11 things I’ve learnt so far from living abroad

Some things I’ve learnt in my expat adventures so far to help you plan your own big move.

Will travel for good coffee! Image by Richard Coombs.

Will travel for good coffee! Image by Richard Coombs.

One of the best things about travel and living abroad is what you learn about yourself and the world around you. Here are 11 things I’ve learnt since I moved to Toronto.

1. I have a new appreciation for sunny days.

I knew when I moved to the cool climes of Toronto that I wouldn’t be getting the endless string of sunny days that I was used to in Brisbane. Sure, consecutive days of clouds, rain and cold weather can get monotonous but it’s making me appreciate beautiful sunny days and blue skies so much more! That means I get outside as much as possible to soak up the sun and explore different parts of Toronto when it's sunny. Then when there is less than ideal weather, I take the opportunity to hunker down to get work done and read. It all balances out.

2. It takes time to get used to new things.

New city, new people, new living environments and milk sold in a bag (a popular grocery item in Canada) — there’s a lot to adjust to when you move far away from home, even if the culture and language isn’t vastly different. Honestly, the days where I feel homesick, want to curl up and watch a movie, and miss everything about home, I go easy on myself and just remember that the feeling will pass as I get used to living in Toronto.

3. I’m learning to be more patient.

Living somewhere new on a visa valid for a couple of years brings with it a lot of questions. What will I do for work? What’s the best way to secure a condo or apartment? How do I secure a job already? I’ve learnt to put in the effort where it counts and take a deep breath and be patient when things are out of my control. It’s helping me be more patient and trust that things will work out when I put in the work. The answers may not present themselves straight away, but things will work out the way they are meant to.

4. You can wear jeans all day, every day in Toronto.

Until moving to Toronto, my jeans were reserved for casual Fridays at work or the few cold months in Brisbane in each year. I'm loving the fact that I can wear jeans most days here! It's the little things right? Given my new minimalist approach to my wardrobe and life in general, I've moved past spending on trending apparel that won't last. Instead, I'm aiming to add a high-quality pair of jeans to my wardrobe when fall hits later this year. I want to buy a pair of jeans that I'll have for several years. Something that gets better with each wear, like these 7 For All Mankind skinny jeans, would be amazing.

5. There will be good days and bad days, no matter your situation.

There have been days here where I’ve completed every errand and piece of work on my list to find I’ve got a couple of hours spare to chill and read. Other days, I snooze my alarm 3 times, eat breakfast at 1 pm and have cereal for dinner. I’m taking the good with the bad. Some days are less productive than others, but I know that will be balanced with wildly inspired and fulfilling days too. I think this is the case no matter where you’re living.

6. There’s so much of the world I still want to see.

We have been in Toronto since April, and our list of places to see grows every day. I am eager to keep adventuring and seeing as much of the world as possible and I know I can’t stay in one place for too long. That being said, I still like having a home base to return too. I’m just happy for that home base to change regularly at this stage.

7. Paperwork and life admin never stops.

Between new bank accounts, identification cards and starting a business, I’m becoming a master at batching together and giving myself a maximum amount of time for all the wonderful life admin tasks that “adulting” requires. Giving myself a time limit for these tasks helps me get them over with quickly without getting distracted.

8. Time differences are challenging.

There is currently a 14-hour time difference between Toronto and Brisbane (15 hours once daylight saving has ended). Talking on the phone during the week while my loved ones are at work, a regular daytime hour for them, means I’m asleep, or vice versa. I’ve been making the most of weekend FaceTime calls with my family and friends to keep in touch.

9. Sometimes you just need a few hours to yourself.

I’m loving the experience of living in a big city. There is so much to see and do and every little neighbourhood is like a city within the big city. While the hum of traffic, blaring car horns and abundance of places to enjoy a drink and music is incredible, sometimes I just need a few hours to myself. A few hours to read, watch a movie and go running re-energizes me and I’m learning to give in when I know I need a rest.

10. You may be speaking the same language, but not everything translates.

Writing job applications and proposals for freelance projects has made me closely analyse my written communication skills. Remember that not every role, profession or task is called the same thing worldwide. I’m constantly thinking of my audience as I draft a document or take a phone call, it’s helping immensely in making sure my point gets across and isn't lost in local colloquialisms — a common theme for us Aussies!

11. New environments bring new thoughts and new opportunities.

They say change is as good as a holiday, and I couldn’t agree more! Moving to Toronto has been an incredible experience so far. I love the big city, meeting new people and the space to get clear on where I am heading with my career. Having time to read, understand how I can combine my interests and skills and commit to new opportunities to expand my knowledge has been by far the most rewarding part of the move far. The combination of minimising my stuff, moving abroad and understanding what’s important is making my decisions clearer and focused towards my goals.

What about you? What have you learnt from your travels and living abroad? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Note: this post contains sponsored content but I only ever mention products that I know and love.