Most fellow expats that I’ve met agree that it takes about a year to feel truly settled in your home abroad. This is why a two-year visa is ideal, because you get a full second year in that glorious sweet spot—living the gravity of the choice you made and revelling in the accomplishment.
The problem with visas? They expire.
I am the kind of person that likes to mentally prepare for my imminent realities. So despite mildly living in denial, I never let my brain linger too long on the prospect of extending my stay. For all intents and purposes, I knew I would be moving home in the autumn of 2018.
But then, when the calendar flicked to 2018, I received a tentative offer to be sponsored by my employer. This would mean a new visa and more time in London. There would be a lot of hoops to jump through, a lot of permissions to seek, and it may not work, but ultimately—was I interested?
Was I? I genuinely had no idea.
Before I even knew if it was a valid possibility, I wanted to understand what I wanted. Enter the most extensive pros and cons list you can imagine, folks. I promise you I’m not exaggerating.
For example: Shower pressure is so much better in Canada. BUT CASTLES! And Canadian homes are properly insulated. BUT MULLED WINE AT CHRISTMAS!
If you are lucky enough to receive the option of extending your stay abroad, these kinds of inconsequential details will likely sneak their way into the mix, and alongside them my personal greatest foe: paralysis by analysis. But for a decision like this, it’s not the small details that matter. At least not at first.
It’s the larger, more frightening, soul-searching questions you have to tackle.
What’s most important to me at this point in my life? And does my location play a factor in this?
By asking these questions, you’re narrowing down what feels like a momentous decision with a gazillion factors to something quite straight-forward.
Having said that, it is a big question, and it may take some time to answer, but at least you’re saving yourself from the overwhelming amount of details that can plague you.
I was paralyzed by the fear that every aspect of my future hinged on my decision-making abilities of this very second. Of course, it doesn’t.
In my case, in this particular moment of my life, I found my location did matter.
Before I moved to the UK, the most important thing to me was stepping out of my comfort zone, forging my own path and proving to myself that, if I worked for it, I could dream something into reality.
The most important thing to me now is building a life and career that is not only sustainable, but fits in the long-term vision I have for my life. With this conclusion, I had to acknowledge that my support system and networks are mostly in Canada. I also had to concede that living in a city as expensive as London on the kind of salary I would expect to make if sponsored by my current employer was not conducive to attaining that long-term vision.
And so there it was. My answer.
I won’t pretend that I didn’t have a lengthy time of agonizing and catastrophizing and putting the weight of the world on my shoulders to make the "correct" decision before I got to said answer.
The small details are a huge part of the reason I was drawn to London in the first place. Things like red telephone boxes and the fact that so many people replace "thank you" with "cheers" bring me an inexplicable amount of joy, and it took considerable effort to push those factors aside.
More significantly, I was paralyzed by the fear that every aspect of my future hinged on my decision-making abilities of this very second. And of course, it doesn’t.
If I had decided to stay, it would have affected my immediate future, but if I was unhappy with that choice three months down the road, I could have gone home early. And with the decision to move home I now understand that this big choice I made isn’t something I can’t change with another big choice down the road.
Ultimately, we have the power to choose our own destinies and understanding that was vital to simplifying my decision.
If you’re faced with the prospect of extending your stint abroad and, like me, the answer doesn’t come to you immediately, try not to go down the same paralysis-by-analysis road I did.
Remember that life is full of new stages, big decisions, and forks in the road. Your decision in this moment will not change that.
Zero in on what is most important to you at this point in your life. Is it adventure or travel? Is it family? Is it your long-term goals? And then, ask yourself if your location plays a factor in your answer.
If these questions continue to leave you in a tangle, never underestimate your gut reaction. Ask yourself: do I want to leave?
More often than not, that’ll tell you exactly where you want to be.Add this article to your reading list