Three years ago today I left family and friends behind in the Netherlands and made the big move to Vancouver, Canada. After only a few months of planning and saving as much cash as possible, my then-boyfriend (a Canadian) and I gathered (a fraction of) our belongings and stayed the last few days with my parents. I don't remember exactly how those last days were, except for the fact that I couldn't stop crying. It was also the last time I saw most of my extended family and the realization that there was no way back was quickly creeping up. I was excited, but most of all I was terrified and extremely sad. I don't think I had ever cried that much in my life before and even writing this makes me tear up. Yes, I am a sentimental one.
The thing with moving abroad is that it's probably one of the best decisions you can make for yourself, but it's also completely heart-wrenching and nerve-wrecking. I remember feeling guilty for leaving my home, my country (although I am not much of a patriot), and most of all my parents. As a mom and dad of only one child, I am certain it must have been extremely difficult for them as well to see me jet off to a new home on the other side of the world.
Sunday morning, May 29 2011, my dad drove us to Duesseldorf Airport and all the excitement had faded away. My mom decided to stay home as it would probably be too emotional to say our goodbyes at the airport, and she was right. I cried in the car on our 2 hour drive to the airport, I cried at the airport having a last coffee with my dad before take-off, and I cried the majority of the 9.5 hours on the plane to Vancouver. The only thing I could think was "why the hell am I doing this to myself?!".
But, as it is with all changes, you (slowly) get used to the differences. After all it's mostly the fear (and the fear of regret!) that makes us want to turn around and cuddle up in our comfort zone. But I quickly started adapting to my new life. Having arrived just before the summer started, my first few months in Vancouver mostly seemed like an extended vacation. Once reality kicked in, with a new job and more bills to pay, I started having a hard time with the move again. I resented my boyfriend for "taking me away" and "pressuring me to move" and I found myself searching for cheap tickets back home all the time.
In the following couple of years, the resentment came and went on a regular basis. Looking back I know it was my insecurity, fear, and feeling of being home sick that made me want to point the blame at someone else. And it was just that damn ol' comfort zone that kept calling my name. Realistically I knew my life, as I had lived it in the Netherlands (I lived in Utrecht for the last 5 years), was over the minute I started planning for the move. The job that I quit was gone, my apartment was rented out, and most of my belongings were sold. Pretty scary. My new life was in Vancouver now, at least for the time being. There was a way back, of course, but I realized that I would have to do the same thing all over again...
So even after that relationship ended, I decided to stay in Vancouver. I think my family was disappointed I wasn't coming back yet. But I had a decent job, made new friends, and worked on my blog (that I had started one month after my move here) - I had gotten used to the city, the Canadian life (eh!) and it felt more like home now. I still felt homesick and full of regret every now and then, but it turns out that this is just part of the standard expat life package deal.
It's been about 1.5 years since I made the decision to continue living here on my own. To be honest, most of that time felt pretty terrible. Lots of immigration stress, dissatisfaction with e-ve-ry-thing and experiencing extreme fear. Fear of being alone (in any way possible), of heading the wrong direction, of time flying by while I, thought I, didn't make any progress in life. The last year was definitely a roller coaster and until 6 months ago I was pretty sure I wanted to move back to Europe (Berlin, to be exact).
But still... I never actually put any plans in motion. Again, out of fear for more change? Perhaps. But probably mostly because of my pride and the fact that I didn't just want to give up and "run back to mommy and daddy". I didn't want to seem weak after telling everybody who would listen that you should definitely live abroad for parts of your life. So I sucked it up and tried to make changes to improve myself and my life here. I stepped out of my comfort zone more often, made more friends and slowly but surely things started to look up.
I have been feeling a lot happier and excited about living abroad in the last few months. I am now a Permanent Resident (bye bye immigration worries!), have people I love and care for very deeply (you know who you are), have achieved great successes in my career, and have even -finally- started dancing again after a 10-year "hiatus". I feel great and confident, and am excited about the opportunities ahead of me.
I know I usually don't write too much about my personal life and rather focus on the "superficial" things here, but today I really felt compelled to share this story with you. Because to be honest, this has been the biggest experience and life lesson thus far, and without it I wouldn't have been the person I am now. I wouldn't have been a blogger either. So the fact that you lovely people visit my blog on a regular basis and took the time today to read this personal novel is a big deal. At least to me! Because as much as I like to pretend it isn't the case, this 'personal style blog' definitely offers (my) style, but often lacks a bit of personality.
For all of you who are toying with the idea of getting out of that comfort zone and live a little... Yes, do it. Go live abroad. Now is the time. It will be the best thing you can ever do for yourself; there really isn't any experience that will throw you off your tracks as much as this. It will be scary, lonely, expensive, insecure, sad, frustrating, terrifying, miserable, exhausting and selfish. But ALSO exciting, liberating, happy, empowering, informative, exhilarating, amazing, inspiring, amusing and enlightening. And take it from me, after just crawling out of a black hole after a challenging year... the good times weigh out the bad times x1000. The second you have the courage to say "f* it" and start a new life, you are already winning. Because whatever will happen on your new journey, it will only enrich your life and help you become the best version of yourself.
So today I want to celebrate myself for tuning out the nay-sayers, actually following through and taking the risk, and not giving up the fight when I felt like I hit (my version of) rock bottom.