I’ve recently celebrated my one year London-versary and it got me thinking about everything I accomplished in the past 365 days since I packed my favourite belongings into two suitcases and flew 29 hours and 18,000km to my new overseas home. I’ve visited 14 countries (and three of those twice), eaten about 26 bags of Percy Pigs, taken over 20,000 photos and stayed in a castle, a hanging tree tent and a hotel room on the 116th floor. What a rollercoaster, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Here are five things I have learnt from my first year living abroad.
1. Every emotion is intensified
Good days are absolutely epic, but when you’re so far from comfort and safety, the bad days can feel like everything is way worse than it actually is. Living overseas means you’re more on edge than your usual at-home self – so naturally your emotions are going to be stronger either way. My emotional range has expanded from ‘pretty happy’ to ‘totally living the dream’, but also from ‘annoyed but I’ll sleep it off’ to ‘I think the world is ending’. You’ve got to love every minute of the sky highs, but also be prepared for the rock bottom lows – then use the anticipation of the next sky high to get out of it.
2. You learn to live with uncertainty
I’m a planner through and through. I’m obsessed with spreadsheets, I like organising trips in advance and I find it reassuring having a general idea of where my life is going. When you’re on a two-year visa with no way of securing anything past that point, it makes it pretty tough to get settled – so you’ve just gotta deal with it. If you asked me each Monday for the past 52 weeks where I thought I would be a year from then, I would’ve answered differently probably every time.
Visas end, job contracts run out, friends leave and the novelty sometimes wears off, so unless you’re lucky enough to have the indefinite right to live in whatever country you’ve moved to, you’ll always have ‘what next?’ in the back of your mind. I have no idea where I’ll be, what I’ll be doing or who I’ll be with a year from now, but that’s all part of the fun.
3. Home is always there
It’s scary moving away from friends and family and you’ll no doubt feel like you’re going to miss all the fun. Sure, you might not be around to have a birthday dinner with your bestie or visit your new niece in the hospital, but generally the timelines of family and friends back home are far less hectic than your new life abroad, so you don’t miss as much as you’d expect. I visited after nine months of being away and almost everything was exactly the same, except McDonalds stopped selling my favourite loaded fries 🙁 there might be some new houses, new jobs or new relationships, but overall your old life is still there for you if you need it, which definitely gives you some peace of mind.
4. You’ll be faced with big decisions on a weekly, if not daily, basis.
Whether it’s visa, travel, career or money-related, I swear I’ve made more potentially life-changing decisions in my year overseas than in the rest of my life. If you lock in a 12-month gym contract that means you’re committing to 365 days in the same place, you’ll consider switching jobs just for a better chance at securing a sponsored visa, and dating is always tainted by the possibility of being kicked out of the country in the not-so-far future.
Each weekend is booked up with friends visiting or trips away, so even menial tasks like planning when to see Kinky Boots or hit up the Bring-Your-Own-Cocktail bar takes time and effort, and creates unnecessary (and unexpected) amounts of stress. The overwhelming feeling of having to make so many choices is enough to make anyone want to curl up in a ball in bed and rock themselves to sleep, which brings me to my final point…
5. You’ve got to love yourself, respect yourself and back yourself 100%
There’s no security blanket when you’re 18,000km from home, so the only person you can depend on is yourself. Banish all self-doubt and know that taking the step to move here already means you’re a badass who is accomplishing one of the hardest things in the world – getting out of your comfort zone. If you think you’re not good enough, you’re wrong, and you need to take a step back and focus on self-care for a little bit, both physically and mentally. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and eating right to fuel your body and mind, avoid situations that feel overwhelming, and focus on the positives of your new home, reminding yourself why you moved in the first place.
Worst comes to worst, things get too much and you move back to family and friends that love you and somewhere that you feel safe and secure. And if this is the worst case scenario, then just imagine how positive the other possibilities are. Living overseas opens a world full of opportunities for you to flourish, with access to countries, careers, friends and fun that you would never meet, visit or experience otherwise – all because you were brave enough to make a game-changing decision to make the move overseas, AND you followed through.
If that’s not enough to level up your self-confidence, then you need some Karamo in your life.
Love yourself big time, you deserve it.
There’s been a huge amount of love for this post and I massively appreciate it. I hope it’s shown all of you expats that these feelings are totally normal, and if you’re thinking of moving abroad I hope it’s given you a realistic idea of what to expect. I’d love for you to follow my adventures, check out my Instagram account here.