Whether you’re thinking of moving outside your comfortable life, or maybe you’ve already made the decision, there is always some sort of guilt that goes along with it. The decision to deliberately leave family and those you love is one of the most difficult decisions you can make. It takes a certain kind of person to do this, it’s no small task, and its mentally and physically exhausting. I’ve made this decision twice so far in my life, and I’ll continue to make that decision to live and explore life in new countries. It’s something I’ve come to realize is priceless, even for an introvert like me.

“A white pennant that says explore on a dark wooden floor” by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

The first time I made the decision to live aboard was for law school, which was difficult, but being a student makes things easier. You have the exact time frame of when school starts and finishes, and it doesn’t hurt that your visa does have an expiry date. My family and friends were excited for me once I officially got accepted. My partner decided that he would accompany me on this endeavor, which was great we’d split costs once we settled, bonus. This journey would be the first time I would leave my country, the first time I would board a plane, and the first time renting a place and living with my partner. It was pretty heavy, but I loved it all, even with all the debt I’m in because of it. And I think that speaks volumes. It was complete freedom, something that I didn’t know I wanted, until then.

Once the cat is out of the bag, here are some phrases you’ll often hear; how brave/ inspiring/ exciting, you’re going to have the best time. Those words will encourage you, they will reassure you. The reality is, only you will know if it’s a good decision, and I hate to say it, but you won’t really know until you’re knees deep in it, this could take many months to find out. Living aboard is an experience of a lifetime, but it is mentally taxing. From my own first-hand experiences, it can be boiled down to one word, guilt. The guilt you’ll feel from everyone you love when you purposefully choose to leave them, and it could be for a un-definitive amount of time.

“Information board at airport with text and "gate closed" on the right side” by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Family

Depending on your circumstances, telling your family about this decision will be on a spectrum, mine was in the middle. My parents have been divorced for a number of years now, and as a result, I don’t have a “normal” relationship with them. Regardless of that, they were both as supportive as they could be, and it did give me closure.

The real difficulty was telling my grandparents and sister, they were the ones offering their support, who would always be there for me. When I returned the first time, I had planned to go back to school in Europe after a few years of being home. It was upsetting letting them know that this wasn’t working out as I planned. They started spending time with me again, and now I was getting ready to up and leave again. I left after a year and a half of being home, it was tough. At first, they didn’t understand why I would leave again, why I would want to be away from them. It’s difficult to articulate even now, but something about being abroad kept calling my name. It was really hard on them, and they were upset, but the closer it got to leave, the more they started to understand a little more. I appreciate them a lot more because of that.

The toughest thing to accept about leaving is that everyone is getting older. Especially grandparents, it’s the one I fear the most, leaving and then something happens, but it is one of the realities you have to accept. Spend time with those you love. You’ll create memories that last a lifetime, and make them before its too late.

One other thing regarding the family department, even though your family might not understand your decision to leave, explain it the best you can. That’s all you can do, either they’ll come around or will be unsure but happy for you. You can’t let the approval or lack of it, get in the way of achieving your goals, do not make life decisions based on this. The reality is you will either succeed or fail.

If those people mean the world to you, they will greet you with open arms regardless.

Friends

They say friends are the family you choose. However they're a mixed bag, they'll be excited for you to start your adventure, yet sad about you not being around anymore. It's bittersweet. Now depending on where you plan on living, you'll have to be battling time differences to keep up with these relationships. It can be one of the biggest hurdles, the best thing you can do is schedule face times and phone calls, and try to stick to it. There will always be casualties, just like the high school to university transition. It seems like every time I leave, my circle of friends dwindles down. I have a few individuals who are truly special to me our relationship knows no bounds, there's no amount of distance or how regularly we speak to each other that effects our relationship. I'll send a message to them after not speaking for several weeks or months, and our dynamic is exactly the same as if we'd spoken yesterday.

These relationships will be the basis for your entire existence. They will make leaving that much easier since there are no feelings of guilt. If you're anything like me, and you tend to make difficult decisions, your friends will support you regardless, for them, it will come as no surprise after a while. What's even more special about them, is that they will support you through the more difficult conversations you'll evidently have.

One of the benefits of living abroad, especially in Europe, is that people will say that they’ll come for a visit, aka want to crash at yours. Or at least the serious ones will actually commit to it, a lot of people never do, and its probably for the best. But every once in awhile, someone will come, and those will be the best memories you’ll ever have together. You’ll show them around, sightsee like you did when you first got here, even fall deeper in love with the place you call home. It really is the best feeling.

Photo by Kevin Delvecchio on Unsplash

Partners

I’ve been very fortunate in having a partner that always wanted to travel, who planted the seed for this type of discovery, and I thank him for that.

THANK YOU, seriously.

The whole planning process is exhausting, the paperwork, the stress of saving, finding a place to live. Luckily in my relationship, we tend to switch roles often, one person would be mentally breaking, while the other reassures and sympathizes. Some days we are both grumpy, but we try to have a one grump policy in the household. I was graced with a partner who was always driven, ambitious and a go-getter, who pushed me out of my comfort zone, but also assured me it’d work out.

There wasn’t much to deal with in the guilt department, since we both wanted to leave. I can only speak on my experiences for this topic, in not dealing with long distance relationships or breaking up because of it. However, I will say that making a move with someone makes things easier, not just because you spilt the costs, but to have someone going through the exact same thing as you mentally, it’s a relief. That being said, being in a relationship involves dealing with the others baggage, more family stress on top of your own. What is important is communication, I couldn’t tell you the number of times we’d spend just trying to figuring out how it could work. Moving is hard on your relationship, and moving abroad is a whole other monster. Even with all those difficulties, you have each other and at the end of the day, it is enough.

It will only work out if you want enough.

Photo by Fabian Møller on Unsplash

Self

While I’ve spoken about the relationships you may have with those you love, and how they may be affected by this, but what about the relationship with yourself? Nothing really prepares you for the final goodbyes or the airport drive, or the constant weighing your luggage in the last days you have left. There’s a lot of stuff happening all at once, making sure you’ve done everything on your to-do list before you board that plane. And if you’re traveling by yourself, that’s a whole other battleground; the balancing act of your carry on bags, bringing luggage into the restroom/shops, since you don’t have anyone to watch your stuff. Worst.

Being mentally sound is a bit difficult during this time, on top of the feelings from everyone around you. Do not forget to take care of yourself, before and after your flight, with everything that’s bogging you down, you and only you know that this is the right decision. There should be no amount of guilt that will get in the way of achieving your dreams. Rather, it’s on what terms you leave on, and how you minimize the amount of guilt you feel before you leave. Guilt travels, if you leave feeling guilty, it’s going to be right there with you when you wake up the following day, post travel. Make amends as best as you can with any loose strings, appreciate those who matter the most, and tell them you love them. You might not feel like the guilt has disappeared, but little by little you’ll wake up one day and feel good about your decision to leave.

Quem boa cama faz nela se deita — As you make your bed, so you must lie in it.

A stream-of-consciousness by a Canadian-Portuguese living in the UK, who is a law graduate, avid traveler, and dog enthusiast.

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