In 2019, I moved from sunny Lisbon to the city of the canals, Amsterdam. It’s been almost two years now and, since then, my life has taken a huge leap and I have learned so much that it’s hard to put it into words.
Psst: if you’d like to learn more about my move to Amsterdam, check out my “One Year Living in the Netherlands – a Retrospective” post.
The whole experience of leaving the bird’s nest, to go into an exciting, unknown world made me more sensible, especially about life and myself. I wouldn’t say that it made me wiser – unless of course you’re talking about making a grocery list and trying to not buy needless extra things just because they’re 10% off – but it brought me real key learnings.
Now, I know more not only about life in general, but also about myself. I mean, I thought I had known me pretty well by 24, but this experience unravelled some personality traits and capabilities that I had never been in touch with.
A life changing experience, huh?
So, let’s dive right in into the 7 things I learned about life and myself after moving abroad:
1. It’s ok to lose control of things
Especially when your life is making a 360º change, it is completely normal that not everything will go as planned. In fact, it’s more likely that things will take a completely different course of action than what you actually planned for.
I’m an extremely controlling person (yep, Capricorn). Not having everything planned stresses me out. I used to have a backup plan for everything and that was the only way I was able to sleep at night.
Of course, after moving abroad, I suffered a lot with this at the start of my journey. My anxiety levels skyrocketed when only around 50% of things were going as planned and I was in an unknown city, far away from my family and friends. Then, more than ever, I had the need to be in control.
One day, a friend sent me this picture:
It is so simple, yet so incredibly effective. I knew that I couldn’t live like this and that not everything in life had to go as planned; so now I always use this thought process whenever I start worrying about something. Surprisingly, it has been working pretty well for me.
Moving abroad allowed me to be under so much stress in the beginning, that I learned to let go of control and just trust the process.
2. Genuinely caring about others and keeping contact is the key for long lasting friendships
One of my biggest fears about moving abroad was losing my friends. I know – scary, right? I’m very attached to my friends and I was more than determined to keep the friendships going.
At first, I really didn’t know how to deal with the situation. Seeing my friends get together every weekend, partying, going on beach walks and having dinner together triggered a very strong FOMO feeling in me. Sure, I had just moved to a new city and was having a great time, but I didn’t have a single friend here.
(Well, only André, but a girl also needs some deep conversations with another girl with a glass of wine)
In the past year living here, I did my best to keep contact with my friends. I talk to them every day on WhatsApp or Instagram. We make plans for when I go to Portugal. And I often reach out to friends who I don’t have daily contact with – just to check-in on them and keep the conversation going. I’m genuinely interested in knowing how they’re doing and being updated about their lives.
I’ve felt this greatly helped me keep my friendships, which I’m so grateful about.
3. Living in the present moment is life-changing
I’ve always been a day dreamer. My mind feeds itself of plans for the future and that used to be what kept me going on a daily basis. Waking up and having a plan to look forward to – be it a trip somewhere or just a dinner with friends – made me happy.
Moving abroad made my life feel so much faster. The clock is ticking every day, and the year we spent in lockdown didn’t help either. I realized that having my mind constantly focused on the future made me miss out on the present moment.
Meditation really helped me focus on the present moment, instead of being on my head, lost in thoughts, all the time. And believe me, it really is life-changing. Life is unfolding in front of our eyes and it is beautiful. We are missing out on it if we’re constantly lost in our thoughts.
Being present has allowed me to appreciate the little things, be kinder and less stressed.
4. Patience is key, and I mean that for everything
Moving abroad has taught me how important patience is. It’s still a work in progress. I’ve managed to be very patient with myself and with life (living in the present moment also helped with this), but sometimes I just lose my mind (well, no one’s perfect, right?).
I used to want things immediately and the waiting game wasn’t really my thing. However, when I came here, I realized I couldn’t have what I wanted immediately, all the time. That would be, for example, finding the right house or reaching a savings goal as fast as possible. I had to learn to be more patient and just trust the process.
Of course, sometimes, I just get really fucking tired of waiting and have brief moments of despair where I complain about everything and just want to find easy and quick fixes. But I’ve learned that’s not the way to go, so, just like a millennial human, I have a glass of wine and sleep on it.
Moving in together with André was also a huge patience test I had to go through. And please don’t tell me that you don’t have to be patient to be with your S.O. – I’m tired of that “our life together is perfect and we never fight” bullshit.
When you move in with someone you love, your patience is put into test, but it is ultimately the ingredient to a relatively harmonious life as a couple. We really worked on that for the past year, but maybe that’s a topic for another post!
5. Not everyone will understand me or agree with me, and that’s ok
If you’ve moved abroad, then it’s very likely that you grew out of your old habits, got new ones and even changed your personality a bit. It’s normal that we’re extremely influenced and molded by our lives experiences and places we live in.
This means that often old friends won’t understand you anymore – and you probably won’t understand them, although you know where they’re coming from. This is no biggie – it’s only part of growing up and evolving as individuals.
The thing that I learned to accept after moving abroad is that it’s ok if my old friends don’t understand me 100%, as long as they respect and support my decisions (and vice-versa). That’s the beauty of friendships – you support and love one another even with your differences.
6. Fuck what other people think and be happy
This one comes in line with accepting that not all of your friends will agree with you, except the story can be a bit different for people who are only acquaintances, followers or just random people.
The truth is that I’ve always been a people pleaser but, since moving here, I’ve started realizing that I’ll never be truly happy if I’m constantly caring about what other people think. I’m not sure if this has to do with age (I guess the older you get, the less you care), but I’m much happier when I’m able to set myself apart from these thoughts.
I guess moving abroad also helped with this because I was starting from zero – no one knew me, and I could be whoever I wanted. Still, this is a work in progress, but my thought process is the following:
“If I’m not harming anyone, then I should do whatever I want, be happy and not care about what other people think”
7. There’s nothing like coming home
It doesn’t matter how much you and your life change – the feeling of coming home will always be inexplicably heart warming.
I’m fortunate enough that I’m only a 3 hour flight away from home. Still, despite how happy I am with my life here, whenever I go there, I feel complete. As soon as I get out of the airport, I feel the warm smell of my city, the comfort of my mother’s hug, the sea breeze on my face and see the tanned and cheerful people exercising at the beach.
Before moving here, I didn’t know how much going home would mean for me everytime. I would even say that moving here allowed me to strengthen my roots and be more aware of who I am, where I come from and how that deeply affects me.
I love living here, but coming home reminds me of who I truly am and even recharges me.
This is it! The 7 lessons I learned about life after moving abroad. It’s only been one and half years and, to be honest, I’m pretty excited about what’s to come. Life is all about learning and evolving – I just think it happens really fast when you face a big change, just like moving abroad.
Tell me your thoughts in the comments!