeit a smaller one. I don’t suppose it ever gets easier; the goodbyes any less heartbreaking; but this much is true: how blessed are we to have people in our lives that makes the distance so hard?
Some friendships fade; others will blossom: When it comes to moving abroad, there are friendships that will stand the test of distance; and, ruefully, others that won’t. And while it’s always sad when friendships fade; those that blossom will be an unending source of joy. There will be friends with whom you maintain a steady stream of contact; and those you might not speak to for a year, only to pick up exactly where you last left off. Life can – and will – get in the way, but you’ll often find that your friendships are stronger for it.
Memories are more important than money: It often comes with the territory that moving abroad can be at the cost of your career. Often by choice – some choose to escape the rat race for want of a simpler life – others not so; certainly my main struggle in Australia has been finding a career to emulate the job I left behind in London. Despite, however, the stresses and the inevitable financial strains that comes with career uncertainty, one thing’s for sure: so long as you have enough to put a roof over your head and food in your mouth, you learn that making memories will always, always be more important than money.
Risks don’t always pay off: Moving abroad is undoubtedly a risk; more so for some than others. And while many may thrive; and land on their feet with a great career and an even better social life; others don’t, and will find life as an expat a struggle. And you know what? Both are fine. For me, as much as I love my life down under; my struggles here have unrivalled anything I knew back in London. And there’s no shame in failure. As the saying goes, take risks: if you win you’ll be happy, if you lose you’ll be wise.
You’ll learn to live outside of your comfort zone: Living outside of your comfort zone takes on a new lease of life when you move abroad. However westernised Australia may be; however culturally similar to the UK it may seem from the outside, the second you set foot on foreign soil to start a new life, you learn the importance of living outside of your comfort zone. From making friends in strange places (I met two of my favourite people in Australia online – Hermione and Lou I’m looking at you!), to embracing new weekend pursuits – from surfing to SUPing and beyond – to simply putting yourself out there in the hope that something will come of it; that you’ll create a lifelong friendship or develop that special bond. You’ll never know quite how strong, how resilient and brave you are until you push the boundaries of life as you know it.
Life will never be the same again: I always wonder at what point life changes irrevocably after moving abroad? After one month? After six? After twelve? But change it will. From building friendships that will last a lifetime, to meeting people that inspire you more than you knew possible; to witnessing the sun rise on beaches, and set on mountain tops. You will change, you will grow, you will grieve. You will flourish and you will fail, you will learn about yourself, about others and about life. And one day you may pack up your bags, board that flight and return home; life may one day return to normal. And yet, you’ll be left with the greatest gift of all: a lifetime of memories of how it was, how it could have been and how wonderful life truly is.
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