Moving abroad and self discovery – what I learnt about myself

Moving abroad and self discovery - what i learnt about myselfOne of the great things about our move to Spain was the opportunity it gave me to learn a whole load of stuff about myself. I find that it’s difficult to do this without a big challenge or change going on in your life.

I discovered feelings I didn’t know I could feel and strength I didn’t know I had. A couple of the beliefs I had about myself were completely flipped on their heads. I’m hoping this post will give you some insight into some of these things and how surprised I was with my discoveries. I’m glad I found this stuff out though as it helped me re-evaluate some of my priorities and what’s important to me.

I’ve no doubt that everyone will learn different things so the key thing to take note on is that you might be surprised with the person you find yourself to be at the other end. Learning is a good thing so embrace everything.

Now on to some of the key things I found out about myself.

Time with my wife and daughter is precious

Time with my wife and daughter is preciousOur move to Spain involved a few occasions where my wife and I spent considerable chunks of time apart. The main periods were:

  • When we first moved – I flew out to Spain in July 2012 and my wife came out in August 2012 with our daughter
  • When we were trying to get back – My wife came back to the UK mid November and I was in Spain for around 5 weeks on my own

I’ve never had so much time to reflect on my life and really consider what was important.

The first chunk of time was pretty tough as I’d never been away from my wife and daughter for more than a day or two. I missed them deeply and in the end I flew back to the UK two weeks into July as we couldn’t take it any longer. When I returned it wasn’t as bad as I knew they would be coming to Spain in a couple of weeks so I didn’t have long to wait.

The period of time at the end of 2012 was gut wrenching to begin with. My wife had flown back to the UK at the beginning of November and I flew back 10 days later to see everyone. It was then that we made the decision that my wife and daughter would stay in the UK permanently and I would return to Spain on my own. The journey back was pretty terrible. I was a mess!

This time spent alone put things into perspective. It made me value my time with my wife and daughter much more and I realised that the time we had together was precious. I have no idea how people stick with jobs that have them travelling on a regular basis or away from family for long periods of time.

I really value my relationships with family and friends

During the run up to moving abroad I had convinced myself that I wouldn’t be impacted by the distance we would be from close family and the network of friends we had built. I thought it would be easy to dismiss it when we arrived in Spain and we would start from scratch on a new support network.

I’m sure some people are able to do this but I found out that I’m not one of them. I get great comfort from knowing that we have people around us who are there for us, care about us and will support us when needed. I’m not saying this is something you can’t reproduce when you move abroad, as you absolutely can. It might just be more difficult for some people than it is for others.

My wife’s judgement is actually pretty good…

Yep, I might get in trouble if she reads this but my point is a positive one.

As I’m sure you’ll know if you’re in the process of moving abroad with a partner, there will be a lot of discussion needed to work out what is best for everyone. Unfortunately I was a bit blinkered during this stage and I’d already told myself that we had to move abroad. So much so that I blocked out a lot of the potentially negative impacts that could have (and did in a lot of cases) caused us problems.

My wife is more grounded than me and takes a more realistic approach to things (some might say slightly pessimistic, but I wouldn’t). She tried to highlight the main areas of concern she had and if I’m honest, I didn’t really listen or try to work with her to come up with solutions. Key things she was worried about were:

  • Family relationships (particularly our daughter and everyone else)
  • Support network
  • Schooling and education
  • Finances
  • Isolation for her as she wouldn’t be working

Unfortunately, we had fairly big problems in all of these areas so I felt like a royal plonker for not listening to my wife in the first place. It wouldn’t necessarily have meant we didn’t move abroad, but it could have meant we did better planning and prepared ourselves better for the challenges ahead.

I’m now trying to listen to my wife more and act on some of the recommendations she makes as I know she has a grounded approach and will consider things that don’t even come into my head.

I wasn’t as emotionally strong as I thought I was

This was probably the biggest surprise for me. I really thought I would be able to take the whole thing in my stride and that I would lead by example. In reality I was a bit of a mess, certainly for the first couple of months. I would hide it most of the time but I’m guessing I wasn’t much fun to be around.

I think I just under estimated the scale of change that comes with moving abroad so it hit me hard. I was emotionally under prepared.

If we move abroad again in the future (which I haven’t ruled out) I’ll definitely be more conscious of my emotions and how I might react to the tsunami of change.

The UK isn’t actually that bad after all

The UK isn't actually that bad afterallI spent weeks bad mouthing the UK and going on about how much more amazing it would be when we got to Spain. I was pretty arrogant if I’m honest.

