I moved from Edmonton, Canada to London, England when I was 22.
I didn’t have a clue what I was getting myself into.
I dreamed of a glamorous life travelling Europe. I imagined hopping on weekend flights to Barcelona or Paris, Instagramming visits to cathedrals, and letting jealous friends crash on my couch when they finally crossed the Atlantic.
And you know what? I did all those things!
I have had an amazing three years living in London, but there are a few things I wish I could tell myself at age 22 before I made that first long-haul flight into Gatwick.
Travel won’t make you happy.
I’ve never expected travel to be a magic bullet. I was very happy before moving to London. I already knew that travel wouldn’t solve my problems. But I expected moving to London to add to my already full, already exciting, already wonderful life.
It did, but not in the ways I expected.
Moving overseas didn’t make me happy; instead, it forced me to grow as a person. It put me in situations that forced me to problem solve independently and figure out what I really wanted to prioritize, which was healthy and good for me. But it didn’t create extra happiness.
Change is really, really hard.
Because I had moved away from home to go to university, I thought I would be prepared for starting over again—I thought the biggest hurdle would be the “overseas” part of the equation.
Instead, I realized that all change is difficult—even predictable change.
It wasn’t the foreign accents or the confusion over when to cross the street that made me consider going home those first few weeks. It was the same predictable difficulties that all transitions include: loneliness, insecurities, and wondering why I was there.
If I could go back and give myself advice, I wouldn’t give advice on the best travel destinations; I would give advice on the best places to make new friends. Moving overseas has taught me the key to navigating change is people and it’s important for some of those people to be in the same country as you.
After a few months in England, I had written a novel with a group of strangers, learned to juggle, and taken up ballet. If I had started those activities as soon as I arrived, the first few weeks would have been a lot less lonely and my transition might have been a lot easier.
You will become a different person.
I won’t be the first person on the Internet to say that travel changes you. But what I didn’t expect is that travel also changes what you want.
When I was 22, I wanted to move to England for six months or a year, explore Europe, and go home.
Now, I’m 25. I want to get a master’s degree and put down roots in London with my husband.
Planning to live abroad means planning to change your plans. What you want at the beginning of your adventure might not be what you want at the end of it—and this can be a shock to friends and family and a bigger shock to you. It’s also completely okay.
So if you’re like me three years ago, planning to travel or live overseas, just remember: Your happiness does not depend on your location.
This journey will sometimes be difficult. You will end your journey as a different person with different goals than when you began.
But would I do it again? I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Author: Kirsten Horton
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Social Editor: Callie Rushton