“Change is hard at first, Messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.” ― Robin S. Sharma
When people begin considering moving to a foreign country, whatever the reason or the predicted length of their endeavor might be, it’s associated with certain emotions. Anxiety, nervousness, excitement. By all means, such a decision is difficult, for both emotional and logistical reasons.
One of the things you’re likely to deal with is expat guilt, that voice inside your head that scrutinizes you for a particular decision. Tells you how selfish you are for having made it, how your time and life could be invested elsewhere in a much more fruitful and “right” way. It can be as small as feeling guilty about taking a break between tasks or as enormous as feeling guilty about leaving your friends and family behind once you decide to move to a new country. That feeling is universal. We tend to doubt and second guess our decisions, especially when they are major and life changing.
A way of dealing with expat guilt lies in realizing a simple fact and letting it sink into your core: You will never please everyone. You’d be wasting your life if you tried. It is virtually impossible to tailor every single choice you make in life to the wishes and expectations of all the people you care about. Your job, your choice of partner, where you decide to live and so on, are yours to make. People who genuinely care about your wellbeing will prioritize your happiness over their expectations and will stand by you through it.
It also helps to have realistic expectations. No matter how supportive your loved ones are, they will miss you, and you them. In a way that’s a price to pay for caring deeply about someone, they matter to the point of pain sometimes. Still, maintaining meaningful relationships and communicating regularly despite the distance is possible, more so in the current age of technology where your loved ones are a text or a phone call away from hearing your day and life. It’s not the same, but it’s a new medium of being a part of each other’s lives that you get to explore.
Visitations are always a great component, which of course depends on how much and how often either party can afford it. Planning shared vacations is a great way of sharing experiences and getting to bond over the holidays.
If I have learned anything from being in a long distance relationship, and maintaining contact with my friends and family once I moved abroad to live with my significant other, it’s that being physically away from each other should never feel like a pause in the relationship. It shouldn’t feel like you’re waiting to have that connection once you’re reunited, you need to maintain it constantly. It takes effort. But everything worthwhile does.
For anyone reading this, who’s considering or has already decided to take this step, to explore a new way of life in at a new destination, I commend you. And I’d like to assure you it’s worthwhile. No matter the long term outcome you get to learn a lot about yourself and the world from the experience, which for me personally has been truly invaluable. Despite hard times, it gets better. You learn not to feel guilty anymore, that feeling gets transformed into a deep appreciation of the people who stayed in your life through the transition. And the joy of creating new relationships and experiences.
Who knows? You may just wake up one day to a new beautiful life you have created.