Moving abroad has been my dream since I was 14. That being said, actually confronting that dream and making it a reality has been a truly difficult process. Not because of the stress of packing, finances, or adjusting to a life abroad. The hardest decisions that go into moving overseas span far beyond where to live and what airline to use.
Those surface details are not the ones that weigh on my mind at night or cause me to spend random hours in pensive inner turmoil. Instead, the hard decisions involve the impact my move will have on my relationships. Life happens without our consent. When you decide to chase one dream, you also have to consider what you may be losing in your “past” life.
My grandparents—who I already have barely seen throughout the past four years of college in another city—will continue to age. And though it sounds morbid, I have to consider the possibility that the time I spend abroad could be the last moments to spend with them.
Meanwhile, my own parents also age. Though they are both relatively young and healthy, the fear that something unexpected could happen to them (or the rest of my family) during my time away petrifies me just the same.
Meanwhile, on a lighter note, the lives of my friends and family go on without me. Since I have now graduated from university, that means most of my friends are of “marriageable age”. Should they decide to get engaged or married or pregnant, I cannot be there to celebrate with them.
My only sister is also close to an engagement, and missing out on the planning and dress shopping and general support of her happiness is yet another sacrifice.
In a more general sense, I will also miss countless birthdays, family holidays, and life events. Just during these first six months I am away, I will miss the birthdays of my brother, sister, dad, and multiple extended family members and friends. My cousin has time off from the Marines and I will lose out on seeing him. I can’t come home for Thanksgiving (which also isn’t celebrated in the U.K.), New Year’s, or even Christmas.
It’s a hard realization that those traditions I am so accustomed to will change as a direct result of my decision… and not just for me, but for my family as well.
When you are across an ocean, it is much harder to find a quick way home. I can’t bop over to watch my brother play baseball or to have a girls’ weekend with friends. I will always have to weigh the necessity of going home against both my financial and time availability.
On the reverse side, it is a much larger feat for someone to visit me as well. On top of the 6-hour flight and cost of international travel, they will also be in a completely different culture and unfamiliar country; at least when I return, it is to my home turf.
Finally, here’s the real kicker: if I love living abroad (which is a highly possible fate), I may not ever return home permanently. These sacrifices will continue throughout life and will grow in magnitude.
If I get married, many of my loved ones may not be able to make the trip across to celebrate with me. If I (or my family) gets sick, I cannot quickly arrive to support them in the hospital. If I have children, they won’t be near their grandparents.
These details, plus hundreds of smaller ones, are considerations I constantly think about as my departure date draws closer. A certain level of guilt comes from choosing my dream over the option to stay home.
Though I am overjoyed to be following this path, I have not made the decision to move abroad lightly or on a whim. While I would not choose it any other way, it is also the hardest decision I have ever made.