Things I Learned From Working Abroad

In May this year I was finally off to work abroad. I’d received an IEC working holiday visa just a few weeks before and I felt like this trip was going to give me the freedom I’d been dreaming of my whole life. I’d just quit the job I’d held for 7 years, sold my car and got rid of a lot of my possessions.

After travelling around north and central America for an incredible two months I arrived in Toronto. This was my final destination, the place I would ‘settle down’. But as soon as I got there I felt nothing but stress and sadness. I just put this down to the difficulty of finding a job and home hunting.

Two weeks later I had landed my dream job working with children and found a place to live for the next 6 weeks. I felt beyond lucky and was happy my plan was working out.

Sadly, I soon realised that my employer had lied about my job description and I spent most of my time there alone and bored. Not really that big of a deal… But add to this my 3 hours of daily commuting and the 9 hour shifts for a wage which was barely enough to cover my ridiculously high Toronto rent, I became depressed. I was spending all of my time working or sleeping. I was also living alone and had only one close friend in the city which made it more difficult. I realised I could have been doing all of this at home- but at least there I’d have my friends around me, have more money and have more free time.

Then I began to feel really guilty. I was living the dream. I should’ve been happy. At least I had a job and somewhere to live, right? And I’d only been in Toronto a short time- I needed to give it a chance. So I continued pretending everything was fine and kept reminding myself how many people would love to be living and working abroad.

There was no pretending anymore though when I burst into tears on the streetcar on the way to work one day. I was sick of acting like everything was OK. But as much of a horrible time that I was having, I was too scared to quit work. I only had about £300 in savings left, nowhere to live at the end of the month and it was probable I’d have to go home if I quit. That would be embarrassing after I’d told everyone back home how great of a time I was having. Not to mention the fact I’d have to start from scratch again.

But one day at work I was feeling so depressed that I decided I was quitting no matter what was going to happen. My happiness was more important. I decided I’d rather spend the last of my money having a great time in Canada than continue being miserable just to pay rent. So I left work that night and didn’t return- with only two weeks left on my apartment lease. It was terrifying but also extremely liberating.

I spent the next few weeks exploring all of the places I hadn’t had a chance to see yet. I felt true happiness and freedom, like a weight had been lifted. And I remembered that this freedom was the reason I came to Canada.

I was enjoying myself so much that I decided not to look for another job. I wanted to enjoy this complete and utter freedom whilst I could- even if it was only for a short time. Funnily enough I saw a signpost the next night with a Nelson Mandela quote that read, “There’s no such thing as part-freedom” and I knew I’d made the right decision.

I managed almost four more weeks in Toronto with my last pay check before I decided it was time to book my flight home. I was so scared about what everyone back home would think. That I’d ‘failed’ at my attempt to move abroad.

I soon found that in reality nobody actually cares. Seriously. The people around me only cared that I was happy and it was comforting to know that there was absolutely no judgement.

So now I’m back in Scotland, living at home whilst I save for my next adventure. I’m thankful that I’m able to do this as I know others are not so lucky. I do plan to return to Canada next year and I’m glad that I can be better prepared next time. And I know that if I don’t like a job I don’t have to let it ruin my life, I can simply find another. My trip also inspired me to start looking for a way out of the 9-5 lifestyle which is something that never would’ve happened had I stayed at home. I now feel opened up to a whole world of possibilities and know I’m in full control of my circumstances.

I learned how important it is to be real and honest with yourself and your emotions. Just because you expect things to be done a certain way, doesn’t mean that’s how it’s always going to pan out. Life is unpredictable and everyone handles experiences differently. Emotions are very real and concealing them to trick others into thinking you’re happy is nothing but a disservice to yourself.

I realised that it’s alright to be uncomfortable. And that awful, worst-case scenario you’ve thought of in your head isn’t actually that bad if it becomes reality. From my personal experiences I’ve found that things always work out perfectly even if you can’t see or understand how they possibly could. I’m really excited to see where life takes me next even though I have absolutely no clue what’s going to happen.

And most importantly I learned that happiness should always come first, even if the path to get there defies logic or ‘security’. Because what’s the point in living a life you’re not happy with?

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  1. Beautiful post Chloe. I too quit my job last year to be able to travel more. Even today, I feel scared about what if I fail. But you are right, when you say, nobody cares except for friends and family. It is their support that keeps us going. And eventually if nothing happens, we can be satisfied that we did what made us happy. And that is what is the most important thing 🙂

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