What I learnt after moving was that every place has its good and bad points. I had been focusing purely on the negatives of the UK and the positives of Spain. In reality, both were great, and both were annoying.

Some of the things a gained a new appreciation for in the UK were as follows:

– the ease of buying and selling cars
– the NHS
– country pubs
– the ability to sort most government related things over the internet
– the green rolling hills in the countryside
– chip shops

This may sound like an odd list but it’s the little things that you miss when you leave.

To flip this on its head though, I still miss a ton of stuff from living in Spain. Obviously we miss the weather (just the reliability of it) and the ability to do more outdoor stuff. Being five minutes from the breach was amazing and having a communal pool outside the back garden was pretty cool too. My wife and I both miss a bit of the independence and adventure but I’m sure we’ll find that again.

I’m good at handling high pressured situations

This relates mostly to the position we found ourselves in when we decided to call it a day and move back to the UK. I found that although I was hugely stressed, I coped pretty well and got on with what needed to be done.

I’ve always thought there were two types of people in the world – victims that get consumed by negativity, and fighters who take responsibility for a bad situation and focus on the solutions. I proved to myself during this time that I was a fighter, not a victim.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying that I found the situation easy. It was one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to go through in my life (and for my wife and daughter too). I just chose to focus on solutions rather than problems.

I love being near the beach/sea

My wife and I had talked about our ideal house before moving abroad and being near the beach/sea had come up a few times. After moving to Spain and being so close to the sea we realised that it was definitely something we both really wanted to do, regardless of the country we were in.

It’s great as we can now plan and make decisions for the future based on a goal that we both feel passionately about. Unfortunately at the moment we’re over an hour from the nearest beach but we’re working on a five year strategy…

I like convenience

It’s a simple one, but I realised that I love things that are convenient. I love knowing where things are, how to get things sorted, who to speak to about challenges, the cost of things and anything else you have to address in your day to day life. If you’re moving to a foreign country (particularly one with another language) then you will definitely lose a fair amount of convenience, at least for a while. It’s not something you can’t rebuild but it will take time.

If I relocate again I’ll definitely focus some time on all the things I do on a day to day basis. For example, what do we buy regularly, what are our hobbies, what sort of official procedures are we likely to be subject to (car servicing/tax, registration, passports etc)? I’d then put together some resources on these areas to make sure I was ahead of the game before actually moving abroad.

Everyone is different and some people will find it easier to get around a lot of the inconveniences than others. It will also depend on your situation and set up so it’s worth considering how it might impact you and then plan for it.

I’ve covered a bit of this in my post Supporting your partner when you move abroad where I’ve made some suggestions on how you can create your own plan.

I would move abroad again in the future with more planning

Some people say that you can plan too much and it can stop you from doing things. I agree with this to some extent but my experience of moving to Spain made me realised I could have done more to be prepared. And if I had done more to be prepared, we could have avoided some of the challenges that we faced.

I’m not suggesting you need to know every tiny bit of detail before taking the plunge. I’m just recommending that you have a really good think about things that could impact you and make sure you know exactly what could happen in those areas and what you would do about it.

Most people agree that hindsight is a wonderful thing, and it is as long as you learn from your experiences. I had the blinkers on a bit when we were moving abroad and I would definitely try to be more organised and realistic in the future to make sure that I set myself (and my family) the right expectations.

Summary

As I said at the beginning of the post, I’m hugely appreciative of the things I’ve learned during our move to Spain. Even though we had our issues and ended up moving back to the UK I wouldn’t change it for the work as I would miss out on all the great stuff I found out about myself.

If you’re moving abroad then take the opportunity to learn more about yourself. What are your priorities, what makes you tick, where do you want to be etc. Learning is a fantastic thing and to be able to learn about yourself is even better. Be open minded and take it all in as it will ultimately help define a new you.

Give me a shout if you have any questions or anything to add. And as always, drop any comments or other thoughts if you have experiences in the comments below. The more we can share the better.

I also want to add a bit of a caveat to this post around the use of the words ‘learnt’ and ‘learned’. I tried to look up which was right for what but It’s pretty confusing. So apologies if I offend anyone who actually knows the difference. Add a comment if you do so we can all ‘learn’ something.

Best

Al

The Essential Guide To Planning Your Dream Move Abroad - Downloadable eBook
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One Response

  1. Lydia Evdoxiadi
    October 7, 2013

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