(Expat) Life 2.0: Turning the Adventure into a Permanent Home
On a cold, rainy, Spring day last year, my boyfriend and I bought a one way ticket to Copenhagen. We’d decided to leave London and try out a new life in a place that seemed to defy all logic. It was colder and much rainier than the city we were leaving behind. We didn't speak the language. We literally knew no-one.
And yet, despite the uncertainty (stupidity?) of it all, we took a leap of faith and, on April 30th, we got on that plane.
We didn’t know that much about Copenhagen, other than the fact that we liked being there. Our decision was an experiment. We’d give it a year, we said. Worst comes to worst we can always go back home…ingen stress.
I dunno though, there’s something pretty magical about this place. It hooks you in without you realising - it’s sneaky like that. I couldn’t put my finger on what happened, or when, but pretty much within the first few weeks we knew we would be staying put a while. That little psychological ‘get out of jail free’ card we had at the front of our minds, the one that reassured us that we could just go home if it all went tits up - that got pushed further and further to the back of our minds as the months passed. Bit by bit we grew secure here. We even started referring to Denmark, rather than the UK, as home. Hmm…most peculiar.
And just like that, our expat life turned into, well, normal life. We started to imagine ourselves living a considerable future here, having babies here (eek), and just generally stopped feeling such a strong gravitational pull to the UK. Imagining a more permanent life here seemed to feel right. A bit scary, but right.
And so, having been able to actually save money this past year and a half (!!…I know, crazy, right?), we decided to turn this adventure into a permanent home and buy a flat. After a few months of searching, we came across a flat that gave us both that ‘this is the one’ gut feeling the moment we walked in, and within a few weeks, after just one meeting with the bank and another with a lawyer, we were homeowners.
So far, so good. I didn’t really have an emotional reaction to the thought of living here more permanently. I got quite swept up in the admin of it all. The contracts, and the deposits, and the navigating a legal system in a language you barely speak (thank God for our amazingly patient lawyer…).
But then, this week E and I headed back to the UK for a few days to pack up the last of our things in the UK ready to ship over to Denmark. There was something about boxing up all of the trinkets that we had accumulated over time that got me right in the emotional jugular.
As we unearthed the things we had decided not to sell or throw away when we moved, I was reminded so much of the life - and the people - that we were leaving behind. It stung. No-one prepares you for these things when you move abroad: the stinging sadness that sometimes grips your diaphragm and gives it a good squeeze. I wish they did. I wish I’d known that when you live abroad - no matter how good it is - sometimes you have to prepare yourself for unexpected moments that make you feel tearful, and selfish, and uncertain all at the same time.
But, isn’t that what being brave is all about? Feeling the fear and doing it anyway?
And so, we packed up our things - with the full, unquestioning support of our parents - and we opened the door to a new chapter. An Expat Life 2.0. No wait….Make that Life 2.0. One that is full to bursting with the loveliness of the people from our UK lives, sprinkled with yet more loveliness from all the new people we've met here.
If you're thinking of moving abroad - or if you are already doing so - I can't promise you that it will all be smooth sailing. Like I said, sometimes you might need to brace yourself for pangs of homesickness and guilt. But what I can promise you is that - if you throw yourself into the adventure with all you've got - you'll learn so much about yourself that you'll be better, happier and healthier for it. You might decide that moving abroad was a terrible decision, you might realise that everything you needed in the first place was right where you left. Or you might - like me, find yourself somewhere new to call home. No matter which it is, you'll open the door to your own Life 2.0. And that, my friends, is priceless.