Two years ago today I left England.
“How long are you going for?” people would ask.
“A few months, probably?” I’d say. “Maybe a year if I’m really pushing it… But I’ll be back to visit, I’m sure it won’t be too long.”
I haven’t been back since. Oops.
I had mixed feelings flying away out of Heathrow two years ago. I was a recent psychology graduate, ready to leave lectures, libraries, and all responsibilities behind, to chase the snow and explore the world. It was everything I’d been waiting for.
But it was also hard to leave. I had some great friends, a nice boyfriend, some job opportunities in the UK, and I faced a lot of confusion regarding my decision to deviate from a “typical” course of life.
Is this all worth it? I remember thinking on the way to the airport, tears on my face, hugging my pillow from my bed (it’s not often that I give genuine travel advice as I’ve more or less stumbled around the world with my eyes closed and my passport dropped somewhere behind me, but this is a good one: when moving to a new country – bring a good pillow. It’s the perfect home comfort and you can squish it into any space if you need to). Maybe I should just stay in England?
Two years and a nationwide pandemic later I can safely say I’m happy to be on this side of Atlantic. It’s been a crazy couple of years. I’ve been employed in all sorts of positions – house-keeper, barista, ski rental assistant, marijuana trimmer, lift operator, snow shaper, waffle maker, apple picker… I’ve had six different addresses. I lived in a beat-up van for a month, a mattress plonked in lieu of the back seats, and drove solo down to California and back. I’ve nearly got myself arrested. I’ve been on top of mountains, in lakes, in front of bears, from malnourished and hungover in a tent to cosy in bed with three feet of snow outside.
I’ve met people who have changed my life.
There are parts of me that miss England. I do. I miss my bedroom back home and Sainsbury’s Locals and pubs! Proper English pubs! And English chocolate. And sweet popcorn. I even miss the overabundance of barbecuing and men with a loose understanding of public decency whenever it’s above 23 degrees.
I miss my friends. I’m rubbish at keeping in touch online. Guys, you know who you are. I miss you so much. I’ll do better.
“In England,” I said to Seb the other day when it was damp and miserable outside, particularly horrid conditions for late summer in British Columbia. “The weather is like this all winter. It rains all day every day – not proper rain, just pathetic drizzle. It’s grey, dark, cold, but not cold enough to snow – just enough to be constantly uncomfortable. Everyone stays at home, watching evening television and drinking lots of tea… It’s a great time, I can’t wait for you to see it,” I finish with a wistful smile on my face, looking forward to the time where international travel will be remotely thinkable again.
I glance over at Seb, who’s expression is one of dismay and incredulity, like he’d rather shove his face in the bin than spend any amount of time in a soggy English winter.
Speaking of which, I miss hearing ‘bin’ and ‘knickers’ and ‘wanker’ and all the other charming British dialect. But that’s okay, Canadian culture is growing on me. I’m fussy about the quality of my maple syrup. I know how to dress for -30°C weather. I use the word ‘zucchini’ regularly.
For the last few years I’ve been moving around constantly, living in new places and meeting new people, finding my way in new countries and getting settled in new environments. I was whirling around the world, feeling excited and scared and unsure about the future. I used to thrive off of that. There’s something deliciously addictive about starting life in a brand new place where nobody knows you, where you have nothing to live up to and no old memories to cringe at. I imagine it’s the same rush children feel when they put on Halloween costumes – you know, when the anonymity gets to their heads and they start throwing candy at innocent stranger’s faces. There’s something powerful about living unbeknown.
But now, as I mark the end of two whole years in Canada, I feel… settled. It’s only sinking in now that I’m staying… I’m not on holiday anymore, I’m not going anywhere. And I’m so grateful to have found peace here, in the mountains of British Columbia. It’s like I can finally relax, let out that breath I’ve been holding for years, because I’ve found somewhere I’d like to stay, and, even more importantly, someone I’d like to stay with (even if he’s yet to experience the misery of the UK in November). I write this, cuddling that very same pillow I brought from my bed in England, and I don’t regret a thing.
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