Moving Abroad: What Makes a Country ‘Home’?

Moving abroad.
I read this the other day…

“One fine day, it will be your turn. You will leave homes, cities and countries to pursue grander ambitions. You will leave friends, lovers and possibilities for the chance to roam the world and make deeper connections. You will defy your fear of change, hold your head high and do what you once thought was unthinkable: Walk away. And it will be scary. At first. But what I hope you’ll find in the end is that in leaving, you don’t just find love, adventure or freedom. More than anything, you find you.”

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. How brave are expatriates? To leave everything you know and love behind and start your life again in a foreign place is immensely courageous and inspiring.
The more I think about it, the more respect I have for myself for taking the expat plunge and moving abroad to Canada.

I will be flying to the UK in 2 weeks and will be ‘home’ for the first time since moving abroad a year ago… And I’m really intrigued to see what feelings are stirred up inside me.

How do I feel about my new Canadian home vs. England my native country?

This year has flown by with such a force I can barely gather my thoughts together on all that I have accomplished and experienced. My boyfriend and I bought a derelict house by a lake and renovated it into a beautiful home to live in together. I found a job in my field that I really enjoy. I got my first car. I’ve made some friends that I know will be in my life for a long time to come. I’ve experienced -20 and +40 degrees in the space of only a few months. I’ve gasped out-loud at the beautiful lakes and sunsets of a country with breathtaking nature.

But adventure aside, what do I feel when I think about my home country?

Of course, when you move your whole life abroad, there are bound to be struggles and many moments of regret. I have felt on multiple occasions deeply unhappy about being different. Something that I never ever expected would be an issue for me! The whole experience of moving to a new country has given me such a profound understanding of my personality; how I’m sensitive to what people think of me, how I like to fit in, how I worry about being liked… And more generally, I just miss the ‘safe’ feeling of knowing that everyone around me is the same as me!

My accent and where I’m from is an instant topic of conversation for everyone that meets me. I am met with strange stares when saying something in a different way, or laughter when my words are mistaken for others. My traditions and beliefs are the minority. The weather, the food on the shelves, street signs, jokes, housing, sports; the feeling of familiarity has gone. And this is a Western country so KUDOS to you brave expats living through a complete culture shock!
The experience of being foreign long-term is eye-opening.

As I reflect over the past year, I am very grateful to myself that I made this move. I have learnt a lot about who I am and have grown so much as a person; in confidence, maturity and self-awareness. But not only this, what ‘home’ means to me has been completely reshaped.
Despite my worries and occasional homesickness, Canada now has a hold on me that I think will be incredibly difficult to shake.

Your home country is where your family is. The people you love most in the entire world. Your memories and the people that helped make you who you are today are all located there in that one magical place. The sense of safeness and knowing what to expect is there. It’s all you’ve ever known. And even if you’ve gone backpacking or travelled the world, you always knew that your home country was there waiting for you and that you’d eventually end up returning. I know that England will always always be there for me.

Canada came crashing into my life as quickly as the boy who brought me here. Unexpectedly showing me that I can feel the same love and sense of home in more than one place in this world. That you can find another place to ‘belong’.

Without yet leaving Canada, I already know that I will instantly miss it. It is a weird and unexplainable feeling… Canada feels like home to me.
I have completely embraced the Canadian free-spirited, energetic, nature-filled, family-oriented way of life and find myself content picturing many many more years here to come. It’s easy. It’s natural. I’m happy.
Not only this, putting myself through this and learning so deeply about who I am is bound to result in having a real bond with the place that made it all happen!

I believe that a place can become anything you decide it to be. If you enter into expat life with regret, sadness and negativity, it will become just that. I have thrown myself into every opportunity and new connection I could find in the quest to build a new successful life – And my efforts have repaid me with a life that I can be proud of. England will always be where my roots are and I will never stop going back. But now I can look back on my life when I’m old and know that I lived outside of my comfort zone, learnt the very depths of who I am and embraced another part of this world with as much love as if it was my origin.

If you’re planning on moving abroad, be prepared to find that you can belong absolutely anywhere. You’ve just got to open up your mind to the possibility of it. It will change everything.

Let us know how ‘Home’ has changed for you.

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  • Reply
    March 22, 2018 at 6:53 pm

    Well done, great job. Look forward to reading all of the contents.

