Every second person these days are posting their travel pictures or posting about their plans for up coming travel. Travelling is AMAZING and I love it, but when you’re living out of a suitcase, it’s difficult to genuinely embrace a new culture and way of life. In 2013 I lived in London for the year, this July I lived in La Rochelle, France and now I’ve just moved to Montréal for an exchange at university. Whilst I’m still adjusting to my new life here, it’s really made me appreciate my previous opportunities of living abroad. So this post is dedicated to those of you who have ever thought about living abroad and I’m here to tell you why you should do it and do it now.
It’s one thing to move, it’s another to move to another country
Sure – you may just think that if you want change, you can just move houses in your town or city, or maybe even move interstate. Sure, that’s a big thing. But at the end of the day, you have a common language, culture, and have your support network not far away.
Moving to another country, even if they speak English, is overwhelming in every sense because literally everything is new and foreign. From big things like adjusting to a new culture, way of life or new language, to the little things that we take for granted like knowing where to do grocery shopping, what phone provider to go with, how to take out the garbage or finding the best cafe on your street.
Now is this exciting or scary? I’ll leave that up to you to find out.
Nothing is familiar and you’ll look like a lost puppy
Like I said… everything is new! Back in your home city/town, you know exactly what you’re doing and where you’re going… all the time. You walk through the streets without even thinking twice about crossing the road. But in a new place, you’re constantly looking at street signs, hesitating about crossing the road, walking for 10 minutes up the street only to realise you’re going the wrong way and having to turn around and go back.
For me this is a really big adjustment. It’s admitting that I have no idea what’s going on – but that’s ok because you’re not expected to magically know everything about a new city. I guess the transition from being so sure and confident walking down the street, to literally feeling like a lost puppy looking up at street signs, is a hard one to make.
Sure it’s damn hard, but when you start to familiarise yourself with your area and when you begin to figure it all out it’s such a rewarding feeling.
Your support network is 14 hours ahead of you
Sure it’s beyond easy to keep in touch with people back home these days with the internet. But one thing the internet can’t change is time zones. Sydney is 14 hours ahead of Montréal. 14 HOURS! Sydney is in the future! It’s always ‘tomorrow’ in Sydney. It’s not impossible, it’s just more difficult when you need to talk to someone.
I think this is one of the hardest things about living abroad, is that the life you had is 14 hours away. And when you don’t have someone to talk to, you have to learn to deal with your thoughts in a positive way yourself, which can at times be challenging. It gives you a unique opportunity to get to know yourself on a very personal, different and deep level. To understand your strengths and also acknowledge your weaknesses.
A new city, a new country, a new start
How often do you get to move somewhere and have a completely fresh start? You’re free to reinvent yourself in whatever way you choose! Usually when you move abroad, you don’t know many people in that city… moving to Montréal I knew of 3 people that lived here (when I moved to London, I knew 1 – my cousin). When you don’t know many people, you need to put yourself out there and say yes. By doing this, you’ll be surprised by how many people you’ll meet.
I’ve been in Montréal for just over a week now and by going out to drinks with my housemate and his friends, meeting up with girls from Facebook, or meeting some locals to take you to the best cafes in your area… I feel that I’m steadily building an awesome network of friends which I’m extremely grateful for.
It will challenge you to your core
So thankfully in the few days I’ve been in Montréal this hasn’t happened yet (but I know it will come)… there will be times when everything seems too hard. When things go wrong, you don’t get paid right, you lose something important, you miss out on an important celebration back home, you spend a rainy day in your room, and get a bit lonely or homesick.
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” These things are hard enough when they happen at home. Add the complexities of living in another country and it can sometimes become a lot to deal with. But it’s all of these little experiences, good and bad, that help you to become a better and stronger person. To be resilient, motivated, dedicated, strong and accepting of yourself and others around you. There’s not too many times in your life that you get to experience something like this.
But why should you do it now?
I feel that the older you get, the more commitments you have, and the harder it is for you to uproot your life and move to another country. I’ve already found it significantly more challenging this time around. I think because I was so comfortable in my routine back in Wollongong. And I’m only 22! I barely have any responsibilities! Imagine when I’m 25, 28, 30, 30+… I would imagine it would only become harder with age and responsibilities.
Sure – the list above may not be all that encouraging… there’s definitely huge challenges you’ll need to overcome, there’ll be moments when you’re lonely, lost and just have no idea what’s going on. But for every challenge and difficulty there is… there’s about 50 positives. Like making lifelong friends, immersing yourself in a new culture, (sometimes) learning a new language, getting to discover new neighbourhoods, towns, cities and countries nearby… the list is endless.
So… the only real question left to ask is… where to?!