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Confessions of an Expat: My Biggest Regret

Regrets. It’s such a loaded word, isn’t it? A lot of people say “no regrets”…but let’s face it, there are always things we look back on and say “well, I most likely could have done that differently…”

And by “most likely” I mean I probably, definitely should have done it differently.

cropped-cropped-IMG_8306.jpgI want to start off by saying that the word “regret” can have a lot of meanings. In this scenario, it means “if I could do it again, I would to it differently, because that would have been easier.” I don’t have regrets in the sense that I wish I had never moved to Belgium, or anything like that. (Because, let’s face it; Belgium is awesome.)

Moving abroad for the first time when I was 20 was something I will never forget. I was more emotional, than afraid; I would say. I would miss my parents, my siblings, my friends. I would quit my job (which, at the time, I was completely okay with), and don’t even get me started on missing my cat, Tessa. Such high emotions all the time, with the world seemingly at my fingertips.

To say it was all worth it would be a huge understatement; when I think about living with my boyfriend for the first time…it’s something I treasure. Our ant-infested, tiny student apartment seemed like heaven on earth, even if it’s “no pets” policy meant not bringing Tessa with me, wouldn’t trade those 10 months for anything.

10 months of Belgium with my boyfriend, we even made a little side trip to Paris. It sounds amazing, right? But, why didn’t it feel like it at the time?

What I regret most about my first time living abroad has nothing to do with what I packed or where I adventured. I regret not living every day like it was a dream, because it was. We didn’t explore much, my anxiety got the best of me and I spent a lot of time in tears over the uncertainties of leaving my home in Canada.
Really, what I regret is not actually enjoying my time abroad, because it ended far too quickly.

Who has time to be homesick?! I spent so much time missing Canada, the months flew by without me really appreciating where I was and who I was with. Before I knew it, my visa was expiring and my bank account was empty. When I was told I had to move back to Canada, it hit me like a tonne of bricks.

How could I be moving back? I hadn’t really lived here, yet. I mean I had been residing in this country, but living in it…that’s a whole other thing that I hadn’t done.

I had taken Dutch courses, integration courses and met some new people; but I hadn’t adventured in the city, I hadn’t really even adventured throughout Belgium. So, needless to say, the last month before I moved back to Canada, we tried to do everything! A weekend in Paris, a ton of Belgian city days, beach days, days cuddled up in bed watching Netflix while the line of ants march towards us in a hungry fury.

It wasn’t nearly enough time, though. I had more or less wasted 9 months living in a new country with the man I loved because I couldn’t see the big picture. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the bright side of moving abroad.

It might not have been perfect, and yes; I might have been a bit homesick over missing Canada sometimes…but I didn’t really LIVE during my first adventure abroad and that’s what I regret most.

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4 thoughts on “Confessions of an Expat: My Biggest Regret

  1. A very honest assessment, but it’s a big learning curve to push yourself out of your comfort zone like you did, and I’m sure many of us would have reacted the same way in this situation.

    The most important thing is that you’ve shown an ability to take stock and reflect upon the experience, which suggests that you will know how to react next time around. Sure it’s a regret now, but it’s entirely possible that it will help you in the long run 🙂

  2. I lived over in Japan for four years and recently moved back and there are a lot of things I wish I would have done differently. But my experience is what made me who I am, so maybe if it was too different I wouldn’t have become who I am, who knows!

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