The struggle is real. How many times have you said that today? This week? This Month? You get the idea, its a phrase that pretty much everyone has uttered because of a late night/early morning. Because of their job, their partner, or just because. And I’m no different. Its a phrase that seems all too fitting for this past year. As I sit here writing this post feeling ridiculously pensive over the last year I dont even really know where to start, so be warned this post might end up being a bit of a jumble.
12 months ago today I set foot in England for the first time. I was leaving behind a less than satisfactory 2 years in Vancouver. I had just left a job that was my only reason for staying in that city for as long as I did, and I was in desperate need of a change. I had spent nearly 2 years trying to figure out what my next step was going to be after leaving New Zealand (unwillingly), and nothing sounded near as good. I was at a crossroads, would I stay where I was being unhappy or would I try somewhere new and risk that the feeling I had was not just about the city I was in. Faced with this fork in the road, I went back and forth probably a hundred times, talked to everyone I could, and ultimately caused my brain to explode. So I took a break from thinking, and then one day I decided to just go for it! I was going to apply for my UK Visa - a process that was so much more in depth than the visas I had previously applied for (Australia & New Zealand) if you want to know exactly how then check out my post on How to Get A Working Holiday Visa. Once everything was filled out and off to the UK consulate it was a waiting game of nearly 3 weeks before my approval came back, and then it was a matter of packing up my life (for the umpteeth time), telling my job I would be leaving (tearfully), and making plans to head across the pond.
(My first snap from Brighton)
I had no idea what to expect when I booked my flight to leave in just 3 short months, sure I had friends I’d met travelling who lived in the UK, and even friends who had lived there previously. But as per usual this was a country that I had never visited before, and to be completely honest, never truly felt pulled to visit either. I just knew that being so close to Europe would mean taking advantage of the inexpensive flights/trains/buses and seeing more countries than my little heart could imagine. I stepped foot off the plane into London Gatwick Airport a year ago today, and I still don’t really know what I should have expected. If you’ve been following me through my time here you’ll know that it really has been a struggle, more so than any other country or city in Canada (my home country) I’ve moved to. I had zero expectations, in the hopes that I would be pleasantly surprised, and while that’s been the case a lot of the time, there have been just as many time’s I’ve been left wondering - did I make the right choice? You all know that I do my best to be honest and open about what I’m doing and what I’ve been going through and that isn’t about to change now. The last year I’ve spent in England has tested me more than I ever imagined possible, enough to make me say to a friend just the other day that I feel as if this first year of my 2 year visa has been a trial run. Writing this all out is making me truly realize just how difficult living abroad can be, and how grateful I am to have had the opportunities and outcomes I’ve had previously. But it also makes it so much harder to have struggled for the last 7 months and still not feel like things have settled down.
Without going into too many depressing details, back in December my life sort of imploded with the loss of a job I really put everything I had into. It was the holidays, and the English weather was not being kind to my sun seeking soul, there was a lack of funds, and a lack of inspiration, and all around just a lack of everything. I tried to make my life in Brighton come back together, but I knew it was time to start looking elsewhere for jobs. After a little research, and a refreshing and much needed trip to Wales for Christmas,I had decided to move to Bristol which is where I’ve been based since January. After arriving I felt good about my decision, and it was then that the universe seemed to say “oh yeah? Not for long”. Job hunting in your own city or country is soul crushing enough, but when your life in a country depends on you finding a job it all seems to feel as if the weight of the world is on your shoulders. I was spending every hour of every day working on my resume, applying for jobs, sending messages to companies who didn’t have any open positions to just get on their radars. Using every social media channel I had to give me some sort of a break - but all it seemed to do was break me. The weather + the joblessness + the lack of funds or a support system really left me reeling, and I knew that in a short time I would need to decide if staying in England was a better idea than going home to Montreal. I have never ever considered leaving a country early while I’ve been on a Visa; and I’m still slightly dumbfounded that I was in that position where I considered going home, but I guess thats what 4 months being unemployed without a severance or unemployment benefit makes a person do. I get that there are people out there who have been unemployed for far longer than me, so this is not some shout out for sympathy or a woe is me post I’m just telling you what I was going through. Cue some sort of angelic music but just when I was ready to call it quits a job came through, so here I am 2.5 months into and savouring every penny even if I still find myself struggling at the end of the month. I don’t regret making the move to Bristol earlier this year though, no matter the awful situation I was in as a whole I was better off here than I ever was in Brighton. There is a massive (in my opinion) community of creatives here and have been lucky enough to have connected with them almost immediately when I arrived + thanks to the power of social media & the love of travel one of my favourite human beings is here (well she will be soon after her visa drama is sorted). This isn’t a word of warning kind of post nor should it scare you if you’re set on moving to the UK on a visa. Like I said previously and have said on many occasions on all my platforms, I’m honest (brutally so at times) and I pride myself on being that way. I share my mountain top highs with you, and love sharing your moments with you. But in that same way I’ve become more used to sharing the lows, and even if I may not share in great detail the bond I’ve been able to form with people over sharing those lows is something special. To know you aren the only one who has felt that way or been in that position, thats something that can really make a world of difference to some, myself included.
