It’s the 4th of July this weekend and while everyone is out shopping for fireworks and BBQ supplies, I must admit for the first time in my life I don’t have the USA on my mind at all. Don’t get me wrong, my blood runs red, white and blue. I love America. #merica. In fact, singing “I am Proud to Be an American” in a corny Southern accident is one of my favourite parlour tricks. But in less than 2 months I am packing up myself, my husband and our young son and leaving the island we have called home for the last 8 years.
So, on this Fourth of July, as I prepare to say goodbye to England, and all that it has given me, I am going to be a little bit controversial and share with you 3 reasons why I have loved living in another country. I will even go a step further and say I think everyone should venture out of their comfort zone, leave the zip code they were born in behind, and live abroad at least once in their lives.
The US of A is a huge and wonderful place, offering a million of its own travel destinations. I actually have never appreciated my own home state of California more than now being away from it for so long. One could argue it’s merely the absence making the heart grow fonder, or perhaps I am just getting old and that makes me miss my home and family. I think the reasoning is deeper. I believe that I had to live abroad to find myself, and to find out what home really means.
1. Comfortable Being Alone
When I first moved to England I didn’t know a soul. I moved over before my course started, and though I was fairly confident the rigours of vet school life would form a strong sense of camaraderie between fellow colleagues and myself, resulting in strong friendships (refer to point 2), the start was weeks away! So I had the choice of sitting in my hotel or being brave and exploring London all on my own. If you have never sat and had a coffee in the park by yourself, I dare you to. I bet you never noticed the iridescent shimmer of a magpie’s tail feathers, until you sat quietly in your own headspace and watched the world go by. Other people are a lovely distraction, but they are just that. Occasionally putting everything aside, even other people, can allow time for introspection and peace that we rarely can find in our lives. The first few times you attempt solo outings, it can be awkward, or maybe even embarrassing. We all believe others are secretly judging us, questioning what is so terrible about us that we don’t have any friends or a date to join us. Truthfully, everyone else is probably too wrapped up in themselves or their people distractions to notice you. So rest assured on that fact, and give it a try. The more you do it the easier it is.
I have always been incredibly close with my family. They are the most amazing support network a girl could ask for. However, when you move a million miles away to a foreign country with the Atlantic Ocean slapped in-between you, there is a limit to the reach of that support network. Both in vet school, and since having my son Finn, I have learned the true meaning of friendship. Best Friends simply are members of your family, bonded not by shared blood, but by shared commitment to each other’s happiness. When you are out of your home country you cannot rely on your family in the same way you have always been able to. The strength of friendships formed abroad is beyond compare. I have a family of friends here in England that it will break my heart to leave. The only thing that would be more heartbreaking though, would never having met them in the first place. When we say our teary goodbyes, I know it will only really be a “see ya later”, because these bonds will last a lifetime.
3. International romance
I am an absolute sucker for accents. I always told my mom when I was a little girl that I would move to England and marry a man with a British accent. Box ticked. I might have come here for a degree but I must say falling in love with my soul mate was an added bonus. One of the beauties of an international love affair is the fact that our relationship is truly a cultural melting pot. I never learned more about what it meant to be a Brit than when I started spending most of my time with one. I am leaving England with the best thing it has. Which I do feel a bit guilty about, but more so thankful. Thankful that my adventurer’s spirit allowed me to dream big enough to actually move here in the first place, and that I found the reflection of that spirit in someone else’s soul.
Time to Move On
So why am I ready to leave this all behind and return home? I am not actually. I probably never will be. But then again I fancy living in Italy, Switzerland, Thailand, or any other country I visit. It’s time now to catch my breath, reassess, and contemplate all the changes the last 8 years have brought me. I am wiser, stronger, and happier than when I first landed here, and I have learned the most valuable lesson of all; home is where the heart is. So wherever my little family decides to hang its hat will do.
Main photo by arbyreed.