7 Life-Changing Things I’ve Learned From Living In 7 Cities In 7 Years

girl walking through the snow
Alice Donovan Rouse

Sometimes for as little as a month, and sometimes for 3 years my independence has allowed me to settle into new places around the globe calling them home. All these places share only one thing in common though; as soon as they start to really feel like home, that’s when it’s time to pick up and leave and move on to the next.

Luckily I grew up in a big city which taught me early on the basics like look both ways before crossing the street, pay attention if you’re walk alone at night especially as a young female, and street-meat and late night pizza are always a good idea after a night out. (It helps with the hangover; I promise. Well at least I would like to believe so)

Milan, London, Paris and New York City are just a few of the other cities I have had the luxury of calling home but with everyone I begin to call home, I have come to realise that there are more goodbyes than I could have ever imagined.

The last seven years have shaped me and moulded me into the person I have become, but more importantly it has taught me these seven important lessons about life and travel.

1. There’s no rush to leave home just because society tells you to leave for college.

Looking back on it now, leaving home to attend boarding school at my own choice sort of robbed my parents of my teenage years and watching me grow into the person I am today, for me this has led me to grow and appreciate my city so much more and make sure I fully take advantage of the time I do get to spend with family and friends when I do go home.

2. Language barriers and overcoming them

When I first moved to Milan (on a whim I might add) for a month, not only had I never been to Italy but didn’t speak a word of Italian. As someone who is fluent in French and English with intermediate level Spanish, this was the first time I had really been to a place where I didn’t understand a word. It didn’t help that I did know a single person and was going alone days after my 20th birthday. Thank goodness for Google translate.

As North American’s we often get a bad wrap as we assume everyone speaks English, make the effort to learn the language while you are there even if it is just the basics. Your effort will get you further. Secondly, if you’re staying for a longer period of time it is worth enrolling in a language class even though the majority of you will probably pick up the language quicker in everyday life (at the bars, ordering coffee and picking up your groceries or baguette.)

3. Thank god I didn’t peak in high school

Looking back on the last few years, I have gotten the opportunity to experience the most incredible places, events and people that have shaped me into the person I am today. I person so far from who I was in high school and thank goodness for that. What I wish knew then: It’s four years and will seem so insignificant later on, you just have to get through it.

4. Finding an apartment and picking where to live will never be easy

The most difficult thing in any city might be finding an apartment and which neighbourhoods to live in. Do research, a lot of it. Also, sometimes a nicer place or extra sq footage is worth the longer commute in the morning. Trust me, and no I am not a morning person. Make sure you know the laws for breaking a lease before signing anything. Tip #1 – France is one month’s notice. New York well if you sign 12-months you’re kind of stuck to it unless you find someone to take it over.

5. You will be lonely at times, but take it as the time to be selfish and grow as an individual.

Carrie Bradshaw once said that no city can make you feel more lonely than New York City. Well, I am here to tell you she was right. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. Use your resources to meet people and get out and do things in your new city from meeting people at work, at the gym or take a class. However, it is important to learn to do things on your own even if it’s out of your comfort zone. Trust me, there’s no point in sitting at home and missing the opportunities outside your doorstep just because you don’t want to go to a museum or a park alone. Slowly, this will help you become a more independent person and comfortable with your own company.

6. Be more accepting

The people you meet will remind you and teach you that we all come from different backgrounds and were raised and socialized different. One is never more correct than the other and you will quickly realize that no you don’t have to be best friends with everyone, or like them for that matter but you do need to accept their differences as if they were your own, be kind and be open to new relationships with people from all walks of life. Learn this now while you’re young, it will help you in the long run.

7. Goodbyes never get easier

Going to boarding school, I had the opportunity to have friends from around the world, and know that no matter where I go chances are there is someone from there I can reach out to. Remember it is never too late to use that network down the road.

I still remember the last day of college, moving out of my apartment and saying goodbye to my roommates and friends whom I had shared the early parts of adulthood with. I remember already being sick of goodbyes at the age of 19 and that this was just the start of many. Over the next few years I made other lifelong friends from many different places who have moved back home; from Latin America to the Middle East. These friendships and the ones I left behind after college are the ones I hold closest to my heart and that is they taught me the most valuable lesson in life. Quantity is nothing, quality is everything. These goodbyes are only for now, because I know that these are the relationships that whether we speak 5 times a day or 5 times a year; once were reunited it is like no time has passed.

Moral of the story: no it’s not easy but life isn’t meant to be easy, but if you can pick up and move to a new city it will be worth it as nothing will shape you as a person or teach you more valuable lessons. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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