Yesterday was my one year anniversary of being home in Toronto. Since people ask from time-to-time about what made me leave Berlin, it seems appropriate to write about why I gave up my semi-nomadic existence and expat ways.
Why Did I Move Home?
There were a few reasons. My most compelling one was that I missed home. My friends, Toronto itself and the ease of living. I’d grown tired of the constant challenges of expat life. The stress of it had worn me down as had the frustration of always having to rely on others to help me do simple things I could otherwise do myself if I were at home.
Another reason was that I lost my main source of income. Although, I worked as a freelance writer and travelled extensively, I also worked in a less glamorous role as an IT project manager. As an English speaking expat who didn’t speak very much German, I knew it could be a while before I found a new job at the same level. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the financial resources to remain unemployed for very long. The thought of working in a lesser position while I looked for something more reflective of my skills and experience wasn’t something that I wanted to do. I worked hard for my education, build up my career and didn’t want to ruin that.
I’d also grown weary of being a freelancer and not having a steady and dependable income stream. I knew that it would be much easier to find a job in Canada and through my network, I had a full-time job before even leaving Germany.
Finally, there was an unhealthy relationship. Without going into detail, I knew that he wasn’t good for me and I needed to walk away. Of course, I didn’t need to leave Berlin to do this but being so far away geographically certainly made things easier.
Booking Another One Way Ticket.
The day I booked that one-way ticket home, I wept. The day I got into the plane to come home, I looked out the window and cried uncontrollably for about 15 minutes.
I loved Berlin. I also loved Toronto. But more than anything, I needed a break. Coming home was like walking into the warm comforting embrace of an old friend.
Did I Feel Like a Failure?
In all honesty, yes and no.
Coming home isn’t a bad thing. I certainly don’t regret following my heart. I did what was best for me at the time.
I’m proud for being brave enough to move halfway around the world. If you recall my story about why I moved to Berlin – I went there alone, without a job, not knowing a soul or speaking the language. I built an entirely new life, learning how to make friends in Berlin, establishing myself as a freelancer even trying out a different career in travel as an aspiring writer, blogger and photographer.
I found happiness there – true happiness. I made Berlin my home and after a vacation in Berlin this past summer, it still feels as such.
There were things that I wish I did better.
I wish that I’d made more of an effort to learn German instead of spending so much time at the local watering hole. If I think back to all of the things that made my life as an expat so hard, it all came down to me not knowing the language. I should have made this a higher priority.
I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time on a guy. I should have known better.
Alas, it’s in the past and all I can do is move on and learn from my mistakes.
What Has it Been Like Being Home?
It’s been a journey full of ups and downs. Sometimes, I love it and other times not so much.
Settling back into a 9-5 job wasn’t easy. I have a long commute each way, so the days are long. At the same time, I can’t and won’t complain, as I love my job.
It’s great to have benefits again, to go to the doctor and dentist without it being a complicated, expensive affair.
I now rent a small apartment and don’t have a roommate. I even have my own bed. The days of sleeping on futons and couches are over for now.
Friendships have changed. Some people with whom I was once so close with don’t reach out anymore. It’s be expected and although sad, I know it’s natural. Of course some old friendships picked up right where they left off. And not surprisingly, new friendships have formed. My experience changed me and I’m not the same person anymore. I better identify with those who love travel as much as I do and have experienced living abroad.
I’ve started exploring North America – having made trips to Ottawa, San Francisco and Detroit. Next up on the agenda are Chicago, Montreal and Denver. There’s even plans for a girls getaway to the remote forests of Quebec to sleep in a treehouse come spring!
Lastly, Rob Ford is my internationally renowned crack-smoking mayor. Enough said.
Do I Miss Berlin?
I miss Berlin all of the time. It’s as if my heart is torn in two.
All it takes is a call from a friend, watching a video, reading an article and I’ll burst into tears. It seems I cry a lot … but I laugh a lot too. 🙂
I long for my other home. Lazy summer days at the lake, late nights at a biergarten, walking down those cobble stoned streets so far away from all that I know. Being filled with a sense of my surroundings, something not easily explained but a feeling of knowing that I’m in the exact right place and that I belong.
It’s a tug of war that will last me my whole life through. When I’m there, I’ll long for here and when I’m here, I’ll long for there. I’m happy here, I’m happy there.
If I miss Germany, I eat sausage and drink beer. I’m even taking language classes at the Goethe Institute here in Toronto. And oddly, I’m magnet for German people. I frequently meet German people at local pubs and bars and while in San Francisco this summer, I met about eight people from Germany!
I’m very sure that I’ll become an expat again. I just don’t know when and I don’t know where. For now, I’m happy where I am and being able to travel from time-to-time.
Have you ever lived abroad? Did you have any challenges and what were they? What was it like to move home? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.