This is a guest post by Efia of Effy Talks Life, and author of the book Girl, Solo – A Modern Guide To Travelling Alone.
I was never one of those people who fantasized about moving abroad and starting over. As a little girl I’d written stories about running away or experiencing new lands from my books. But it was always just that – a dream and nothing more.
In progressing to adult life, those dreams began to fade even more and instead I followed the traditional path of higher education. It wasn’t until I approached the end of my time at uni that I had a real “what the f am I going to do now?!” moment.
WTF Do I Do Next?
I was in my 3rd year. of university in Aberdeen, Scotland when the fear of *What next?* began to creep in.
While all my friends were talking about applying for grad jobs and moving to London after graduation, I realized I didn’t have the same aspirations. And more concerning: I was really struggling internally.
It was all really confusing because on paper I was doing well. I immersed myself in volunteer opportunities and my grades had never been better. But inside my head, it felt like chaos.
Unable to shake the feeling that something wasn’t right, I turned to therapy to try and make sense of what was going on. It definitely helped me get my thoughts out of my head, but it didn’t provide the answers I was desperately searching for.
So I stuffed the anxiety down somewhere into the depths of my mind where it couldn’t bother me (or so I thought) and trudged through the rest of my time at university. I graduated with a first class honours, still no closer to figuring out what the f to do next.
I’d always sworn that I’d never go back to uni after finishing my undergraduate studies. My sister was doing a Masters and seeing the amount of work she did terrified me. Plus, one degree was stressful enough for me – I wasn’t sure I had it in me to do another.
Then one day, I stumbled across a new graduate course my uni was offering – it seemed like the PERFECT solution to all my problems. Not to mention, it would give me one more year to figure it all out.
So grad school it was!
Graduate School: Possibly Not My Best Idea
The thing about going back to uni for a Masters is that it’s such a tempting option when you don’t know what else to do with your life or want to delay your entry into the “real world”.
I may be clueless and anxious, but at least I’ll be achieving things – so that’s ok, right?
For me, grad school was essentially a continuation of undergrad: I excelled in classes, but would cry in the bathroom in-between them.
Things still weren’t going so great. I was unfairly dismissed from my job due to a conflict with work and my uni induction, and I was partying a lot to distract myself from everything that was going on.
Midway through the year, things had built up to the point where I had a breakdown and became severely depressed. I stopped going to classes, seeing friends, or doing much of anything.
In the road to getting my life back on track, I started going to therapy again, I told my lecturers how I was feeling about my studies, and I opened up to my friends. It was during one of these discussions with a friend that the idea first came to us to move to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa.
The plan was to travel for a few months in South East Asia before eventually settling in Australia for a year. Truthfully I’ve never been much of a planner, so as my friend suggested all these places I’d only ever heard of in passing, I nodded enthusiastically and went along with whatever she said. It all sounded so exciting and infinitely better than my life in Aberdeen!
Then a few weeks later, we booked the tickets. IT WAS REAL! We were moving abroad!
Sure, you could argue that spending a year in Australia was just another way to delay our inevitable adult futures. But to us, it truly felt like we were finally moving forward with our lives.
Moving Abroad… On My Own
I mentioned off hand to a friend who was already out in Australia that after graduating, I planned to do the same. He said something that I still think about today, and though it initially stung I really needed to hear it. Because he rightly pointed out that though you can change the scenery, your problems will still follow you.
You can’t run away from your problems.
I knew that if I was serious about moving abroad, I had to actually get my mental health in check first. I spent a lot of time studying personal development, being kinder to myself, and surrounding myself with people who supported me. My life was beginning to feel completely different because I changed who I was within.
Then 3 weeks before the trip, my friend broke the news to me that she’d no longer be coming. If I wanted to do this, I was going to have to do it on my own.
In that moment, it felt like everything had come tumbling down. I didn’t want to go alone – this was OUR dream.
Though I’d done a lot of work on myself, I still didn’t feel brave enough. I didn’t think I had the confidence to move abroad on my own. But how could I turn back when I’d come so far? I just couldn’t. So on October 3rd, 2016, I donned my backpack and set off on my one year adventure.
4 years later and I still haven’t returned to Scotland.
From Working Holiday To Expat
That first day of traveling I distinctly remember bursting into tears on the plane. What was I doing?! Asia had never even been part of my plan. How would I find my way? Communicate with people? I had so many fears. But when I got off the flight in Bangkok and I realized I was really out there doing it on my own – that’s a moment I’ll cherish forever.
I spent 7 weeks traveling around Thailand and Vietnam before finally making it to Australia. My intention was to travel around the country… but then I fell in love with Melbourne and the rest, as they say, is history.
Within my first couple of weeks there, I landed a job through a mutual friend. Soon after that I had somewhere to live. I set up my banking, secured a job, found my own place, and started making new friends – all on my own. I’d worried SO MUCH about all these things, and somehow everything just seemed to effortlessly fall into place for me.
It dawned on me that all along I’d had the power to change my life.
Moving to Australia on my own was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Though at many points in my life up until that day I made the choices I thought I *should* be making in that moment, this time I truly just thought about myself and my own happiness. What I *wanted*, rather than what was expected of me.
That’s not to say there haven’t been challenges along the way, but I’m a far stronger person now than I was then. I know now that I can handle anything that life throws at me.
If you’re thinking about following the unconventional path, my advice to you is just GO FOR IT.
Everything was new or scary at one point in your life, but you’re still standing, right? Always remember that you can handle anything and everything in life.
The only real failure is not to try.