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!
Hi, Alicia I use to follow your blogpost in 2018 are you from Nottingham? I had applied for a IEC in January 2018 however due to work commitments and barriers I didn’t enter within the 1 year I had initially arranged. Fast forward to now I am more financially stable and looking at moving to Canada again it’s always been my dream. I visited the place in September 2017 to see extended family and I fell in love with the place. I initially want to work and see how that works out. I have been doing my research and hoping to come over spring 2021 but I’m currently struggling to look at what’s my best way of coming over and applying. I had considered going though a travel agency but it seems they charge a lot of money and some will say it costs £1800 to apply which is a lot of money. I am sure there are other avenues but I haven’t looked or aware of them yet. If you have any advice that would be much appreciated! X
So beautifully written and so honest. I’ve been in Vancouver for 3 1/2 years with my partner, we moved from the UK and are due our PR anyday now.
We talk a lot about the future and what we plan to do and think we’ll ultimately move back to the UK in another couples of years as the big lifestyle decisions are better for us their (income is higher in our sectors, the chance of buying a home at a decent price, affordable high quality food shopping)!
I’ve travelled a lot throughout my life and it’s never easy to leave what you know but it definitely grows you as a person and shows that you are truly willing to craft a life for yourself. I’ve also found that you will always lose some friends that just don’t put the effort into talking to you (which is no loss), you’re relationship with others seems to grow and you spend real quality time with others when you do go home.
Thank the lord for the internet and connection, I don’t know how people used to do it without facetime….and ultimately you can always choose to move again or go home, the only things we’ve done is give ourselves the luxury of having two beautiful homes.
Thanks so much for your honesty! I felt like I was reading exactly what I am going through! A lot of people expect moving abroad is the greatest thing and everything is perfect. It is not always and I think it is important to speak about it!
Living in Canada has made me appreciate my home (Germany) so much more! Though Canada is beautiful, I feel for myself, Germany will always be my home.
I am looking forward to another blog post 😊
Ahhh Jasmine – thank you for your kind comment and I’m really glad you’ve been able to relate. Soooo many people have said they feel the exact same way, I guess it’s just not talked about a lot! Moving abroad definitely brings a lot of positives, but nothing is one-sided and everything has its negatives. I often don’t like talking about the negatives of moving abroad online, because I don’t want to come across as ungrateful or be seen to be complaining. But there are sacrifices that come with it and you’re right, it’s important to speak up! It definitely makes you appreciate home more (I feel the same way), and we’re fortunate that we have 2 places to call home now aren’t we 🙂 xx
You have published this post at the perfect time for me. My partner and I are at the stage of looking into PR here in Canada which has led me to ask all the same questions you have recently too. Like you, we have come to the conclusion to keep doing what makes us happy until it doesn’t make sense any more. I miss my family a lot and I don’t know what our decisions will be in the future but I trust we’ll figure it out! I have made some incredible friends out here that are my Canadian family which helps so much. I think wherever we live now, a little part of our hearts will be in the other place… It’s so helpful to read you say how fortunate we are to be in this position of having two beautiful countries to choose from!
Thanks for your lovely comment Emily, I’m glad it’s come at the right time! And I think that’s all you can do really isn’t it…just live in the here and the now, and do what’s right for you at the time. No point fretting over things that haven’t happened yet – so much can change in a short period of time! I used to worry so much about things, then everything would just figure itself out and I’d be like “oh…well that worry was a waste of time” haha. I’m glad that you’ve managed to create a life for yourself here and have made lots of good friends, it really makes the world of difference having that network. I don’t know if you’ve seen it already, but I just published my PR guide which outlines the whole process – so perhaps check it out if you need any more info! (https://golivexplore.com/how-to-move-to-canada-permanent-residency/). Few people have 2 amazing countries that they can choose from, so we’re definitely very fortunate, no matter the sacrifices we have to make 🙂 Best of luck girl, thanks for sharing !! xx
Brilliant post and helped me think more about our move to Canada. It’s nice to hear from someone whose made the move already.
Thank you so much Sally. I’m glad it’s helped in some way. Where are you thinking of moving to? Happy to help or answer any questions if I can! xx
Hey Alicia! I’ve followed your blog ever since I decided to apply for a work permit through IEC in December 2018; it’s been an invaluable source of information throughout the entire process- so thank you. I landed in Toronto on 4th February with my partner, and we just signed a lease on Friday for a beautiful apartment in Downtown, it’s such a relief to know that we’ll have a place to call home in the next few days!
This post really resonated with me; although I’ve only been in Canada for a couple of weeks, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I’d be giving up in the months before we flew out. I thought I’d feel ‘ready’ to leave everything behind, but I’ve come to realise that nothing could have prepared me to leave friends and family and not feel a little bit of sadness that I wouldn’t see their faces on a regular basis anymore. It is definitely a sacrifice, but I keep reminding myself how lucky I am to get to live in Canada for two years! Regardless of what happens at the end of those two years, I know that this experience will be life-changing, and I’m excited to see where the next two years take me.
Looking forward to more of your posts!
Hi Chantelle, Ahhh it’s so nice to hear that you’ve been following along for so long. Thank you!! 🙂 Welcome to Canada and CONGRATS on signing the lease!! I can imagine that’s suuuuch a relief, a house is such a big thing to tick off the list and hopefully that’ll help you to feel more at home. Having a nice space to live in is SO important when you live abroad, because it’s the only home you have (it’s not like you can nip home), so it’s great you’ve found a beautiful place!
I’m glad the post resonated with you. I completely agree, it’s hard to imagine not seeing the fam everyday when you’re still at home with everyone and you’re “in” it. It’s funny, when I’m here in Canada, I miss everyone back home but I’m okay with not seeing them all the time because I have my routine and my life and we chat a lot anyway. But then when I go home and I’m with them, I’m like “how can I possibly leave everyone and return to Canada?!? I can’t!!”. But then when I do return, I’m fine again. I guess it’s just what your routine is and what you’re used to, isn’t it. I wish you a wonderful couple of years here, I’m sure it’ll be life-changing in the best possible way. And have fun exploring Toronto and settling in!! 🙂 Thanks for sharing that xx