Moving overseas is an exciting and rewarding experience – but also challenging (which is what makes it so rewarding!). I’ve moved internationally a bunch of times and am in the process of moving to my fourth continent right now.
So, what are the key things to do, to ensure the move is a success?
(1) Get comfortable
What makes you feel at home? Your books lining the shelves, favorite figurines on the nightstand, plants on the balcony… Go to lengths to personalize your new place, so it feels welcoming every time you get home.
I like to have a few pieces I’ve collected travelling on shelves, lots of photos on the wall and my Mexican glasses in the kitchen cupboards. I also play my favorite music and burn yummy incense to heighten that ‘I’m home’ vibe.
(2) Make life as easy as possible
There’s no fun in relocating if you can’t take advantage of your new surrounds because you’re isolated, or spending all your time on the subway. If you’re moving somewhere off the beaten track, get a car so you can get around. If you are relocating to a busy city, ensure you choose a place to live that minimizes your commute time.
Getting a car when I lived in Morocco was a total game changer as it freed me to come and go as I please, rather than relying on sketchy public transport or begging lifts from friends. It gave me the freedom to explore the country and connect with its culture (especially when I had car trouble in remote locations!).
(3) Keep up with your hobbies
Love to run, knit, do yoga, cook up a feast? Just because you’ve moved doesn’t mean you should shelve your pastimes. In fact, these can be more important than ever as they reinforce a sense of stability and self, when moving countries can be a pretty unsettling process.
Find a new running route, join a gym that’s easy to get to, bring your knitting needles and yoga mat and set aside some time to make sure you connect with things you love to do and make. I’m big on running wherever I am and always travel with my yoga mat to incentivize joining a class or two.
(4) Make an effort to be social
Especially if you’re relocating for a busy job, or moving to a big city where you don’t know a soul, this can be a tough one. After college years, it can be hard to make new friends as adults. It takes effort, and time. But in order to truly put roots down, it’s really important to find your community in your new location, so put yourself out there.
In Portugal, I became good friends with a colleague and a bunch of her friends by inviting myself to one of her game nights. I also met people through yoga and surfing. There are apps you can use to connect with people socially (like, really, socially, not just Tinder) and all kinds of clubs to meet people with common interests.
(5) Learn about your new home – politics, current affairs, cool stuff to do
If you’re only ever reading stuff about what’s going on ‘at home’, you’ll never really connect with a new place. Make an effort to get out and explore on weekends, perhaps peruse the headlines of the local paper, ask local friends about their lives growing up there.
Discussing Dutch politics and history, and learning about weird idiosyncrasies of the Dutch language from friends, gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of their culture, which ultimately became my culture too when I got my Dutch passport!
(6) Be patient
Above all, be patient. When you’ve lived somewhere for 25 years, surrounded by family and friends who know you through and through, it can be daunting to suddenly find yourself somewhere where you know no one. Some of the loneliest moments of my life were walking through London, an enormous city, feeling total solitude.
But everything, even those painful moments, were so worth it. Living overseas has given me more than I can name or measure and I’m grateful for every last drop.
If you’re moving overseas yourself – or thinking about it! – and want some advice, just shout. Or if you’ve moved o/s and have more tips, let me know!