I can’t help it. The more the clock ticks, the more I am thinking about home. I feel like I’ve already mentally checked out of Toronto – maybe I never really checked in. But either way, the exciting part of our expat adventure has come to an end, there are no more ‘exploring Canada’ trips planned. And the next flight in the calendar is our one-way-ticket to Heathrow.
I find it difficult to be entirely honest about our experiences in Toronto. Mainly because I don’t want to come across too negative. I meet a lot of expats here, sometimes just in passing, others I get to know better. The first question is always asked with a little sparkle in their eye: “Do you like it here?”. I always give the same half shrugged answer… ‘well, yes… its ok… it’s a bit big for me… and I miss home.” It makes me squirm. But it’s their own answer to the same question which really causes the anxiety bubbles to ripple. “Yes, I love it! I’m applying for permanent residency, aren’t you?”
My friend from the UK is an air hostess, over the past year she’s worked on a few flights between London and Toronto, which resulted in a few, highly appreciated, catch-ups. I put the question to her – am I doing something wrong? Why does everyone love it here except for me?
And she said, you’re comparing yourself to people who are in different times of their life – either moving here for the long run to settle down, or young people who made the move by themselves – who see a year or two living abroad a little bit like a gap year, or living in halls at University.
And she’s right. I’ve been too hard on myself. When I look back, we’ve had some absolutely amazing experiences in Canada – and I love Canada, but something about life here didn’t work out for me. It could be it wasn’t the right city, or the right time, or maybe I’m just way more of a home-bird than I realised before. I need to realise part of inner strength is having a go, but being able to admit when everything isn’t all rosy and dandy. I can admit it was harder than I expected.
I don’t regret moving to Toronto. I have seen so many great places, learnt lots about myself and it has given me the determination to work hard for the things I want when I get home. Some of the ‘lessons’ I will take away with me are:
- Travel more
When I get home, I really want to make more of the generous holiday allowance and long weekends by fitting in trips around the UK and Europe. We managed to squish a lot into weekends in Canada, so in theory it should be easier back home as everything is much closer together!
- Get involved in the Community
I really struggle with the lack of a ‘sense of community’ in the area I live here. I should say this may be specific to this neighbour and doesn’t necessarily apply to the whole of Toronto – although it could also be a symptom of ‘big city syndrome’. I find it weird that I still don’t know the names of the people living on either side of me… that when we popped next door to introduce ourselves we were greeted with a look of horror… that when the apartment above ours shower was leaking into our apartment and I rang the bell to let them know, they as good as slammed the door in my face. It is preferable here to email the management office, who sets off a chain of emails back and forth until resolution is found.
But this has taught me I find community important – and I would like to make more of an effort to get to know local groups and my neighbours when I get home.
- Keep Writing
Toronto gave me the push I needed to get writing again. It started with this blog, and since 2017, when I joined a creative writing course, my novel. I’m almost at the end of my first draft now (although a lot of work will be needed to take it from first to second). It feels great to be able to complete something I’ve wanted to do, for forever, whilst overseas.
I’ve realised how important true, genuine friendships are to me, and how much I need them in my life. Quality over quantity certainly holds true.
I’m excited to get back to the UK, get involved with clubs and hobbies to meet more like-minded people, – whilst being just a short train ride away from childhood, lifelong friends.
Have you ever lived abroad? Are you still there or did you decide to move home? I’d love to hear your experiences.