I just recently celebrated my 24th birthday (Hooray! Nearly quarter of a century! What a nearly-not-really-a-big-milestone!) and as it approached it came as quite a bitter sweet experience. I think any big holiday or milestone as an expat makes you think back to your family and friends in your home city and can possibly bring up those feelings of homesickness.
It’s been six months (give or take a few days) since I landed on UK soil, breathed that sweet (although slightly polluted) London air and dug my heels in ready to stay for as long as I am I allowed. I’ve never really looked back in that time, preferring to look forward and embrace the lucky circumstance I finally found myself in.
People have asked me if I ever miss life in Australia or my family and friends back home, and the answer is of course yes; but not nearly enough to give up what I have here (until forced!). If you’re lucky enough to have a family like mine who always encouraged travel and living life how you wanted it- then it really isn’t a hard decision to make to leave them, as you know they will always be there when you make your way back.
Leading up to my birthday was the one time that I did start to feel a bit homesick. My house mate found me cuddled up on the couch clutching a glass of wine and feeling a little sorry for myself as I thought of turning 24 without my nearest and dearest.
Friends and family have also lately been asking me if I’m actually having fun over here and if it’s all I thought it would be. I suppose they are expecting that I’m sugar coating the truth, not wanting to tell them all the nitty gritty and that I want to make out that everything is sweet and happy 100% of the time when it’s not. But the real truth is that I really do feel as though I am exactly where I need to be. For months (or even years) before I arrived in London I always complained and wished for a time when I was somewhere else, wherever that may be. Finally, for once I am no longer complaining, and am now truly appreciating.
Turning 24 is an odd age as half of your friends and peers are married with very well paying stable jobs, mortgages and pretty houses and even a few with kids (believe me it’s true) while the other half are partying it up every night, working less than their dream jobs, single and carefree. It’s a weird mix when you realise you might be so far from where your 15 year old self thought you would be, but way happier than if you had achieved what your 15 year old self wanted you to anyway!
I think the best thing to remember if you’re feeling a bit alone on your first birthday abroad is to look around and appreciate where you are – because clearly it meant enough for you to get there. I feel extremely lucky to be finally living in London, have found beautiful friends, to be able to travel as often as money and annual leave allows and to know that my true friends and family back home will always be just a phone call (or instagram tag, facebook message, viber call, toilet snapchat (!), whatsapp thread or twitter tweet away!).