“Did I make a mistake moving to another country?” That dreadful, scary question that pops into your mind for a split second before you push it back out. Homesickness is one thing. Knowing/admitting you made a mistake is something else entirely. But how do you know the difference?
So, what IS the difference between being homesick and that sinking “I made a mistake by moving to another country?” feeling?
If you’ve ever traveled for a long period of time, or moved away from your home country; you know how complicated and loaded that question is.
Mistakes happen. Even well-planned, very well-thought-out plans you were totally on board in the beginning, can be mistakes in the long run. You planned for this move for months, but once you arrive, you realize it’s not right. This happens. But how do you know if it’s really not right for you? What if you made the right call, this is where you’re supposed to be in life right now, but you’re just drowning in that homesickness feeling?
Although both my big moves have been a success (and I wouldn’t consider either a mistake), I did go through almost the entire first move to Belgium thinking it might have been.
The first few weeks were hard, but contrary to what you would think, they were definitely not the hardest. The hardest time for me was maybe 2 months in. We were moving into a student apartment about a month after I arrived, so the beginning weeks just seemed like a long visit. Once we moved into our apartment and the “moving in together” high faded a little – the big question popped into my mind.
Obviously, I ignored it, because I hadn’t just packed/stored/sold my entire life to move here for nothing. Wasn’t it just a few months earlier that I had been so thrilled and basically head over heels about the thought of living in Europe? And don’t get me wrong, living in Belgium (the land of chocolate and diamonds) with the man I loved was already amazing after just 2 months, but I just kept falling into the “I gave up ____ to move here…” mindset.
(Which, if you’ve read our tips on moving for love post, you know is just the worst mindset to be in!)
My anxiety increased to almost daily attacks out of the blue, and in the moments when I wasn’t completely over-the-moon happy, I was crying. There was no middle emotion, there was no “content”. It was pure happiness or pure sadness, which is just pure confusion.
And honest to God, the hardest part was living in a new country without my cat, Tessa.
(If you struggle with a mental health disorder and/or have a pet, you understand how much of a support they can be.) I felt like I hadn’t really made this my new home yet, because I didn’t have the one thing that had been a constant in my life for years.
Packing and selling my things was a piece of cake, because I love giving things away. Even giving up my job was easy, because as soon as I handed in my resignation letter, I practically sighed in relief. (That, of course, made me realize if I wasn’t that upset about leaving my career, maybe it wasn’t right for me anymore, but that’s a whole other story.)
But other things started to nag at me. I missed driving my own car, speaking my own language, I even missed something as simple as having my own washer and dryer.
For a while I thought I was just homesick, but that question started to pop up all the time, and I started to seriously doubt myself. Of course, I love my boyfriend, but I was only 21. Maybe this was too soon for us?
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEING HOMESICK
AND KNOWING YOU MADE A MISTAKE?
While I can’t really tell you if you’re making a mistake, because that’s something only you can figure out – I can give you a bit of advice on the subject: if you’ve ever gotten that pit in your stomach, base instinct feeling that something might not be right…chances are that it’s not.
Comparing that “something’s wrong” instinct with how it feels to be homesick might just give you the answer to that nagging question.
Being homesick is probably the most confusing feeling ever, but once you realize that’s what it is, it’s a lot easier to handle because you don’t have those “was this a mistake?” doubts creeping up in the back of your mind.
Still, when you’re homesick it feels like you can go from feeling happy to feeling heartbroken, and then back to happy again within a matter of minutes. It’s hard to leave your family, your friends, your pet(s), your home and your job – but adding all the ‘new-ness’ on top of that…that’s what really makes things difficult. New languages, new jobs, new apartments, new people…it’s all just very overwhelming and new.
So, how do you know when it’s homesickness…?
Every once and a while you’ll feel that “this is why” moment.
If you’ve really made a mistake, you most likely won’t have those defining moments that make you realize that no matter how hard it is/was, you made the right call because of that moment. It might be something small, it might be something grand – but for a split second you feel that flood of relief and your doubts fade.
My first “this is why” moment happened quite a few months after moving into our little student apartment together. His warm embrace in the middle of the night after waking from a recurring nightmare I had been having for years…laying next to him as he rubbed my back and whispered re-assurances in my ear. That question just kind of faded away. And it never really came back. I finally knew that I was starting my life with someone I love. That he is next to me in this bed, and in life. After all we had been through (2 years of long distance), we finally had a life together, and that was worth uprooting my life a little bit.
The next few weeks, those moments kept piling up and I kept a list of them (yes, an actual list in my date book), and eventually I assured myself that this wasn’t a mistake.
Finally, after 9 months of living in Belgium, I was happy. The next month, I realized I had almost run out of time on my visa and was quickly running out of savings. I had to quickly make the hard choice to move back to Canada for a while.
(That’s life, isn’t it? Ironic.)
Even to this day, there have been plenty of times when I was almost homesick enough to pack a bag and catch a last-minute, make-a-huge-dent-in-my-savings-account trip back to Canada.
It might have taken 9 months, but those “this is why” moments eventually assured me that I made the right call.Now when that homesick feeling comes, I just grab my list, curl up on the couch with my cats and my man, and wait it out.
Yeah, I may have uprooted a bit of my life, but in those moments, I know it’s worth it.
(**Note to self: remember those “this is why” moments, because the next wave of homesickness might be right around the corner…)
Share your homesick/“this is why I’m here” stories in the comments below,
and remind yourself of why you are where you are!