5 Tried & True Reason Why Everyone Should Live Abroad
One of the most dramatic and rewarding ways to change your life is to live and work abroad. Almost 2 years ago, I left home (Vancouver, Canada) and embarked on a working holiday visa (Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa) to live and work in Edinburgh, UK. By undertaking this change, I was able to add rich experiences to my life that I wouldn’t have had if I stayed home.
It may sound hunky-dory to some of you, but I believe if you have the necessary finances, are healthy, a relatively uncomplicated life situation and possess an innate sense of adventure and wonder of the world, you should do this too.
Possibilities are endless as it doesn’t have to only happen under a youth visa; it can even be as simple as inquiring if your job has an office abroad and differing over there for awhile. Regardless of what option is available to you, I have compiled five reasons why this is the best change you can make. I have also infused my experiences to give you a taste of the power of these adventures.
Gain a new sense of awe and be blown away by new places.
Before leaving Vancouver, I used to believe there were no better views than Burrard Inlet and the views of the North Shore Mountains. While those views are spectacular and so are many other places I have traveled to, living somewhere else made me understand why places become important to me. There is space to:
make memories with people that take and tell you to visit place X
the small feeling of adventure when taking a different route to work and you consequently get introduced to a whole new area of the city.
the beauty of places when you accidentally stumble on a ‘secret’ view spot
For me, I was told by many locals and new friends that I could capture the many different angles of Arthur’s seat and Edinburgh Castle, whether from the centre or one of the other seven hills of Edinburgh.
When I took a temporary position as a receptionist in the Tollcross neighbourhood (a sort of downtown core) of Edinburgh, the city bus took me through the historic Grassmarket area and then to sweeping tall and modern office buildings. It felt like I accidentally snuck on a tour bus!
On my last day in Edinburgh, I walked around one of my favourite neighbourhoods with a camera in hand. When I walked back the same way I came, I was rewarded with a spectacular view that I wouldn’t have noticed without a change of perspective. It became my final ‘secret’ view spot.
2. it will change Your Definition of Home
When you remove yourself from a familiar environment and no longer have the same safety nets as home, you are forced to develop or improve upon the skills of being independent. When I arrived in the UK, I only knew one person (fellow Canadian and former co-worker under the same visa) and did not have a job or know where I would live. I’m not going to lie, on my first night in Edinburgh I seriously questioned if I had made the right decision and wondered what I had gotten myself into.
But, you don’t have to have all the answers immediately. The important part as I found out was to push myself through the homesickness, disorientation, and enjoy the uncertainty and what this unique experience can offer.
The act of preserving through the settling in period paid off and I soon found myself feeling more at home in Edinburgh compared to Vancouver. My ears had adapted to the variety of Scottish accents, I knew my way around town, where the best view points were (Carlton and Blackford Hills, to name a few), where to get the best cocktails (Gin 71 and Hemma Bar), and where to take the best historical pictures of the city (the Stockbridge neighbourhood).
I also appreciated how close I was to a variety of countries. It only took me 45 minutes to fly from Edinburgh to Belfast. This especially floored me as I come from a large country where you can fly 5 hours east from Vancouver and you are still in Canada!
My definition of home changed. It became me in my little flat, getting groceries, cooking for myself, going to work, hanging out with new friends, and exploring this new part of the world. Ultimately I found that I could be at home somewhere else than my true home of Vancouver. Under the right conditions, home can be anywhere you choose.
This is a game changer.
3. It will change what you want career wise.
As far as jobs went, I finally didn’t have to force myself to endure those I didn’t want to do for the rest of my life. In Edinburgh, I worked in a variety of temporary office positions, all that I would have happily stayed in long term.
Before leaving home, I had worked diligently at a job that was extremely dull and had a horrible office culture. I toughed it out and worked hard because I needed the money to travel and that kept me going.
When I returned home from my time abroad, I realized that what I wanted in my life changed from a stable 9–5 job to something that I would truly be passionate about, such as becoming a travel blogger and photographer.
Living and working abroad always seems to take what you thought you know and want of life and turn it upside down, inside out. It’s all about a massive perspective shift that takes place. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be welcomed with open arms. I will admit that some days that scares me a little!
4. You will meet different people than you would at home.
Part of living somewhere new is to meet people that grew up in a different place than you and as a result have different life experiences than yourself and your social circle. Other than hanging out with my Canadian friend already living in Edinburgh, I wanted to meet people on my own.
Meetup is a social media app that connects you with hundreds of events going on near you. Some of my favourites included:
a Harry Potter walking tour
photo walk through Edinburgh’s old town
gin and beer festival
watching on a big outdoor screen Elf (my favourite and the best Christmas movie of all time) outside a bar with mulled wine/hot toddy and so many festive snacks
the ever convenient and very Scottish meet up of reuniting in a pub or bar and drinking yourself to near oblivion.
During these meetups, I met and had deep chats with: an English Second Language professor that was my AirBnB host for a short time, a PR strategist, a marketing executive for a garden centre, a photographer, a mental health nurse for the British military (still a friend to this day), and many more.
Within this variety of people, I got introduced to the Geordie accent (from North East England), which I had never heard before. I mistakenly thought she was from Ireland… It’s ok, we are still friends!
It was one for the books.
You never who you will meet and what situations you will get into.
5. There are no regrets.
This is a big one as it can cut you real deep for the rest of your life.
One of the main decision making factors that goes into living and working abroad is the sense that you don’t want to miss out on the experience. The same opportunity could never come again.
For me, the age restriction on the Visa (until age 30) brought a sense of urgency to choosing to go. At age 27, I would soon have this opportunity slip by. Knowing that all I was loosing was a dead-end job and the familiarity of home, I knew going was as simple as buying an airplane ticket. I didn’t want to reflect back on this decision and continue ignoring the gut feeling of “I should have just gone”.
With these five reasons, I hope that if you are given the opportunity to live and work abroad that they help you decide to go for it. No, it is not a cure all for life’s woes. But it certainly helps you grow and puts things into perspective. I certainly do not regret it.