“If you move abroad, you will always have your feet in two places. You might never be truly happy because from the moment you leave your soul is divided and wherever you are, one part of you will always be calling to the other.”
I think most people who have spent long periods abroad can somewhat relate to this. For myself, it became harder and harder to keep track of what place I should call home after moving around. Even as a child I moved a few times and went to a total of five different schools. So, when people ask me where I grew up and where home is for m
I usually say that I grew up in Gothenburg, Sweden. Which I did. But for people who are at least somewhat familiar with the surroundings of the city always add “Where about in Gothenburg?” And here it goes. Well, I have lived in the suburbs, kind of on the countryside and right in the city center. On top of this, my family has a summerhouse one hour outside the city, where I spent all my summers, so I guess I grew up there part time as well.
I recently decided to go backpacking in South America, between moves and jobs. So right now I do not even have a home. When people I meet throughout my travel ask me “Where do you live?” the right answer would probably be that I don’t live anywhere permanently right now. My home is however packed into boxes, placed in my parent’s basement and at the summerhouse.
In 2014 I moved three hours south of my hometown where I lived for two years, to then move to Dublin, Ireland for one year and to then move back to Malmö again. From the day I moved to Malmö the sentence “I am going home” would mean several things for me. I said it when I was on my way to my apartment from school or work. I also said it when I took the train back to Gothenburg. I said it when I flew from Sweden to Ireland as well as the other way around, and so on.
This is pretty much how my life has been since the first time I moved abroad, back in August 2007. It was my first long period abroad, the first out of several. I went to the U.S, as a high school exchange student and was hooked on the feeling of not living in the country I had known so well. Since then I have lived, studied and/or worked in an additional seven countries. I don’t regret any of the decisions I have made regarding that and I do not wish that I would have stayed in Sweden. Even though, I do sometimes get the feeling of being shattered and broken. Like I will never be whole again. A part of me will always be in another place and wherever I am in the moment, there is always something I will miss about another place.
I do not like using the cliché of saying that moving abroad changes you, but it does. As you close a chapter on one amazing episode of your life and take the second one to appreciate everything it brought you, first then you will realize it did change you. A change in perspectives and attitude, new friends that you will always hold dear, new knowledge, experiences, skills, personal growth, and self-sufficiency. It has taught me to seize every opportunity and moment life throws my way, for they can all be gone in an instant. And when they are gone, there might not be a chance to turn back again.
With this said, you don’t need to move abroad to have this feeling. It can obviously also appear if you move somewhere new within your own country. Everything you do will have to be planned in a different way then what you are used to. More or less, depending on how far away you move of course. There will most likely be less spontaneity regarding meeting new friends then your old ones. There won’t be a dad who comes over with newly caught seafood or makes you a sandwich. No mom to sit on the balcony with or take a glass of red wine with when you have a Friday without any plans. No brother to work out with, watch a movie or go shopping with. And no parents will be there to take care of you when you are sick.
Holidays will never be spontaneous anymore, neither the summer or Christmas breaks. It will all be a jigsaw of scheduling, going back and forward with your partner, family, and friends. As well as flights, trains and bus rides that need to be organized. And you might always have a small fear of missing out of things being far away from home. Wherever home now is. And when you go home, with the thought that you are going to relax and enjoy it, the visit turns out more hectic than planned. Because when you live far away everyone will want to catch up with you and you with them when the chance is given of course. So, you end up eating breakfast with one person, lunch with another and having dinner or drinks with a third. In between that, you might even squeeze in a coffee or two with someone else.
It is a feeling that comes and goes. A feeling of being one person in different places. Of not only belonging to one place. Life gets complicated, but it also gets interesting. So go for it, if you are curious about living somewhere further away, within or outside your own country, then go for it. It gives you so much more than the sacrifices takes.