The world has shifted around us since the beginning of 2020 but many of us feel as though our lives have been in suspended animation. What better way to make the most of changes beyond your control than to take charge, move to a different country and immerse yourself in an entirely new way of life?
Three years ago, I did exactly that, moving from Wales in Great Britain to France. It dawned on me that my business was completely portable and that I could work from almost anywhere in the world. I also knew that if I didn’t take the plunge right then, I probably never would.
The time was right for a move that felt at points like jumping off a cliff with no safety net. Despite weathering a pandemic and some interesting politics on both sides of the Channel, I haven’t regretted my decision for a second. I now run a French business alongside my British one, and consider France my home.
1. The world’s your oyster
Perhaps you know exactly where you want to be: a former holiday destination, a country whose language you learned as a child, or the place where your family has its roots. It may be that you have no idea and you just want to escape. Whether your approach is a systematic research of the possibilities open to you or you want to stick a pin in a map of the world, haul on your backpack and set off; there will never be a better time to follow your dream.
I knew I wanted to live in France, but my search took me from the Alps to the Loire Valley before I found the perfect countryside retreat close to the coast and just outside a pretty, medieval town in Pas-de-Calais.
2. Work-life balance
It may be that you’re planning a complete break from the world of work and want to explore one or more countries – or even continents – for a while. If you need to earn a living, though, you’ll need to find somewhere you can pick up a job or take work with you. With so many of us unexpectedly working from home during the pandemic, this could be the perfect time to turn a challenge into an opportunity.
You may find a completely new way to earn a living
Ask your employers whether they will allow you to set up shop overseas, or research new positions in your chosen field. If the pandemic made you question your life choices – and, let’s face it, many of us had plenty of time for introspection – it could be that you want to find a completely new way to earn a living, or even spend time volunteering. Pursuing happiness, either your own or others’, instead of money, could take you down all sorts of unexpected paths in life.
Pulling up your roots and taking your own personal show on the road can be incredibly liberating. If you are no longer burdened with the weight of your own and other people’s expectations, you can explore the values and qualities that are important to you. If no one knows you in your new home, it can be an opportunity to relax any rigid rules you are living by and instead allow yourself to live in the moment and celebrate what is important to you.
I left an area I had lived in for over 20 years. My teenaged children were born there and we had a huge network of friends and family nearby. I love my new French life but I also know that, having left behind everything that was familiar once, I can do it again. My kids, too, feel far less bound to one place than they may have done if we’d stayed in Britain. They are already thinking globally in terms of where they want to study and work in the years ahead.
4. Make the change
If you’re tired of city life or feel that nothing ever happens in your rural home, moving abroad allows you to change everything. Now could be the moment to choose an idyllic rural retreat, a beachside resort or a bustling metropolis in which to set up camp. You know yourself better than anyone, so think about where you will feel most at home. What view do you want to wake up to every morning? How will you connect and find your people? What will you do with your free time?
You know yourself better than anyone
I knew I wanted village life, but I hadn’t realised how much I’d love living close to the sea before I moved. I love being able to stroll along the surf after work; or take a picnic to the beach in winter, just because the sun is shining and I can.
5. Speak the lingo
Nowadays language learning has been revolutionised by online classes and mobile apps, but nothing will improve your communication skills like living in a country with a different language. Where you choose to live may be dictated by what languages you can already speak, but perhaps you want the chance to learn something completely new. Jumping in with both feet is hard if you can’t even say ‘hello’, though, so consider how you will function until you are proficient and do as much preparation as possible before you make the move.
My love affair with France began as a child and my school French definitely helped a lot. Real people don’t hold text book conversations, however, and chatting with friends and neighbours has really improved my ability to communicate and understand the new world around me.
6. Culture shock
Moving abroad is always a shock to the system. Things you take completely for granted will often function in an entirely new way. Food, housing, transport and work may be very different even if the language is the same. This change can be completely exhilarating and liberating. There’s no such thing as a boring day any more, as even grocery shopping will present you with unfamiliar produce, products or packaging. If you crave something new in your life, moving to a new country will provide this in spades.
There’s no such thing as a boring day
7. Wide horizons
Opening your front door to a brand new view will also open your mind. If the last couple of years has left you feeling in a rut, with a desire to make a dramatic change, you could well find that moving abroad opens you up to new values, traditions and ways of doing things. “But we’ve always done it like that” could well become “why did we never do it like this?” You may well find yourself reflecting on the culture you’ve left behind as you begin to embrace new ways of doing things. Life as an immigrant in someone else’s country will offer a window on what’s good – and bad – about the way things work back at home.
8. New friendships
Some of the most interesting people you meet – at home and abroad – are those who have completely changed their lives. These are people with stories to tell: they are resourceful, resilient and rarely boring. And if you make the leap overseas, you’ll be one of them.
Meeting local people is the best way to explore your new home
If you move to somewhere with a different language, you may gravitate towards other English-speakers. They will have had all sorts of reasons for making the move – and can help you navigate your new life. Making an effort to meet local people, however, is the best possible way to understand and explore your new home– and the best possible motivation for language learning is to chat with new friends.
9. The ultimate adventure
If you’ve never stepped out of your comfort zone, now could be the perfect time to challenge yourself and find out what you’re made of by starting a new life in a new country. It’s the ultimate adventure and you’ll probably surprise yourself with skills and qualities you didn’t know you had. I still get a real kick out of sitting outside a café and listening to the French voices flowing around me – and out of knowing I’m not on holiday, and can do this any time I feel like it.
10. Test the waters
Don’t forget that any move abroad can also involve a move back home again. Emigrating doesn’t have to be permanent. You may not want to watch those bridges burning behind you as you leap into your new life, and may already be making plans for a return after a fixed period of time. However long you spend abroad, the lessons you learn, the friendships you make and the cultural riches you discover will stay with you forever.
So what are you waiting for? The right time to make the move is now.
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Images: Flash Pack