A snippet from my travel diary and 7 useful tips on moving to a new country alone.
‘On a lonely afternoon in June, I need you’ – Basement Jazz, Raindrops – June 30, 2018
“It was a thirsty sip. Of the situation I found myself in, that is; sitting in a noisy tapas bar in the centre of Seville. Nothing but a pen, a notebook, a glass of wine and a reasonably mentally healthy me.
As I left the doors of my new flat (only a 15-minute walk from my previous flat, I don’t want you to get too excited for me) I launched across the familiar, heaving plaza I loved so well. It must be credited because, despite our history, it was never a place I didn’t want to be. I remember it as a beautiful backdrop for different versions and scenes of me.
Me with a new friend, me with a new tinder date, me looking for a job, me in despair, me heavily depressed.
Tonight I didn’t have an appointment with a single soul; no group of people I was galloping towards, no stranger. The meeting was with myself, at restaurant I had particularly enjoyed with a couple of acquaintances three weeks ago.
I waited. You know. For the downwards plunge. That arrives despite company, but particularly when you are without it. Alone without the fellow protection of humans, you feel it with a vengeance. Almost as if it has a point to prove.
Still. It never came. I walked all the way to my seat, from my front door, taking in my surroundings; it was a face value love affair. I wouldn’t like to jinx it, but I think I might be on my way to peace.
There were words that fueled me. Spoken by my grandmother one seemingly insignificant Saturday:
“You can’t put a price on peace of mind”
I noticed how I clung to it. I had a deep attachment to the idea that she was unequivocally right. That she had whispered me the key to life, and I had taken it and guarded with my own. I held the phrase up as my goal; and I suppose, this night, I feel closer to the finish line than I had ever before.
Here’s hoping nothing messes it up.”
In the excerpt above, taken from my travel diary, I am summarising a bit of my mental struggles, obtained from moving to a new country alone, as a young British woman, age 26, full of far too much hope and expectations of my new life. As with most writing, I write it to make peace with my situation, but also in hopes that it might help another going through something similar.
Since my struggles, I have adopted many strategies and practices for bringing peace and contentment into my life, along with some savvy know-how that helps when you move abroad, specifically to Andalucia, Spain. I hope you find it useful, as ever.
1.Kill your expectation
Don’t let Instagram fool you. A picture is a moment. An Instastory is a few seconds longer. And since we know many cool shots are orchestrated and premeditated it’s incredibly important to bear that in mind when you are either making the move, or in the midst of your move. Living abroad (I’m currently on my third time) has been a phenomenal experience for me, and I don’t want to discredit it. But it takes work to get to its most fruitful stage, and it can be hard along the way, especially if you are moving to a new country alone. It might be easy to think of moving abroad as an escape from problems and a magically better life, but putting that type of pressure on one single choice is bound to lead you on a one-ticket train to disappointment. Kill your expectation and be a little more realistic.
2.Don’t over-exert yourself socially
When you move to a new country, it is very natural to want to soak in your new surroundings via going out, meeting as many new people as you can, trying to speed up the friend-making process and saying yes to everything. But this is not necessarily a great priority if you are trying to set up a new home, and organise your new life. Thanks to the world we live in, there are many opportunities and ways to meet people on your own time and terms. I recommend trying to focus on getting the things done that you know are important to your contentment and well being, then allowing more room for socializing, in a healthy way.
Taken by Sevilla-born photographer @antonio__cadenas
3.Don’t take your health for granted
The way you eat (and yes I mean takeout galore), the lack of exercise, or the fact that it might be daunting to find your doctor in a new country, is what I am referring to here. I was so busy focused on all the stresses I had going on that even when I got ill, I shrugged it off and thought it would go away via drinking lots of water and some painkillers – wrong. I ended up in the hospital for a weekend because of it. I was extremely lucky I made a good friend early in my move that was able to help me get back on my feet, but that is a rarity when you are fairly new in town. If I had been completely alone, it would have been an even more testing experience.
4.Make your lists shorter – one at a time
When you land in a new place you’ve decided to call home, although it is important to start putting things in motion to make it a home, a slow and smooth transition can help make things a little less overwhelming. You don’t have to have everything sorted in the first 2-3 weeks! Be realistic, and kind to yourself. A good way to approach this is to say that you will 100% complete one thing a week. By three months you will most likely have the basic things set up you need. But I think it’s important not to panic, and realise that no one is holding a watch to your transition. When moving to a new country, it takes a while to settle in.
5.Join the community
Sit in local coffee shops and ask for recommendations from locals, find your tribe on places like meetup.com or local Facebook groups, and search local events on Facebook to find your type of well… events! It’s a great way to start building your community through the things you enjoy and make you feel like you back home. Through this approach, I found good friends via an expat group, was able to meet people with a love of poetry and travel and became a familiar face at the majourity of Sevilla’s Reggae Sound Systems and club nights. It wasn’t one single thing. But a cocktail of many of these things, that personally helped me feel more at home abroad.
6.There’s a whole world out there
This is a general piece of advice that applies to people who may be feeling down or simply out of sorts in your new town. Don’t spend too much time at home with your laptop glued to your lap of automatically going on to the next episode on Netflix. Yes, you may be looking for a job, or not have made friends yet but I wholeheartedly advice going to public places. You may even build up a rapport with the people who work there if you repeatedly keep going back to the same establishment! This, of course, does depend on where you are, I completely appreciate Sevilla is a friendly and chatty city.
7.Learn the language
I put this tip last for a reason. A point I’ve mentioned here already: and that is not putting too much pressure on yourself when moving to a new country. If the language is completely new to you I know first hand how incredibly frustrating that journey can be. I think I didn’t really start speaking Spanish in a way that flowed remotely well until about 9 months into my language learning journey. That wasn’t to say my attempts were a waste of time. It’s more that my mind was gathering little bits and bobs of vocabulary and getting the hang of new sentence structures and rules.
It’s only here in Sevilla, the third Spanish country I’ve lived in, that I feel remotely empowered by my language skills. And trust me, I have a long way to go. But making time for a couple of new words a day will pay off, and genuine efforts to learn your new city’s language will help you integrate in a much deeper way, you can form bonds with people less likely to leave in a couple of months, and it massively helps in feeling more at home.
So, that was a little bit of a long one! But glad I got it out as I really think it might help one or several or people reading this with their own moving abroad journey. Do you have any tips on moving to a new country? I’d really love to hear them.