Can the fantasy ever really live up to reality?

 

What with Brexit, the wettest June on record and the end of Brangelina, who hasn’t fantasized about jacking it all in and running away somewhere sunnier, more exotic or even just somewhere outside of the M25? At the moment it seems you can hardly go one thumb swipe without drowning in articles of people who have done just that; writing their novel on a beach in Barbados, getting paid to hug pandas in Taiwan or simply sailing the world on a mega yacht.

They follow an all-too-familiar format, each accompanied by a series of blissful images, ‘foolproof’ explanations of how you can do it too and unquestionably conclude with buzzword of the decade – happiness. By taking the ultimate leap of faith, these lucky few are living their dream, waking each morning and going to bed each night in an unfaltering state of pure, unadulterated bliss. If they’re working, it’s pursuing their passion, providing a tangible benefit to the world and making a real difference. If they’re travelling, it’s to visit places we mere mortals have only dared to dream of and having regular, if not daily, once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Who can blame us for getting sucked in; the world happiness index this year ranked the UK at 23rd, behind popular British emigration destinations such as Australia and Canada.

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Ladies and Gentlemen, the Mac ‘n’ Chili Cheese Dog

For me the dream was America, land of the free and home of the chilli cheese dog. And earlier this year, I did it, leaving behind a drizzly commute for balmy evenings by the pool. Don’t get me wrong, it has been amazing. Warmer weather, a cheaper cost of living and no morning tube rage. I will be eternally grateful for this opportunity and I definitely don’t plan on heading home anytime soon. But after a few months stateside I started to wonder why I wasn’t suddenly overflowing with gratitude, skinnier, prettier, with better fashion sense and a wider circle of friends. I’d been here two months. Why wasn’t I at the pinnacle of my career, richer, with 10,000 more Instagram followers? I had more free time, sure. So why wasn’t I up at 5am making mason jar salads and squeezing in a quick 10k before my Moon Dust smoothie?

Turns out, it doesn’t work like that. And chances are, I’m probably not alone in my findings. So if you’re toying with the idea of taking the plunge, here are some things I have learned about the big move.

It’s not that simple

If it was that easy, we’d all be doing it. Unfortunately, moving to another country just isn’t that simple. As seamless as some articles can make it sound, you won’t just slot into a new and improved lifestyle. According to most, all you’ll need is faith/determination/passion/insert alternatively sickening buzzword here… It’s so compelling you’d be forgiven for believing them. But, while this may be a reality for some, the fact is, like many things in this world, it’s probably too good to be true. Real world considerations have to be made. Perhaps you need a hard-to-procure visa, a very specific skillset, a network of contacts, diverse language capabilities, an initial investment to kick start your new lifestyle, a thousand boxes to ship all your stuff. The list goes on. I know, because I’ve done it. The stress of moving can push relationships to breaking point. There have been more tears and arguments in my household in the past few months than there were in the previous 4 years. But I’ve learned that’s OK. It’s a big transition and it will take some getting used to.

You still have to go to work

I just want to make this absolutely clear. You’re probably still going to need some source of income. There are myriad articles online about people giving up high-flying careers to lounge on a beach in Bali or getting paid to Instagram their breakfast. While that certainly can happen, it involves a lot of work behind the scenes that is rarely shown or mentioned. If you’re remaining in the same role, or the same industry, any negative aspects of your work won’t magically disappear or suddenly become funner. You’re essentially doing the same stuff, just in a different place. You might still need to commute long distances (although this will almost definitely improve if you move anywhere outside of London). You might still hate your boss. You might still be underpaid and underappreciated. You might also have just lost your work wife – the only one you can drown these sorrows with.

This doesn’t apply exclusively to your professional work either, I still have to do ironing (loathe), I still have to hoover my apartment (double loathe) and apparently, I still have to clean the bathroom (THE HORROR!). In many instances these annoying tasks have even become worse. Trying to set up medical insurance or register a new vehicle without being a bona fide citizen have caused unimaginable amounts of pain and suffering, where previously I would have understood the system or had friends around me I could ask for help. Admin. Admin doesn’t go away. I still have to make a budget and pay my bills and shop around for internet service providers. None of these things go away, no matter where you are in the world. You still have to function as an adult. I know, annoying.

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Street art outside our apartment in Charlotte, NC

To begin with, you may not have many (or any) friends.

This was probably one of the hardest to come to terms with for me. Living in and around London most of my life I have been blessed with a better quality and quantity of friends than I deserve. In this regard, I have been incredibly lucky and, quite possibly, it took moving away to realise that. Meeting new people here is easy, especially with my accent for an ice-breaker (“Say ‘tomatoes’ again!”, “Do you know the Queen?”). But crafting genuine, meaningful relationships takes time, energy and the confidence to sometimes be vulnerable. Making friends has been a more daunting task for me than any romantic relationship I have ever pursued and, being completely honest, I’m not sure it’s going to get any easier. Making friends as an adult is awful and I hate it. I’ll let you know if that changes. (Unlikely).

Update: My tips on making friends as an adult are here

Money doesn’t solve all your problems.

