When I first toyed with the idea of working abroad, I was excited. Excited about the possibility of starting a new life abroad. Excited about the possibility of living in a culture totally different than mine. Excited about getting to pursue a lifelong dream of mine.
Now that this dream has become a reality and I’m just hours away from boarding the plane that will take me far away from everything familiar, I’m terrified, and I find myself second guessing my decision to move abroad.
I have always second-guessed most of my decisions.
First car. Do I really need a car now? Or am I just buying one ’cause all my friends have one?
Shopping for a house. Will having one REALLY make me happy? (I didn’t end up buying one).
Even something as small as buying beer can throw me into a huge decision-making process. Which beer do I REALLY want?
So it is normal that as the date of my departure for China approached, I began to second-guess my decision to work abroad more and more.
Working abroad has always been something that I wanted to do, not only for the international work experience but also to immerse myself in a new culture. But I never really gave much thought about the sacrifices that this move would entail.
Deciding to leave the place I have called home for the last 20 years and saying goodbye to those closest to me are things I knew I had to do, but never considered how difficult doing them would be. Sometimes, realizing your dreams does have a price, and this is the price of my dream.
Two months and a half ago when I first came back home to deal with the paperwork, I was counting the days until I was to leave again. After all, I had been travelling for 5 consecutive months when I got the job and suddenly had to go back home to deal with the paperwork. So the travel itch was definitely still there.
But as days turned into weeks, and then months, the reality of having to leave home for a long period of time began to sink in. As departure day quickly approached, reality began to creep its ugly head and suddenly, “goodbye period” was no longer an idea, but it was quickly looming by.
With a month left to go, I first began to realize the repercussions of my decision.
Will I be able to make friends over there? After all, work is much different than the “hostel vibe” I’m so used to when I travel.
What if I can’t communicate? I’ve always wanted to visit China, and when the opportunity to work there knocked on my door I didn’t think twice to accept the challenge. But living there might be an entirely different beast, especially in a country where the language is totally different than any of the ones I speak.
What if? What if? What if?
Needles to say, I started having difficulties sleeping again as all these thoughts did their best to keep me awake.
Two weeks before I leave I started meeting friends and those who matter most to me for a few last pints. Most get-togethers were the same as always, jokes and good laughs all the way ’till the end, until came time to say goodbye.
Hugs, well wishes, and promises to try to come visit and to keep in touch. Each visit to friends ended the same, with that feeling in my gut and the fighting back of tears caused by not knowing when I might see my friends again.
With one week left before leaving I received my plane ticket.
It was a reality now, there was no going back.
Suddenly, looking at my girlfriend’s eyes became more difficult, as we both knew that the countdown of our time together was quickly coming to an end. We did our best to fight back tears and to keep enjoying every moment together as if it was our last. We binge-watched TV shows, pigged out eating, and were lazy as much as it was humanly possible.
The day before my flight I received my work visa.
The one last thing that would have kept me home arrived, so it was time to pack my bags. As I began I relived every day I had spent home since coming back. To my surprise, I began to realize that I would actually miss the familiarity of things at home.
After all, this was like no ordinary trip I’ve taken before where I see a new place every couple of days and meet new people every day. Here, I was committing to staying in one place for the best part of the next 12 months, which kind of started to freak me out.
As I kept second guessing my decision to move abroad, I remembered that all of this started because I wanted to accomplish a dream. A dream of doing whatever I needed to do to maintain a nomadic life and stay away from home for as long as emotionally and financially possible.
As of that point, no matter how much I thought things through or how much I second guessed my decision to move abroad, I knew I had to do this. I knew I wanted to do this. And I knew that in the long run, I wouldn’t feel accomplished if I didn’t see this through to the end.
As I await for my flight to China, I sit here at the gate nervous, possibly terrified, but also excited to begin this new chapter in my life.
Are you an expat? What internal struggle did you go through the days leading to your journey?