Today marks 6 years of boarding a one way flight from Seattle to Manchester. In some ways, I remember so much leading up to the big flight – and in other ways it was too much of a blur to recollect anything.
I remember trying to remember everything – the little details of my hometown or Mom’s home cooking – some of which has slipped my mind. I remember how quiet my Mom got as we approached the Seattle / Tacoma International airport, to drop us off. I remember holding back tears, hugging my parents and saying that we’d be in touch soon. (When you are moving to a new country, what does that even mean?). I remember arriving in Manchester, nervous to approach border control with my new spousal visa. I remember arriving to our car, walking to the passenger side door (in the US) – but the driver side here in the UK and feeling reminded that the move that happened. I remember unpacking 5 suitcases and feeling incredibly overwhelmed and a bit lost. I remember learning how to use appliances or the shower. I remember how Freddy was truly my first companion here in the UK, how we would go on walks in the neighbourhood to get out of the house a few times a day. I remember relearning how to cross the street again – keeping in mind the direction of oncoming traffic. I remember how when I was exploring the town, I carried a small notebook with questions for Neal later (this also had contact details in case I got lost.). I remember asking for cilantro at the grocery store with the response of complete blank looks. (I now know that cilantro is called coriander here in the UK, but then – I had no idea.) I remember afternoons in coffee shops or the library, willing for the next step. I remember my first job interview, and being asked about my A-levels (a standardised test here) and I replied with my GPA – which means nothing here.
I remember having complete and debilitating sense of sadness and feeling adrift, and it was so hard to jump start my new life.
Needless to say, it was an incredibly overwhelming first 3 months as my life abroad. I felt I had lost quite a lot of my personal identity – and core of what made me – well, me.
And now six years later, I’ve grown more than I could have imagined. Through the challenges of moving aboard, and hitting the ‘restart’ button on my career as well as living (and thriving) in a new country – has given me incredible insight to what I am capable of.
The UK, Wales more specifically feels much more like home to me. What makes my heart the happiest is right here in Wales with me – Neal and Freddy. I also love our home that we have built since I moved here. And as we explore the countryside of Wales – I fall more in love with this country and how it is able to keep me grounded and inspired.
As Wales feels more and more like home, my roots have been grown here in the UK, but I struggle to connect (or stay connected) back to family and friends back in America. This is an ongoing battle, not just for me – but anyone who is building a life away from their ‘core’ people. It is a challenge to strike that balance, to stay included without getting overwhelmed.
One amazing thing has happened from my move- when I am with family and friends – it helps me to be wonderfully present. When we were in Seattle at Christmas, my time with my best friend. Shannon and her sweet little kiddo is short, so why not go to a children’s museum? (It was a true laugh, I got to play with puppets and make up voices- what a riot.). The time is so precious with friends and family, I find myself only snapping photos – and not posting too much as I want to be present.
(Now that is a true gift.)
For those who are about to embark on a journey of nonvintage abroad : you’ve got this. It’s a challenge for sure, but it is also exhilarating and inspiring. Moving abroad is a life experience has helped me to grow as a person in so many different ways.
(If you are struggling with life as an expat, or have questions for me – get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you, and if I can give some advice or guidance to someone making the international move, that will make my heart incredibly happy.)
Now, for all of my fellow expats out there- what would you say is one lesson you’ve learned from your time living abroad?