Whenever I tell people I live abroad, they usually have the same reaction. Germans are often so shocked, they can’t help but chuckle, “Why would anyone want to leave a prosperous country of such vast land and natural beauty?” Others are initially intrigued and praise me for my courage but then quickly mumble something about not being able to do it themselves because they’d get homesick or miss their families too much.
It’s true. Not being able to see my family on a whim straight up sucks. Especially when the times get tough. I can recall several occasions when all I wanted was to curl up in my mom’s arms for a good, honest cry fest.
Flashback to 2012. I’d just applied for my German work permit and hadn’t yet gotten a decision on whether I’d be deported back to Canada or not. Or that time in 2014 when the language school I was working for was let go by its biggest client and suddenly, I no longer had any work (i.e. income). When faced with hurdles like these, I missed my family the most.
It’s a dreadful feeling too. It’s like you’re desperately running around trying to find someone to turn to, but no one is physically there. You’re actually surrounded by lots of people but you don’t feel like any of them would understand. Nor do you want them to see you at your worst.
These rare instances are the only times I’ve ever felt homesick. Though I joke about missing certain types of food from back home, homesickness – by my definition – has nothing to do with familiar surroundings or material things. Homesickness is the intense longing to be near the people one feels close to.
Dealing with homesickness once in a blue moon is the price I have to pay in order to live out my dream. I’ve accepted that. Weekly Skype or FaceTime (or Whatsapp) calls help me recharge but they will never make up for spending time with the people I love in the flesh.
Am I selfish for choosing to live an ocean away from my family? Yes. But that doesn’t mean I love them any less. Staying in Toronto to make my parents happy wasn’t an option (they did try to lure me into staying by offering to buy me a car though). It took me 23 years to realize that fulfilling familial and societal expectations would not result in my own happiness.
Better late than never, right?
I focused on making myself happy first; nowadays I am in my element living abroad. I am grateful to have a family who, despite not necessarily agreeing with all the decisions I make, continue to support me through it all. They understand that pangs of homesickness will not deter me from experiencing the world; I am lucky to have them.