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The Decision To Leave

Updated: Jan 23

This is my first blog about being a global citizen and what it was like to immigrate. I've immigrated twice in my life. People immigrate for different reasons and therefore have different time lines. Both of my moves were spontaneous. I traveled with suitcases only. I've never had to move household items from one country to another, so both moves were easy. If I had to move again, I would do it the same way. It's liberating with so fewer things to think about. There was nothing that I really needed that I couldn't carry in a suitcase and backpack.

If you have the luxury of knowing where you want to go, visited the country and are planning methodically, no further explanation is needed. You're making a calculated move with some risk. Others may leave spontaneously for various reasons. In my first move, I left the Caribbean to immigrate to Canada and stayed at a family member's house. I had two prior visits to Canada in the summer months. It was very different from what I was used to, for example, although it was summer, I felt cold. I was used to 33 degrees Celsius and scorching heat. The same temperature in Canada felt cooler. I remember not wanting to be outside in the afternoon and evening because I was cold.

Being a visitor is very different from being a resident or citizen. If you have the time and luxury of being able to pay a longer visit to the country which you are considering moving to, do so. I found that close to six months was needed to make me stop seeing things through the eyes of a tourist. Even three months would be too short. At the six month mark I began to feel as if I was integrating into the system and natural flow of life. I would have visited many tourist attractions and gotten that out of my system. I had almost half of a year of experiencing the climate, food, people, transit and culture, so I'd have a better understanding how of things operate.

My second move was due to being stuck in Portugal during the Covid lockdown. Naturally, I did not know this was going to happen. While you might think being stuck in Portugal would be a fantastic experience, it was but there was the other side of actually having to live there, unplanned. I didn't have any family nearby, didn't speak the language, had to obey the laws of the land as far as traveling was concerned, and didn't know when I could return to Canada. I lived in hotels and AirBnB's. Many times I didn't know where I would be next. It was like putting a napkin out in the wind and deciding which direction to go. This is the furthest away from structure and planning that I've ever been as far as traveling goes and the polar opposite of my personality. I prefer to plan and know where I am going, but I am very grateful for having lived this way. In fact, it was because of this experience that I love living out of suitcases and in hotel rooms. I feel at home the most in a hotel suite, not a house. Acting on inspiration in my life creates adventure. The place where I live now is really tiny and modeled after a hotel suite, by my choosing.

Spontaneity can lead to adventure and shape one's life in surprising ways. If I had known that I was going to leave my family, friends and home countries for a long time, I would have procrastinated and probably not made a move, especially the second time.

It is also important to have a "Why?" around leaving because you'll need to revisit your "Why" often before and especially after the move. Life is different in another country. It may not totally be the paradise you've dreamt about. For example, Canada is a majestic and beautiful country. It looks like a beautiful post card. However Canada, is cool to bitterly cold 9 months of the year. This tropical bird had a very difficult time adapting to the climate. People do not say "Hello" on the streets to strangers, as they do in other countries. It's just a part of the culture. I grew up greeting people with a "Good morning" or "Good afternoon" as I passed them on the streets, or nodding my head to acknowledge them. I did that in Canada and wondered why everyone was moving away from me and looking at me as if I was crazy. I asked my employer and found out that it was impolite to do so. I fell in line and became silent instead of offering a salutation. During difficult times, come back to your why. My why was the opportunities that Canada offered. I wanted to take advantage of them and see how far I could reach as well as learn how to be of service. By sticking to my why, I was richly blessed with lots of opportunities at work and as a volunteer that are too numerous to count.

Because I had this specific why, recently I was able to encourage a young international student whom I met at a hotel. One day she greeted me at the reception at the check-in counter. Hours later, she drove the shuttle to take me to the airport. I wondered why she did both and struck up a conversation. She said that the hotel chain encouraged its employees to do what it takes to help the customer, so they are cross-trained in different areas. During our ride, somehow the conversation led to her expressing some sadness about living in Canada, how cold it was and how lonely she felt. It was quite a sacrifice for her family to send her there. I told her a little bit of my story and shared by focusing on my why, I overcame the homesickness, culture shock and the desire to leave and how I was blessed by it. I encouraged her to find a fun activity to do outdoors in the winter to be able to appreciate its beauty. She was very grateful for the feedback and said she would look at her opportunity from a different perspective.

One opportunity which I am discovering many people do not know about is the Golden Visa programs in different countries. This is also known as "Citizenship by Investment". It is worth looking into, if you can afford it and are unable to immigrate in another manner. Many countries offer it but have different requirements and investment amounts.

A calculated move can take you to where you would like to be. Don't be afraid to also inject some spontaneity into your decisions to leave. You might very well be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

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