Moving to a new place is never easy. It is difficult and presents challenges you did not know were possible. Sometimes you struggle to make new friends or you have difficulty fitting into the new workplace. The literal move itself is never easy! Moving town to town lugging every prized (or let’s face it, not so prized possession) in the trunks of your cars only to find that the new home was not as big as imagined.
But then something happens.
That one coworker who you’ve talked to at the coffee machine asks you to get a real coffee at Starbucks, or better yet, you get the courage to ask them and they say yes! Then there’s the day when your job isn’t that monster looming under your bed but a welcomed routine to your new life. All twenty-seven boxes containing your prize possessions have finally worked their way into the new nooks and crannies.
The move has come together, and your new home is finally starting to feel like home.
Now imagine that move, but instead of moving to a new town, you move to a new country.
In this new country you know maybe one or two people if you’re lucky. The job may be set up before arrival, but it may also be a fight to the death in the job market upon your arrival. Your home upon landing in this new country isn’t a quaint apartment with a view but a hostel with eleven other people. Your prized possessions are crammed and stuffed and unmercifully packed into two suitcases. Walking through the town is both exciting and terrifying because you’re in a new country, but holy crap! YOU ARE IN A NEW COUNTRY!
The people there may or may not speak the same language as you. If they do speak English, it’s probably with a horrible accent that you frankly cannot understand. Words that you understood to mean one thing in your home country take on a completely different meaning in your new home.
You get yourself together and begin the hunt.
The hunt varies in all sorts of situations. Hunting for friends, hunting for food, hunting for an apartment, hunting for toilet paper. You become the hunter and everything is your prey. You begin scouring the city for the smallest signs of survival.
Apartment viewings are more like a reality game show where the room is the prize. The potential flatmates grill you and check the roots of your hair for lice all before telling you that they have decided to give the apartment to another person. With a grimace you turn your eyes on the next apartment, and then the next, and then maybe another.
Eventually some group of lucky people will find you suitable to share a space with. Running from the hostel with your suitcases clattering behind you, you welcome your new closet sized room and foreign roommates who smell of a strong earthy cologne. Instantly these people become your friends. You may be wary of the way this one looks at your butt too long or the way the other smokes like a chimney, but you welcome them into your life with open arms.
The job takes some time to come together. Between an clear language barrier and a new office in general, things begin at a slow pace. The grind is difficult with your alarm blaring in your ear reminding you that you have to go to your new job where no one talks to you. Eating alone again in the canteen gets easier afer the tenth time in a row. You don’t understand. You smile and are polite, but people still chose to avoid eye contact and sit with their friends on the other side of the room. Back to the desk you go grinding away wondering if this was the right things to do.
You can’t tell if you’re getting fatter or losing weight or if the weight on your body is just shifting around like a fast paced Pangea. The thunder thighs you once rocked are now slimmer; however that blasted tire hasn’t budged in a year. If anything, all that booze you’re consuming either in the club with your few mates or the wine in front of the telly is starting to stick to you in places you didn’t realize were sticky. The food is too good to pass up though. Between kebab, street vendors, or the nachos at the local pub, you surrender to the notion of being slightly pudgy. At least everyone at home will know that you have enough money to stay fed.
After a few months the grind is greased and life becomes easy. The job is a job which allows you to have work mates and a semblance of a routine in your life. Your flatmates are still as weird as ever and you have gotten into some fights, but in no way would you trade them for anyone else. You are slowly finding your go out friends, your pizza and a night in friends, and your friends that magically understand you better than anyone you’ve ever met. The language barrier is still there but you find yourself using words like, “grand” and “cheers” and “gaf” without thinking about it.
At some stage you look around your room and realize the sheer amount of shit you have accumulated over the course of your life in this new home. Months ago when you landed on this new country, you had the fashion sense of your home land, but quickly found that you stood out in a crowd. In a desperate attempt to blend in at least a little, you spent all of your hard-earned cash and a few credit cards at the local shops. Tops, skirts, shoes, belts, make up, things that you did not think would matter in this new country have suddenly taken over your life and your apartment. It’s more like an invasion from Napoleon than a shopping spree. Even though your leaving date may not be set or it could be looming in the not so distant future, you wonder, “How the hell am I going to get all of this shit home?”
Home. Where is that place? The idea of home changes over the course of your time living in the new country. Home was originally the place where you grew up where all of your friends had been and your family was. It was the place where you knew every side street and dingy store. It was the place where you felt at ease and good.
But why do you feel like this new country is home?
Because it is.
You’ve moved all the way across the world and found a new family. This move has caused you to search within yourself and around you for the things and people who really complete a life. From the smells in the apartment that you swear don’t smell like normal cigarettes to the sounds of the cars on the street outside your window and the people who you now laugh with every day have all become home.
Living abroad has made you more aware of the world in a way that never would have been possible in your hometown. You left. You packed all of your belongings into a suitcase and moved to a foreign land. You made friends. You found a house. You got a job. You filed your taxes. You paid your bill. You laughed. You cried. You made a home for yourself in this new world.
The day you wake up to realize that this new country is home is a confusing moment. You’re torn between the idea of the home you once had and the home you now love. Your mind races that the horrible thought of having to leave this home to return to the one you had before.
That home will always be home, but it is no longer the home you want.
You have created for yourself a home away from home, and wonder in the deepest parts of your soul if you are up to the challenge to do it again. Would you be able to choose between your possessions which ones are worthy to be lugged half way around the world. Can you stand that hostel for two weeks while fighting for an apartment. Job hunting is hard, but it’s hard everywhere. May as well make the most of that difficult transition somewhere else. Friends are the honey of life; they make everything sweeter. You know it will be difficult to hug everyone goodbye, but secretly you’re excited for the prospect of meeting new people and welcoming them into your life.
Living abroad makes you a certain kind of person. It makes you independent, capable, and honest. It gives you the strength to know that you can say goodbye but also say hello. Life abroad opens your eyes to a world that you didn’t realize existed. You learn to fall in love with people, places, and things. Your heart is capable of having more than one home.
And that is exactly why I want to live abroad again.