(Christmas in Wales)
One year ago I set off on an adventure. I’ve been to countless cities/towns in The UK & half a dozen countries so far in Europe. And to me that’s not enough, I’m definitely guilty of being sucked into the comparison black hole that has me seeing other people living in England and how many places they’ve been to and feeling absolutely inadequate for my measly travel history. I’ve never been a country counter, but I definitely had imagined seeing more of this country & so many others in the last 12 months, so I feel disappointed that that isn’t the case. I am grateful for those I have visited, and cherish every single moment of those trips 100%, but am definitely more aware of how much there is to see and wanting to see it all. I’m doing my best to curb that comparison monster, and remind myself that everyones experiences living abroad are different, so as to appreciate the places I have been that much more. It’s still a definitely work in progress though. My passion for travel is one of the few constants that has remained through the last year and if anything it has grown stronger with each obstacle I’ve been faced with. Talking to a fellow Canadian in the middle of the spiral that was unemployment we both were feeling the same way when she said to me “But this is what we sign up for when we move abroad” and shit she was right. While no one ever signs up to struggle, the fact of the matter is that every single person who has ever moved away from home, to a new country or even a new state/province had to envision the potential risk that comes with that. The “What if it doesn’t work out” thought that creeps in. And it’s true, having lived abroad on 3 separate occasions & in multiple different Canadian cities in the last 8 years nothing rings Truer than that statement. It is what we sign up for, because no adventure comes without roadblocks of some kind. Have you ever missed your flight? Or had a bad hostel experience? Maybe a car accident on a road trip or your plans totally falling through because of awful weather? Have they made you stop travelling? Hopefully the answer is “No Laura, they havent". Just because I’ve struggled hard this past year and questioned all my decisions about coming here it doesn’t mean I’ve stopped wanting to live abroad. I have 1 more year on this visa and although my love of England has left a lot to be desired, I’m determined to have year 2 be better than the 1st. And while I have no freakin clue how exactly I’m going to do that or how that will all play out, I’m going with it.
I’m sorry if my words have left some of you feeling down, that was not my intention, and all these thoughts and feelings are of my own experience. I’ve talked to countless people who live here from overseas or who have in the past and have had had totally different experiences, the complete opposite to me. So please please please don’t let my experience here dictate your decisions. If you truly are excited and have dreamt of living in England then go for it because the things I have been able to see have blown my mind. Because the places that exist here are so much more than London and grey skies (because thats how most of us hear about what England is like). There is so much to see and so much incredible landscape to go around, so while my lifestyle expectations have been a struggle, my travel expectations have been blown way out of the water. And if anyone else out there in any country is struggling then know it’s not just you. There are so many people who are and who have, not everything you see on socials gives you an exact on how a person feels about a place. So there it is, the messy and struggle that was the last year, lets see how year numero deux kicks off!