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What home means to me (and how I found myself abroad)

It’s not easy relocating to another city or another country. Still, I found it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. Here’s my (shortened) story on why I decided to move, what ‘home’ really means to me and how I believe we can all find ourselves – far away from our birth place. 


explorer

In my childhood I wasn’t an explorer at all. In fact, I just wanted to stay as close to my family as possible, and traveling was something I had to endure a couple of times a year. Why would you purposely want to leave home when it was so great? That all changed one day in my late teens (or perhaps a bit earlier, but this is the clearest memory I have of changing my attitude towards traveling). I was 19 years old, a fresh graduate from high school and ready to take on, well, the world. On a trip to Portugal with my parents, I discovered how awesome it really is to explore new a country and a foreign culture. I fell in love, both with a man and Portugal, and I decided to stay for a little while longer. For the first time in my life, I had the chance to create my own identity far away from ‘home’, and for the first time I began wondering; ‘what is home anyway?’ Is it where the heart is? Where you hang your coat? Where most of your friends are? To me, it was a feeling of being whole in myself and discovering new sides of my personality (it still is). After Portugal my home became Switzerland. Foolishly enough, I thought I’d be staying for 6 months (mostly to make my parents happy and re reassure them that I wouldn’t leave for good). I ended up staying for 3,5 years. Why? Because I fell in love again. A part of me never left Switzerland, in fact I think I should be going back more often to connect with my younger self, who found such great satisfaction in the splendor of Swiss nature. I had space to breath, space to grow. And boy, did I learn things the hard way sometimes.

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Exploring the world is how I found myself

A couple of things to expect when moving abroad:

  • You’ll get caught in the language trap. English is spoken most places today, but you only truly blend in if you give local language a chance. Learning a new language is the best souvenir you’ll ever invest in, and the best way to learn is to spend time with locals, listen to local radio, read local newspapers etc.
  • You’ll spend more money that you’re probably willing to. Fact is, when you move somewhere new, you not only have to get familiar with the currency; you also have to train yourself in keeping a budget. Most people re-locating to other countries, often find themselves renting expensive rooms, flats or houses in the first 6-12 months until they know the market well enough. There are obviously countries that are more affordable than others, but if you’re re-locating to somewhere in Europe, chances are you might spend more money to get by in the first months.
  • You’ll get lost (and lonely) along the way. Unless half of your family and friends are located there, it can be an eye-opener moving abroad. I have been lost so many times I stopped keeping track of it, and loneliness is a part of the deal if you move somewhere where you don’t really know people. It’s all for a good cause, though. There’s hardly any better way to get to know yourself than to push yourself into new scenarios, e.g. having dinner alone, going on trips alone and exploring a city alone. Does it sound frightening to you? It shouldn’t. I’ve been there and trust me when I say that moving abroad on your own is the most fulfilling and rewarding experience in the end. You just have to get started.

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I’ve been living in 4 different countries so far (for shorter or longer periods of time); Portugal, Switzerland, Belgium and Germany. Last-mentioned is where I’ve found my home for now. I really dig the woman I’ve become after moving abroad, and even though it took me 29 years to “be her”, I’m proud of the result. It takes work, though. Meditation and yoga can help you on the way, as can bonding with new people from different cultures and simply pushing yourself into situations you think you can’t handle. It’s all going to be fine in the end – and if it’s not fine, it’s not the end.

Over to you: Have you ever moved abroad? What is home to you? Feel free to share your thoughts below 🙂


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