So you may have told your parents, gotten your visa, purchased your ticket and packed your bags. You’re now ready and eager to make that giant leap into the abyss and as you push away the fears of nausea and anxiety and grab tighter to the feelings of excitement, you may wonder ‘What will my life actually look like in 3, 6, 9, or 12 months?’
Well I definitely don’t have all the answers but in 2018 I did take a leap of faith and decided to follow my childhood dream (now I’m talking about James and the Giant Peach days childhood) to move to London. I’ve been absolute sh**t at recording my life here although a lot has, is and will happen – but I thought, why don’t I take the time to write 5 things I’ve learned so far. It may help you as you’re gearing up on your own journey.
Disclaimer: Some of this is UK specific, so if you’re planning to make a move to somewhere like Shanghai, I’d recommend reading through some of the Expat Experiences.
1. The beginning is a roller coaster
I’ll be the first to say the beginning of your move is a bit of a roller coaster and I’m not even talking once you land and you can breathe. I’m talking the prep before hand, the saying goodbyes to family, friends and acquaintances. I say acquaintances because even people I didn’t speak to were poppin’ out the woodwork. I was like damn, I haven’t seen you in three years and now you want a ticket to the final show? LOL! It’s all good though. You are making a major step in your life and people just want to be apart of it. But even so, with working in Toronto, setting up my situation in London and booking in time with everyone, it got really overwhelming. I finally had to say ‘no’ to a few obligations and people to make sure I kept my mental state right and tight. Once I moved to London I made sure that I had atleast one week of ‘vacation time’- this was time that I created in advance to just enjoy the city and let the curiosity take me in. It was great and exactly the break I needed before getting into real life. I even got a date with a random cute guy from Spain my first week in… here’s to all the possibilities in front of you ;).
Tip 1: Set up some time for yourself, book a play, concert or anything that’s interesting to get yourself excited beforehand and don’t fight the emotional rollercoaster, just ride it.
2. Life Does Get Routine
OK, so now you’ve moved abroad, you’re three months in and unless your last name is Kardashian, Winfrey or Gates (let’s not get into the Gates consipracies..that’s for another blog) you’ve no doubt gotten a job. The fastest way for life to get routine is through a J.O.B. Remind me, why do we have these again?? Probably not the right sentiment during a global pandemic. Anyways, in one way getting a job allows you to feel more comfortable and settled, you can make money which is great because you typically need that to buy food, clothes and flights (see next point) but it can also get you stuck in the mundane everyday boringness you were trying to escape. I found this happened to me after about 7 months of being here. I moved jobs and started a new one where all of a sudden I was back in the day to day life. Except I’m in London and what does that mean?? There is soo much to do, soo many people to meet and soo many cocktails to consume. This leads me to…
Tip 2: Be prepared with a plan to spice up the routine. So yes, you can get sucked into the day in, day out of life but what you can also do is purposefully add in pieces to keep that curiosity buzzing (outside of travelling). This can include (once things are slightly back to normal) signing up for a class, London is full of interesting classes and people to meet, go to a meet-up, get on a dating app, buy some play tickets or pre-plan outings like museum or park trips.
3. Travel, then travel, then travel some more
Major Disclaimzz: OK..OK..OK..OK! Yes I know there is a global pandemic and we SHOULD NOT BE TRAVELLING RIGHT NOW! But I don’t think it’s possible for me to talk about what I’ve learned moving abroad without mentioning the travel. Trust me I really, really tried. I even put this disclaimer in red for ya! I’m sure one day we will be travelling again so please forgive me 😉 but here we go…
One of my goals of moving to London was to travel like maaaad! Living in the epicentre of London allows you to get to anywhere in Europe feasibly and it has changed my perception of life. Plan out your trips in advance, so that you can get tickets for as cheap as possible (I’ll have to one day share my story about the tragic £18 Berlin flight I missed). Solo travelling is amazing and definitely something I would like to do more of. If you prefer travelling with someone there are some really great expat Facebook groups (i.e New Girl in London) where you can meet-up with people who are looking to travel as well. Also BLM side note, there are black people all over the world including Europe, so get your butts out there my brothas and sistas and represent!
Tip 3: Pre-plan your trips the second you get the money coming in. Use Skyscanner as a way to find the cheapest months/ destinations to get to.
4. Homesickness vibezzzz
So to be honest one of the main things that scared me about moving was homesickness. Not of Toronto (it’s a cool city but uh…), but for my family and friends. I’m very close to my fam and they really do centre me and keep me grounded, so not being able to visit them when I wanted has been a bit hard. However, in the first 6 months in London I was hardly thinking of them. I was having soo much fun and was soo grateful to be in London that I didn’t really ever get homesick. But after my first year, homesickness did definitely hit me (especially with all the uncertainty going on) but even so, it has really helped me appreciate my family even more and the time we do spend together feels that much more valuable. Not to sound like a Hallmark card but I now can exactly pinpoint what brings me joy when I’m down and it’s the fam fam!
Tip 4: Schedule time with the people back home to help ease the home sickness. This could be a weekly phone call that you look forward to or just check-in emails or texts. One thing a friend of mine who lives in Berlin does is virtual movie watching with her dad, where they watch the same movie on their separate devices, but stay on the phone – I think that’s cute AF. I actually stole the idea at the beginning of lockdown for me and my bf 🙂
5. Your soul will evolve
Let me leave you with this, the biggest thing that happened when I moved that I didn’t expect at all. London is great but it wasn’t the place where I thought I would have soulful and spiritual awakenings, but that’s exactly what has happened. There have been amazing times, but also challenging ones – but mostly I can feel my soul, my perceptions of the world and who I am transforming, changing and evolving. I’m learning a lot about myself, who I thought I was, who I am and who I could be. I think this is partly because I moved away from the ‘self’ I know which has felt like one huge life reflection. I really don’t know where this journey will end, but my perception of myself and being in the world is different from when I started.
Tip 5: The last tip are really just some words of wisdom: let yourself go while you move abroad, dig into yourself because it’s a really great opportunity to be away from the person you created and how those back home see you. It’s such a good time to reflect on what’s true. You will be changed (at the very least a little bit) from moving abroad, so let yourself embrace it and don’t be like me, write a journal, take some notes, record video diaries to help remind you of this special time in your life.