Well, I did move abroad and I will answer this with you, right by your side. It is early Sunday morning, the air is crisp and I am nothing but cold hands with a coffee mug in an oversized coat. The little shop in the city centre is empty, Sundays are for sleeping in except for those who expect to reach an epiphany before Monday. I smile to myself. I moved across the world 4 months ago, from Canada to the mountains of Mexico, I could say in all honesty, it was and still is quite a ride. “Should I move abroad?” was a question haunting me for quite some time and then all at once and suddenly, I took a leap of faith. This will not be classical “what to do before and when you move across the world” – the internet is filled with articles like these. I want you to see and feel the way it actually is to be in there, doing it, to be in the midst of the experience. Maybe learn from me or recognize yourself, prepare yourself or relate.
Move Abroad Without Romanticising It
I wish I could tell you it was easy, I thought that the most challenging part would be to leave, but my dear, leaving is only the beginning. It is true. I felt like once I would have said goodbye to my family and my loved ones I would somehow feel like the hardest was behind me. I felt like once I would have reached peace about having no belongings anymore I would be a modern Marcus Aurelius. However, nothing would prepare me for the immensity of the hurdles that would come my way once I would settle down in another country. Truth is, it feels excruciatingly lonely at times. Even if I have people whom I adore here, I still felt so alone. It had nothing to do with others, or with lack of support because truth is, some people in this world are so incredibly kind and good-hearted and you will keep being amazed by it. However, there are certain things that will make you feel like you do not belong, even when you do. We expect the feeling of belonging because the decision was right, but belonging comes in waves, it takes you through paths that make you wonder if you truly do belong. It took me a moment to realize that the only thing I belonged to was myself. I was only ever meant to be mine. That completely changed my experience and my concept of self.
The sense of belonging
… shatters. I defined myself by things I did not realise were such strong influences in my life – although they should have. Allow me to save you the heartache. To move abroad is to move your whole life elsewhere but a lot of things of your old life will not follow. The obvious things such as people, yes, but less obvious things such as the products that feel oh so familiar on your skin, the tastes you love, but most importantly the way you spend your time. That one will be the hardest in many ways because the usual Saturday night with family and friends will become the “what do I do with myself tonight”, and the long morning walks with your dog will turn into “can I walk around here? Am I lost?”, the book store you adored will become the “hola! por favor! señor, hay libros en ingles en la tienda?“, the hello’s from your friendly neighbours will become a look of curiosity from well … just about everyone. The words that you used to pronounce a million times a day you will suddenly forget and replace by others. The familiar hugs from people you love will turn into hand shaking, meet and greet. The Friday nights you ordered from your favourite takeout and with your favourite facemask would listen to jazz dancing in your pyjama will suddenly become a habit you have to rebuild. The way things work in order to get an apartment or certain papers will suddenly take forever. The grocery store will become an adventure. The coffee walks too. Everything that used to be taken for granted as simple tasks will change entirely into something you have to experience for the first time again. In good and bad ways. The little things you judged of no importance will suddenly make world of difference. Like the Bath and Body candles. Trust me.
Before my move abroad and the early days
My whole life was in an apartment on the main street of a small french city, my business and my family – then it was reduced to fit in two suitcases and facetime calls. Once I had moved, I looked at it and I thought, what is all this? How come I feel so empty? How could what I defined myself by be robbed from me when I was supposed to find myself even more? and if so was the definition of who I am so fleeting? That’s where it gets interesting, I wish I could tell you that this decision of moving across the world made me feel free, that it made me feel like new like I was more myself than ever, but honestly, it did not. Without romanticising it, I felt lost, confused, scared, alone and worst, I felt lonely. I wanted to level up my life and be the person I intended to be and I was nothing close of. If the truth must be told I cried in the gym every morning and wondered what was I going to do with my life and with myself.
Was I nothing but peony candles and a big book collection? Was nothing but a small cosy apartment in the middle of a tiny town, with an old fireplace and rotten balcony? A little bit lost and on the verge of a mental breakdown, I went and bought a candle, not peonies this time, vanilla, and I bought a book, not to read but to write. I sat down, in the middle of my nothingness and thought of how I was going to make something out of the ruins of what and who I was. I launched a company two days after buying that candle, I made 6 figures in the following 2 months, turned my life around, made friends, introspected a lot and met myself in places I had never known.
I defined myself by words and things that belong to me like they were attached to my skin but maybe the only word that is certain, that will stick to my being is “change”, maybe by accepting the ruins of things we let them come to something new again, maybe by accepting that nothing remains we come to flourish into something that has potential forever, ever new, everlasting, maybe that’s what the journey is about, accepting that it is a testimony of a world that is ever-changing and that the person I was yesterday too, is the phoenix, rising from ashes every morning.
How to belong, in all honesty
I defined myself by things that could be fleeting, no matter how good they were, I could lose them. I paid the consequences once I had to breathe on my own and let go. I silently sat with myself easing my mind into a new self-concept – I was no longer a thing of the past, people or places, I could love wholeheartedly each of these but I could no longer Be for them.
I settled down my heart rate. The wind embraced my face. I became values, essence, traits of character,
and heart. I allowed myself to be exactly where I was and redefined my idea of what being was. For the
I was only mine.
I think that to “move abroad” is about all of that but most importantly about being yours. Belonging and meeting yourself in places you never had before. Wholeheartedly being all you are and not knowing at times what that is like and what you are like. It is meeting people who will change your heart forever, letting go of expectations and embracing the present. It is focusing on you, on what you will do. On who you will become, this new slate will change you, this blank chapter is your opportunity to reinvent yourself. It is okay to wonder. It is okay to allow yourself to roam a little but set your heart on the values you live by and align yourself with them, you will meet the right opportunities in time and in time, say yes to them. Laugh a lot, make mistakes, accept that you will be ridiculed at times and that you won’t get it perfectly, graciously get yourself up, and make a home in small places before making the home of a new country. That corner street coffee shop, the little apartment on the 6th floor of the building you now live in, the restaurant with the owner who knows your name, the new friends, the old ones on facetime. That is home.
For what it’s worth,
I believe in you