If, like me, you’re looking to get out of London because the cost of living is crippling you and you just want to have a nice life with some semblance of disposable income – this applies to you. I wouldn’t exactly call myself money-obsessed – I once spent a full year using toilet roll stolen from a nearby office building and would rather wet myself than lose 25 of my hard-earned pence on a train station wee – but I didn’t want to spend my entire 20s scrabbling together a meagre living in pursuit of making enough ground to (maybe) enjoy my twilight years when I’m on my second hip replacement and all my friends are dead. I had visions of moving abroad and suddenly being inundated with cold, hard cash, obviously leading me to ultimate happiness. Spoiler alert: This is not the case. For the first few months money was extremely tight. In between paychecks, we had to start all over again with our home, buying everything from sofas to spatulas. Add to that visa processing fees, flat deposits and finance for a new car and let me tell you, we spent more nights eating cereal in the dark than I care to admit. Even if the money does start rolling in, it doesn’t bring with it a magical fix for all of life’s problems. There will still be disagreements about how it’s spent or distributed, but for the record we absolutely DID need a $30 hand-blown water carafe for the bedside table. Unsurprisingly, I still don’t have a mega yacht.

Above all else, you’re still you.

You won’t become a new person. Aspects of your personality that you know you need to work on won’t change. Sure, you get a chance to start afresh and be whoever you want to be, but at the end of the day you’re still you. And whether you’re moving to the big city from a small town or escaping the grind for a slower pace of life, your insecurities, worries and fears will all come along with you. The concept of an ‘outfit’ continues to elude me and I’m still convinced my boss will figure out I have no clue what I’m doing any day now. The idea of meeting new people still renders me nauseous and no, my unwanted bodily hairs haven’t suddenly disappeared forever. I haven’t transformed into a ‘morning person’ either, but I’m working on it. Just like I was in the UK.

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A weekend at Wrightsville Beach, NC

To reiterate, I am still so grateful to be here and, believe it or not, I don’t spend every day whinging about the inexplicable agony of having to clean up after myself. I’m simply learning that there’s not a fix-all for happiness, just like you won’t turn into Mary Berry just by purchasing a Kitchen Aid (a devastating and needlessly expensive blow). I do have moments where I have to pinch myself, but then there’s also moments like last week when my partner and I spent 2 hours walking round Ikea in silence, aggressively throwing things into our trolley because he questioned our need for the aforementioned carafe.

Everything in moderation.

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21 thoughts on “The Emigration Dream

  1. Great post! I’ve been thinking about moving to England or Canada on my young workers visa but I’m not sure if I’ll do it in the end. Good on you for actually taking the plunge! My very sheltered, Christian, 32 year old cousin recently moved to England to teach. She’s completely transformed (yes like a butterfly) and has had the time of her life. She travelled all over Europe and met and fell in love with a European. They’re getting married next year! What she’s done is my absolute dream but I think I’d miss my family too much. I can make new friends but there’s nothing like living 15 mins from my parents hahaha

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha, yep, I do sometimes wish I could pop to my mums for a cup of tea! I guess it’s different for everyone, perhaps you could try go somewhere for 6 months or a year? You never know, you may end up staying!

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  2. I’m one of those expats with my ass of the beach of the Caribbean, but I still agree with you 😉 It is not easy bureaucratically speaking and finding new friends might be challenging. You do need to work (unless someone is paying for you) and if you don’t like yourself this is not going to change just because you change the coordinates of your location. Yet, I still love to ’emigrate’. Beware of those who say they are always and effortlessly happy (11th Commandment :)). Enjoy your new like in the U.S.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I like your blog!
    At least you choose another English speaking country which saves a lot of hassle. I quit the rat race in London earlier this year and moved to Taiwan so know what its like to settle in a new country and start from scratch. It does take quite a bit of effort, but as long as you don’t keep on looking back its actually quite easy to settle down. Good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I do agree that mindset has a lot to do with it. A friend once said that if you think of it as temporary, it will be. I can’t imagine how much more difficult it would be having to learn a new language too!

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  4. You truly nailed it. And you have a fantastic style of writing. Moving country is not easy and you need to invest yourself to build things up again that seemed a given back “home”. I agree about “you still being you” but then also disagree slightly. It changes you. We’ve now been in Australia for 10 years and I’m not the same person I was before. Not just because I grew older (that too) but because of the experience. Because of having to adjust to a lifestyle that is similar to the one you were used to but still different. Because of having to start from scratch in regards to building up a circle of friends. For me it was a language thing as well (isn’t it for all in regards to Aussie English???). It changes you because you had to put efforts into things you would have not needed to think about in your homeland. You had to break out of your routine in order to develop a new one.

    I also just saw your comment in regards to settling and looking at things either as temporary or for good. I had a friend who was here from the US and over the 5 or 6 years they were here she never truly settled down because she always said “it’s only temporary”. What happened was, that she struggled with being homesick. And then in her last year she let go. She allowed her self to settle in. And she realized how much she had missed out on. Her friends were always kept at arms length so she would not be hurt when they leave back home. When she let herself finally ground she felt better. She became relaxed. And then they had to move back..

    When we moved we looked at it as a move for good although we didn’t know for how long we would be able to be in Australia for. It was a good thing to do as it allowed me to submerge myself totally into adjusting, rather than hanging on to too much from back in Switzerland. We are here for good now. It’s the children’s home. It’s our home.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s great to get some perspective from someone who has more experience living abroad, and glad to know that it is possible for it to feel like home. We’re also trying to look at this as a move for good, but sometimes it depends on factors outside of our control like jobs or visas; it sounds like it was the same for you. Fingers crossed in 10 year’s time I’ll be saying the same thing!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was a bit of a ride, especially because we also already had our son. We were on a student visa first and of course you reach the point where you need to get to a proper visa. It was a moment where we weren’t sure if it would work out but it did and now we have citizenship.

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