4 September 2016

One Day. 5 Things You’ll Learn When You’ve Lived Overseas

I’ll never forget the look on my Mum’s face when I told her I was moving to the other side of the world. Me. The girl who never liked school camp, was afraid of flying and hadn’t been away from home for more than a month at a time.

Let’s just say it was a big step. Huge. In my case I was moving from the quaint, sunny Gold Coast to the blustery, European hub that is London. Talk about total opposites.

It's a funny feeling knowing you've packed up your life and landed somewhere completely new where literally no one knows your name; but to build a new existence far away from everything you’ve ever known is one of the most powerful feelings in the world.

Now I find myself back in Australia, after what was undoubtedly the best two years of my life, and it feels strange. It feels different. I’m still the same girl but a new and improved version. Like a 'volume two' or a personal sequel you might say.

I see you fellow expats nodding your heads. If you’ve lived it you’ll understand that there are five things that happen when you’ve called a foreign city home…

Any fear you ever had will melt away
With less to lose, there’s more to gain. When you live overseas there is no comfort zone. You’re always living outside of it, so taking risks and making the most of every opportunity doesn’t seem so scary anymore. There’s time to chat to Italian strangers in a restaurant and share a bottle of wine. There’s time to ride a quad bike around a Greek Island with no map and no destination in mind. There’s time to dance ‘til dawn at a roof party in Barcelona. Every moment becomes an opportunity to take a chance, explore, learn and live life.

You’ll become a currency whizz
Just as you once converted everything back to your old currency, you’ll find once you return home again you’ll be converting it the other way. Math becomes somewhat of a crucial daily skill as a global citizen. Pounds to dollars. Dollars to euros. A 'fiver' will never mean the same thing again.

Goodbyes get a little easier
Hardly anyone is good at goodbyes, but when you call two places home, farewells do get a little easier. Maybe it’s because you don’t even know where home is anymore. There are two. Is it where you spent your childhood or is it simply where your laptop connects to wifi automatically? Either way, I think when you've lived overseas it helps knowing that after a goodbye there’s always going to be a hello.

Your personal belongings will no longer matter
With doubles of so many frivolous things like sim cards and sets of bedding, yet so few other possessions due to moving your life in merely one suitcase, you eventually realise that things don’t matter. Almost anything you touch can be replaced but the memories and the experiences you’ve gained cannot. That is where the true value lies.

You’ll never feel completely whole again
This is possibly the worst side effect of having lived overseas. Your new city was home. It was familiar. You had your favourite coffee shop. Your favourite jogging track. You built networks. You met incredibly, important friends and colleagues. But there are also all these things in your original home and it is so gut-wrenching to realise you’ll never have them altogether again. Your soul will always feel like it is straddling two places. Two homes. And whilst that’s a heart-breaking feeling, I guess it’s beautiful too, because aren’t we lucky to have these things on opposite sides of the globe…

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Photo by Krissie.