In January of 2018, I had this crazy idea pop into my head: I was going to move to London, England. I had always had a keen interest in living abroad, and thanks to my childhood obsession with Harry Potter and my love for travelling around Europe, London was an easy choice for me. (For more a more detailed explanation of my move to London, I have a London Blog where I’ve recorded my journey from the beginning in more detail.)
I have always loved travelling, and I had considered myself to be well-travelled even before my move. Perhaps my biggest adventure was my month-long stint volunteering in Ecuador when I was 19. It was my first time being alone in a completely different country. If I could handle that, I could surely handle moving to a new country entirely, right?
And I did handle it. However, the journey has let me through some bumpy roads and I’ve definitely fallen down and scratched myself a few times. Through these experiences, however, I’ve learned some pretty valuable life lessons. They are as follows:
1. It’s not where you are, it’s the people that you’re with
My fondest memories of all my travels have involved the company I was keeping. Whether that be travelling with a close friend, or meeting strangers at a hostel enjoying a spontaneous pub crawl. The people I surrounded myself with always made my experience special. Even working the most tedious job can be enjoyable if you’re with friends. On the flip side, I’ve travelled with people who I didn’t get along with and my memory of the location isn’t as joyous. People make the experience, not the place.
2. But you don’t need people around you to have fun
When I moved to the UK I didn’t really know anyone. I did have family in Wales but they were hours away. Basically, I was completely alone in one of the biggest cities in the world. So, I had to make my own fun. I’ve always been very independent and content with doing things on my own. I’ve taken myself on many theatre dates and have explored various cities by myself. You can learn a lot about yourself by doing things alone. (That being said, after lockdown is over I will happily avoid my own company for the foreseeable future.)
3. Open Mind
Being immersed in a different culture forces you to look at the world from new perspectives. Learning how other nationalities operate in their daily lives expands the critical eye and allows you the opportunity to question the culture you were brought up in. Travel is one of the most valuable tools for education.
4. Tangible stuff is frivolous
I used to be obsessed with clothes. (More importantly, shoes.) However, since moving abroad and travelling a lot more, I’ve had a need to reduce my wardrobe substantially. You can’t bring everything you own with you when you’re packing a suitcase all the time. I’ve learned to appreciate the value of experiences and relationships over ‘stuff,’ and my clothing addiction is officially no more.
5. There are nice people (and horrible people) everywhere
We like to stereotype people based on the countries they hail from. I can’t count the number of times a Brit has given me a look of relief when I inform them I’m Canadian and not American. I can tell you I have met many lovely Americans and many not-so-nice Canadians. The same can be said for Britons and every nationality I’ve come across.
6. You can get closer to someone the farther away you are from them
I think this is a lesson a lot of people are learning with the current pandemic. When I was living in Toronto, I maybe spoke to my mum once every few weeks. She was only an hour away and I saw her every couple of months. Since moving to the UK, I speak to her at a minimum once a week. It’s brought us closer. We now know more about what’s happening in each other’s lives than we did when I was living in Canada. When you see someone regularly you take them for granted. No longer having easy access to their company allows you to see how much they truly mean to you.
7. How fast time really goes by
It just seems like yesterday I was preparing to come to UK. Before I knew it, yesterday suddenly became two years ago. I’m soon going back to Canada to work and save money for my next visa which will allow me to apply for indefinite leave to remain. When I told my UK friends it could be a year until I come back, they were upset. I’m okay with it, though, because I know how fast a year goes by. In the grand scheme of things, a year compared to the rest of my life is almost nothing. However, during that year I will make the most of spending it with my family and friends back home. Time is the most precious thing we have. We really do need to take advantage of each moment.