Why Moving Abroad is the Best Thing I’ve Ever Done

September 11, 2015
Why Everyone should Take A Year Off

We graduate high school with the expectation that we’re supposed to know what we want to do with our lives. How can we know what we want to do in life when we’ve been confined to the safety bubble of school for the majority of our lives?

Admittedly, I was lucky; I graduated high school with a fair amount of traveling already in my back pocket (thank you, Mum for taking me backpacking through Europe when I was 13). But I only knew that I had no idea what I wanted to do next. The rule at my house was one mandatory year of post secondary education just to get a feel for it, before choosing what I really wanted to do. So, upon graduating high school, I was working a comfortable part-time job at a medical clinic and I was enrolled in some general studies classes at the community college.

Within the span of a few months, I had made the decision to move half way around the world alone, to a country where I knew no one, had no job, had no home, and had only two nights accommodation.

I’ve always had a bit of an adventurous side, so for me, this comfortable life got pretty boring pretty fast, which is probably why all it took was a glimpse of another country for me to decide to uproot my life and move half way around the world. Inspired by a TV commercial that was filmed in London, I decided on a whim that London was where I was meant to be.

Of course, when I announced this decision to friends and family, no one really believed me; most people from my town hadn’t strayed too far yet. But a few weeks later, when I secured my travel visa, purchased my plane ticket, and booked two nights accommodation in a hostel in London, people started to take my move a bit more seriously.

Within the span of a few months, I had made the decision to move half way around the world alone, to a country where I knew no one, had no job, had no home, and had only two nights accommodation.

And it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

I don’t think I will ever be able to put into words the feeling that came over me when I arrived. Excitement. Freedom. Pure joy. The feeling of being exactly where I was meant to be, right at that moment. I have had very few moments in my life that have even come close to the feeling that I felt on my first day living in a new country.

The next year of my life was a year full of adventure and firsts that solidified, on a daily basis, that I had made the right decision. For the first time, I felt like I had really found my place and that I had really found myself. I met travelers from around the world who were daring enough to do what I had done and leave their routines behind to chase adventure through travel.

I found a flat in West London where I lived with roommates from Australia, Columbia, Italy, and South Africa. I came home everyday to a family of like-minded travelers who understood my wanderlust better than anyone back home.

I found a job I loved at Westminster Abbey. I got to walk to work everyday to the site of the sun rising over Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, and Westminster Abbey.

I ticked off bucket list items I never knew I had, from visiting the pyramids and riding a camel in Egypt to celebrating St. Patricks Day in Ireland to eating waffles in Belgium and gelato in Italy.

I found a new perspective. I left my bubble behind and learned about different cultures, tasted foreign foods, and picked up the different slang used around the world.

My daily routine was shaken up and it was great. Instead of working and going to school to work towards an unknown career, my days were filled with trips to Camden Market, walks along Oxford Street and Whitehall Road, lunch in Trafalgar Square, and weekend trips to Spain.

Moving abroad taught me that bold decisions make for wonderful adventures and it gave me the confidence to follow my passions in all aspects of my life.

Living with fellow travelers gave me an unparalleled sense of community. It also gave me a community of friends around the world to visit on future adventures, so not only did I have a reason to continue traveling, I had accommodation too. But most of all, it gave me an appreciation for life on a bigger scope than I had known previously, and the confidence to keep exploring.

Since dropping the life I knew at age 19 to move to London, I have successfully traveled around every continent except Antarctica (which is still on the list), gone back to school to get an education for a career I knew I wanted, and landed my dream job in my now-hometown Vancouver.

Moving abroad changed my life. It taught me that bold decisions make for wonderful adventures and it gave me the confidence to follow my passions in all aspects of my life. And that is why I believe everyone should live in a foreign country at least once in their lives.

Top Photo By Slack12

About Kelsi Carleton

Kelsi CarletonKelsi’s love of travel first began during a mother-daughter backpacking trip around Europe when she was only 13. By age 19, Kelsi was living in London, England where she spent her days working at Westminster Abbey and her spare time backpacking around Europe and Egypt. Since then, Kelsi has followed her passion for travel through Australia, Asia, and South America. Now living back in Vancouver, Kelsi works in PR and spends her spare time exploring in her own backyard.

2 thoughts on “Why Moving Abroad is the Best Thing I’ve Ever Done

  1. Avatar
    September 18, 2015

    I love this article Kelsi! I relate to how you felt like you had no idea what you wanted for your life just after highschool. I decided to pick up and move to Japan for 3 months, and it was one of my life’s most formative experiences. I still didn’t know what to do when I got home, but working 7 days a week to afford to travel, sorting my visa, accommodation, transport, food and employment (in a different language!) without the help of an adult gave me a sense of self-worth, confidence and efficacy.

    Travel may not be every young person’s option, but your choices should encourage you to step outside your comfort zone, expose yourself to new problems and to fail and get back up.

    So glad you shared 🙂

  2. Avatar
    September 17, 2015

    Great article! I am so envious of you, Kelsi, and all others who made the decision to pickup and travel just our of high school. This never really seemed to come up as an option when I was graduating, but I wish it had!

    Spending time backpacking abroad is something that is constantly in the back of my mind, but somehow I am now married, have a dog and a house in the suburbs, with have plans to start a family very shortly. Where does the time go!?

    Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade them for anything, but would be interested to see if there are any articles here from women who have backpacked with their young family? I imagine it would be challenging and a very different experience than doing it young and alone, but probably just as life changing!

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