Nearly 20 years ago I have left my home country and I never looked back. Was it my plan to leave and never return? Not at all. Was it my plan to move to 2 other countries since? Not at all. But leaving my country changed my life, in imaginable ways.
I find it interesting sometimes to look back at my plans from years ago just to realise how many of them never came true. And how I ended up in places I never thought I would end up in. Or countries, or mindset. How leaving my country changed my life.
When I first left Poland in November 2001 I was planning to stay in the UK for up 6 months. Make some money and eventually come back and open a pub with my friends who went with me on that journey. I never imagined myself living anywhere else then Poland long term.
‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.’– Bilbo Baggins
I stayed in England for 13 years. Why? Because right at the start, I realised that who I could become, was so much greater and thrilling than who I was at the time. I probably wouldn’t put it in those words back then, but this is what it really was.
And I’m not only talking about the opportunities, for career, a better life or more money. It was not only the sudden freedom from bigotry, small-town thinking (even tho I came from a big city), freedom to be who I really was (or started to discover) nor the fact that I didn’t have to fit any more into social norms of how women should look, behave or what to strive for.
More than anything, now I can see it more clearly, it was the journey that I embarked on, and suddenly I felt like the sky is the limit.
First few years were hard. Some amazing things happened and some I am not so proud of. But for the first time in my life (I was 25 at the time) I felt like I was slowly crawling out of the shell. I met, for the first time, people from different cultures, backgrounds, and with very different outlooks on life.
I worked really hard, physically. And hated it. But there was nothing else available for me at the time and giving up was not an option. I made an effort to work on my English and immersed myself in that foreign, yet so familiar culture.
Slowly life became easier as I blended into the new lifestyles and cultures and way of living. I changed jobs, got promoted, hated it, changed jobs. The regular story. I moved cities and made new friends. I changed, grew, started developing this inner need to get to know myself better.
Why am I the way I am? What defines me? What makes me make certain decisions and feel certain feelings. The opportunity doors were always open somewhere. the books I read, the couching weekend course I took and eventually the counselling course at the college. Would I embark on this journey if I didn’t leave my country?
Maybe yes, but I think leaving my home country and going completely outside of my comfort zone – made those questions came to life more prominently.
“They told me to grow roots, instead I grew wings.”Louis de Bernières
Making friends (and boyfriends) with people of such extremely different cultural backgrounds made me more open than I could have ever become back at home. I left in 2001. Things are different at home now. There are more foreign students and residents and people actually immigrate to Poland for a better life. And this makes me so happy and grateful thinking how well my country did in the last 20 years. The opportunity that’s been given to me is now available in my own country.
Many things I am grateful for when looking back at all the possibilities that were presented to me. People that believed in me and offered job opportunities just because of who I was not because of who I knew. The chances to do what you truly desire, learn and explore, attend classes and course which would not otherwise be so easily available, or affordable.
It feels like at that point I really started growing up. Just because it was a cautious growth. Something I strived for.
A process of self-growth is a very hard journey and some never step on this path. It’s hard to face your demons, to realise that your past and traumas are hunting you to the very limit of your pain threshold. I touched on all possible outcomes of personal growth – extreme happiness as well as the depth of misery and depression. Yet this is an important part of this journey.
Would this not happen if I never left, you ask again? Maybe. But becoming completely independent, building my life in another country from scratch and with few pennies in my pocket, making life, discovering what was i capable of – opened the gate that maybe could not have been opened otherwise. Yes, I truly believe that leaving my home country changed my life – and shaped the person I am right now.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.“– Steve Jobs
Staying home is safe, going out of the door is dangerous but so thrilling.
So I went. And 13 years later I moved again. This time to Spain to work in neighbouring Gibraltar. And my time there could not be more different from the past 13 years spent in the UK. And I don’t only mean the weather and relaxed Spanish lifestyle. Everything changed, yet again I discovered part of me I didn’t know existed. Yet again, there were some great moments and some I’m not too proud of. But this is what the journey is.
Somehow I always move forward. The person that emerges from these experiences surprises me as get to know what I am really capable of. I discovered my limitations. And learnt to overcome them.
The unexplored, the places we go to when we embrace the unknown territories of the world and our mind and soul – they enrich us in ways no other experience can.
And the plans? Those are funny. When still in the UK I quit my management position in order to take on a counselling course. I thought I found my calling and was determined to go through with it. Only that one year later I was offered relocation to sunny Spain and I did not think twice. The course – now a distant memory.
“Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”― Gloria Steinem
I was not planning on leaving Spain any time soon. I loved my life there and I loved who I was becoming. Towards the end of my time in Spain, this blog’s idea started coming to life and I could imagine myself making Spain my base for future travels and explorations.
But hey, yet another set of plans that had to be changed. My company was relocating so I decided to come along and after nearly 5 years in Spain and Gibraltar, I am now based in Malta.
And at the beginning of this year, I had it all planned. Only to watch the whole world going into a standstill.
And now I’m sitting here making my next year’s plans and as the year moves forward I realise that none of them might come true. But less and less these days, I get annoyed and upset when things don’t go as planned. Firstly, this is not personal – I am definitely not the only person having to change their whole life perspective right now. But also, the more I remember how I had it all planned and how many of these plans didn’t come true – I laugh.
“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”― Allen Saunders
I try not to get too hanged on that plan I just made. Firstly, if everything went to plan 20 years ago I probably wouldn’t even be writing this post right now. And I’m so glad. But plans need to be made because dreams are present. What’s the point in dreaming if we do nothing in order to achieve them. So I think it’s finding this perfect balance – between making plans and letting life lead you to places you never planned on going.
So yes, leaving my country changed my life, but also changed me. And this change is ongoing. All adventures, mishaps, difficulties and happy moments – made me the person I am right now, or rather allowed me to discover the better version of myself. The journey never ends.
And it’s also funny how whenever I go back, the places seem to have not changed – but I did.
Don’t get me wrong. My city and my country have changed so much. I am now really proud to come back home and see how it developed. Full of young people from all over the world, many former ex-pats who returned home at some point, foreign languages spoke on the streets and in cafes. Yet some things are still the same. And I cannot imagine myself fitting in this old world back again.
“When coming back, we may notice we have changed because others haven’t.”― Lauren Klarfeld
Does it mean I will now be an endless nomad? Does it mean that every now and then, I will change country, environment, make new friends and then realise I grew out of my previous home?
But what is home?
Buddha once said, ‘Nothing is forever except change’. Home is in my heart – it’s here and now. By longing to a ‘home’ that we might build one day or we have left behind – we strip ourselves from happiness – the present moment.
And sometimes I wonder where would I be if I wasn’t waiting until my mid-20’s to leave my country. Maybe more possibilities, more time – who knows. Sometimes I am disappointed I didn’t start travel blogging when it was easier and when it was not yet so ‘mainstream’. But the truth is, I should be proud of making that first step. Buying that one-way ticket and venturing into the unknown. Because leaving my home country changed my life forever. And maybe it would change anyway – but I wouldn’t be the person I am right now. And I am very excited to see the person I will become in the future.
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”– Chinese proverb