  • Reply
    March 23, 2018 at 11:25 am

    What a great post! I’m a homebody, I love to travel but never for more than a week or so! I really want to explore and travel for long periods of time but the thought of leaving my little corner of the world scares me. This was such a wonderful read and makes me think of what I’m missing out there!

    • Reply
      Kate @ The Home Wanderers
      March 27, 2018 at 12:00 pm

      Hi Katie! I felt EXACTLY the same… I ended up just going for it and it was the best thing I have ever ever done. I never thought I was confident enough or could be away from home but here I am and I’m so happy I took the plunge 🙂 You should do it xoxo

  • Reply
    March 23, 2018 at 11:58 am

    I moved from Kenya to Belgium 15 years ago, and to be honest, the first 3 years were a struggle and constant debate whether I’d ever feel at home and if the move was the right decision. 15 years down the line, I am raising 2 children and Belgium has become home. I still got back to Kenya once a year as my whole family is there, but I find myself more rooted here now. Great post Kate xx

    • Reply
      Kate @ The Home Wanderers
      March 27, 2018 at 12:02 pm

      Wow I love hearing people’s stories! Thanks so much for sharing – How long is the flight for you to go back to Kenya? Do you remember when you finally felt more rooted and at home? Was it one particular event or experience that made you feel more settled? I’m only 1 year in living in Canada and feel like I have a little way to go still 🙂 xoxo

  • Reply
    Shoma Arora
    March 23, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    Home will always be where I grew up but when I have stayed away for a long period of time I just called it my secondary home. Home is where the heart is.

  • Reply
    March 23, 2018 at 4:15 pm

    So glad that I found that I found this blog! I’m a British expat too (living in Iceland). I completely relate to the feeling of unfamiliarity but also the new ‘home’ feeling and it’s strange.
    Looking forward to reading more!

    • Reply
      Kate @ The Home Wanderers
      March 27, 2018 at 12:06 pm

      Hi Lauren! SO nice to meet you (wish you were in Canada and not Iceland so I could have a British partner in crime…) Glad to hear I’m not the only one feeling strange about it all. Iceland must be so beautiful, what made you move there?

  • Reply
    Lingue e Viaggi
    March 23, 2018 at 5:28 pm

    This post help me so much, I always wanted to move abroad after I’ll finish my studies but I was worried about how it could be, how I could live in a place far from my own country without nothing familiar to me. This post cleared some doubts and fears so thank you to share it.

    • Reply
      Kate @ The Home Wanderers
      March 27, 2018 at 12:08 pm

      Thanks so much Lingue – I am SO glad you found the post helpful. I’ve found it so therapeutic to write down my feelings about the whole experience. It’s definitely a roller coaster of emotions! You should definitely do it though. You can always go back to your home country and the lessons you learn when you become an expat are so priceless. Let me know if you choose Canada! xoxo

  • Reply
    March 24, 2018 at 9:22 am

    This is SO interesting!! I am an expat too, and moved to Canada two years ago from South Africa! It was a HUGE adjustment for me, but also, I’ve come to love Canada as my new home! It’s actually really hard for me to visit SA now because that place now feels strange to me! Reverse shock culture is real!!

    • Reply
      Kate @ The Home Wanderers
      March 27, 2018 at 12:11 pm

      YAY Leigh! Another expat living in Canada! Where abouts are you? Why did you move here? I can imagine the weather was particularly challenging for you….!! South Africa has been on my travel list for yeeears. Haha I LOVE ‘reverse culture shock’, I might start using that one! I totally agree it’s like nothing ever changes at all back home and so much has changed for us living our new foreign lives. No regrets!

  • Reply
    Patricia-Ann Que
    March 24, 2018 at 4:11 pm

    i have moved over five different countries and i must say i can easily call each a home. every place creates new memories and bring new friends! and my most recent move is actually Canada too in Ottawa and i must say it is an easy country to ease in!

    • Reply
      Kate @ The Home Wanderers
      March 27, 2018 at 12:13 pm

      Wow, 5 homes, lucky you! I will have to start growing my list… I haven’t visited Ottawa yet, I might actually venture that way this Summer. Do you have any recommendations for things to do there?

  • Reply
    Kinsley Allton
    July 1, 2020 at 6:13 am

    Thank you for your post. The great thing about moving home country and the changing definition of home is that you feel integrated in more parts of the world. Being a citizen of the world has excellent benefits: from improving work prospects, to having friends across the globe.

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