I’m from Toronto – in my humble opinion one of the greatest cities in the world. If you haven’t been there, go. Go now. Pack your bags, jump on a plane and go before the summer patios close and winter hits.
For the first 24 years of my life I never thought I would leave.
I always planned to have a job that allowed me to travel while still staying close to my incredible family and friends. After graduating from university I had that job. It took me through the States, Europe, the Caribbean and Central America. But working while I travelled wasn’t everything I hoped for and spending 10 days in Rome staring at a conference room wall didn’t cut it for me.
On morning, while on vacation visiting my grandparents in Florida, I was lying in bed and thought that this just had to change. I needed to move. And I was going to move to London – one of my favourite places and a simple visa process for a Canadian twenty-something. I jumped out of bed and told Nonnie and Nonno I was moving. They thought I was joking. Three months later I was on a plane.
Since my UK visa expired I have been living in Dubai. My next destination is still unknown. These are the things I have learned;
1. Leaving is always hard. If you are close to your family then leaving them will always be difficult. I cried the day I moved to London. I still cry now on visits home. The excitement of moving somewhere new momentarily vanishes as soon as you reach to the airport. That feeling goes away though.
2. Finding friends isn’t always easy. Moving to a brand new country, not knowing a single person (or maybe even the local language) is a challenge. It requires a huge leap of faith and moments of courage you may not know you are capable of. Putting yourself out there is difficult. I found it easier to put out feelers before moving; arrange a blind friendship date with friends of friends already living in my new city.
3. You need a job. When I first moved to London I thought I would take some time to settle in, travel a little and then start working. Two months in a realised how expensive that dream of mine was. Find a job that works for you. For me, I wasn’t interested in career development – I just wanted to travel. I took a receptionist position at a hotel knowing that the flexible hours would allow me to travel more. I have my BComm in Hospitality and Tourism Management, so it made a sense to stay in the industry. Turns out the job would become a career, taking me up the ladder into management and into Dubai, but all I knew at the time was that the salary, upsells and tips would fuel me through Europe.
4. There will be times when you just want to go home. I LOVED living in London. Loved, loved, loved it. But there were times where I needed the comfort of home (break-ups, Christmases and birthdays without mom close by).
Additionally, not every destination is created equal. For me, living in Dubai continues to be a challenge. The city just doesn’t strike the same chord. I want to go home a lot, but I am doing my best to look at the positives and take advantage of the work and travel opportunities while I’m here – when else will I have Asia and Africa at my doorstep? Plus they have Tim Hortons here, so I guess that’s a small taste of home?
5. It is OK if you do go home. When I moved to London on a 2-year visa I told myself that if I hated it after 6 months I would leave. Luckily I liked it, but you need to give yourself some time to adjust. If you’re still not happy after really settling in then there’s no shame in going home and coming up with a new plan.
No matter what, it is worth it. The courage that I have had in the past three years still surprises me. There have been sacrafices made and hard times encountered, but travelling and living abroad has made me me. I have travelled alone, made new friends who have turned into family, and found a passion for life that I never quite realised until I stepped out of my comfort zone.
As Passenger says, Life’s for the living, so live it.