We just hit our 5 year Vancouver milestone last month and it got me thinking about all the moments and achievements that have happened since we moved here.
Every time someone asks how many years we've been in Canada, I still surprise myself that it's been this long. As you probably know, we never anticipated on settling here as much as we have, but I wouldn't change any part of our journey and I'm so happy with how everything has worked out. I think there are certain decisions you make that quite literally change the course of your life. At the time, it never feels like it. It's only in retrospect you realise how that one single decision has opened up a whole new direction and a brand new path for you. That's what moving abroad did for us.
My job, my hobbies, and my life as a whole would look a lot different had we not made the decision to move to Canada. If you're reading this and you're an expat, you'll know what I mean when I say that moving abroad changes you, in the best possible way. It makes you strong, confident, fearless, and if you can successfully manage to uproot your whole life to another country, well, you can pretty much handle any task.
But like anything, there's always two sides to the story. It's something that most people don't talk about because the pros usually outweigh the cons but it's something that every expat inevitably experiences. And that's the sacrifices you make by moving abroad.
Don't get me wrong, I'm so happy here and I actually never thought Matt and I would find a city that's so suited to us as a couple. What makes Vancouver special to us is that it literally combines our personalities and everything we're passionate about and we have as much nature, ocean, mountain and outdoors as we want right on our doorstep. It's the best of both worlds for us. But I'd be lying if I said that there weren't any drawbacks to moving abroad and I always like to keep it as real as possible with you guys on here and on my Instagram and I think it's important to talk about this stuff.
At the end of the day, every decision requires sacrifice. Life is a series of calculations and every single day we make the choice to give up one thing in order to gain another. Sometimes, those choices are minor. And sometimes, the cost is more significant. In the case of moving away, that cost is missing out on friends, family, babies, weddings, and a lot of big important life moments that you just can't be there for.
The comment I get the most is that we're lucky to live in Vancouver and to have a life we truly love. But I think it's more about choice than it is about luck. It's about the decisions we've made and what we've been willing to give up. If you're an expat, perhaps you'll be able to relate to this. I don't want this to be a negative post in any way, but simply a candid insight into the sacrifices you make by moving abroad and why sometimes, you have to make those difficult choices in order to live the life you want.
Family, friends & milestones
One of the main sacrifices you make by moving abroad is your core people - your family and friends. And as we're getting older, the milestones are all starting to hit. The adulting train has officially left the platform and my friends are now getting engaged, getting married, buying houses and will soon start having babies. And it’s really hard to not to be there for all those special moments.
You get to share it over FaceTime, but it's just not the same. I’ve missed out on my friend's weddings which is really heartbreaking and we’ll miss out our neice growing up and those everyday beautiful moments. I'll miss out on hen dos and celebrations and big birthdays, and things I’ve always thought we’d be there for. We are so close with our people back home, which makes it even more tough. And of course, it works both ways. Just as I’m missing out on their milestones, they’re inevitably missing out on mine too.
In an ideal world...
In an absolutely ideal world, I'd hop on a plane and go back to be part of every single milestone and celebration. But, you know how it goes. The practicalities of life, work and your bank balance don't always allow that to happen and you have to make a choice.
I am fortunate that my schedule is flexible so I can go home for longer periods of time. The silver lining of being away is that we get to spend proper quality time with our people when we do go home or they visit us, probably more quality time than if we did live in the same country. But equally, Matt can't take unlimited time off work and a trip back home means we sacrifice a trip elsewhere. And doing what I do, it's a hard decision to make sometimes because it means choosing between an amazing work opportunity that may not come around again, and going home to see our people.
It's about striking a balance, I think. Of course you want to be present for everything back home, but you want to build your own life at the same time. You want to go home for the birthdays and babies and weddings, but equally you've got your own wedding and future to save for.
Inevitably, there are lots of things you have to miss out on, it's something that we've accepted as part of being away and it just comes with the territory. So it's a trade, I suppose. It's a worthy sacrifice, but even so, it's still difficult having to make that choice. I'm willing to do whatever I need to in order to make things work and I honestly hate having to give things up, but sometimes you just have to, and that's a tough pill to swallow!
What about the future?
What sparked this blog post was a conversation Matt and I had the other day. We were talking about what our life will look like when we decide to extend our family and whether we'll have kids in Vancouver or we'll go back to England. Either way, we're gonna have to make a choice and that sacrifice is gonna be a pretty big one.
It's a toss-up between having kids here in Vancouver, where it's beautiful and outdoorsy and we have our careers and it's a great place to raise kids. But we don't have any family around us and they'll miss out on a lot of it. Or, do we have kids in England, where we'll have our people (at least in the same country) to share the experience and they'll be much more present. But the flip side is we'll have to sacrifice this lifestyle that we love and have worked hard to achieve. Our life exists here, in Canada, so we'd have to totally start all over and carve a new life in England.
Truthfully, I have a love-hate relationship with thinking about the future and it stresses me out as much as it excites me. It's a choice between two of the things that are most important to us - our family and our lifestyle - and it's a choice I just don't want to have to make. I wish it was easier for those two worlds to collide.
I know it's not a decision we have to make just yet and I'm fine with going with the flow and trusting we'll figure it out. I think that's all you can do, really. It's easy to feel anxious about big things like this, but I'm sure even if we lived in England we'd feel the same amount of stress, just about something different. We're incredibly fortunate that we have 2 amazing countries to choose from and I don't take that for granted, and I know it's not necessarily a bad position to be in. 5 years ago I would have never predicted we'd be here right now. So how on Earth can I possibly predict where we'll be in 5 years time?
You have to be okay with what you're giving up
At the end of the day, everything has a cost. I'm happy with the choices we've made and the path we've chosen. It feels selfish to say that out loud, because what we've had to sacrifice (i.e. friends and family) is so incredibly important to us. Our lifestyle and our people are the 2 things we value the most in life. But, I guess part of getting older is carving your own path for yourself and making difficult choices. This is part of it.
You have to remember too that you're in complete control. Over your situation, your happiness and your future. This applies whether you're an expat living abroad or not. The sacrifices you make are only worth it when you're happy with what you're gaining. If it ever gets to a point where you're unhappy with your choice, that's when you make a change. My motto has always been that you keep on doing what you're doing until it no longer makes sense. And if it gets to that point, then you reevaluate and make a new plan.
If you're reading this and you're considering moving abroad and perhaps you're anxious about the difficulties that might come with it, don't be. Honestly, it's something you have to just experience. Nothing can prepare you for moving abroad, other than faith in yourself, an open mind and actually just going and doing it. You don't know what the outcome will be, so you have to be okay with going with the flow and not knowing. That's the beauty of it, literally anything is possible! Before we moved, if you'd have asked me whether I could handle living away from family for 5 years, I would have said no. Yet here we are, 5 years later. The thought of doing something is usually much scarier than the reality, and you soon realise how strong you are.
I guess ultimately, it’s about the sacrifice you're willing to make. What are you okay with giving up to get the outcome you want? I've no idea how I'll feel in future, but I'm confident we'll work it out when the time comes. We'll continue until it no longer makes sense, and then we'll create a new path, just like we've done time and time before.
I'd love to hear your thoughts about this if you live abroad. What have you found most difficult about living away? What do you think are the sacrifices you make by moving abroad? Leave me a comment below or drop me a DM on Instagram!