Moving Back Home After Living Abroad

What would you do if you lived away from home for so long that it no longer felt like home anymore?

What would you do if you lived the most crazy life filled with adventures, no day like the other, working many jobs and rarely sleeping but loving every minute, every second—good and bad—because it taught you so much about yourself and the world that made everything you once knew seem so small?

What would you do then?

I find myself asking this a lot as I’m finally coming to terms with being back in my home city after the expiration of my Youth Mobility Visa.

This visa let me, a Canadian, live and work in the UK for two years where I not only thrived in a busy environment, but also got to travel to so many amazing places and make friends from different countries.

To be back in the quietness of my house and old routine, I fully reflect on all of my wonderful experiences and how outstanding it was to have met the people that I met.

No matter what happens in the future, I’ll always be thankful for the time I’ve had and the memories made with my friends who have become my family over the past two years.

Since I’ve been back a few weeks, I thought I’d share what it’s really like to experience reverse culture shock—and hopefully I can help some other travellers see that any change of this magnitude does affect you in ways you may not have anticipated.

Exhilaration Rush

You just get off of a crazy long plane ride and are instantly met with family. Having been away for so long, it was of course so nice to see my family and it’s a great distraction for the sadness of leaving behind my housemates and friends. The first week or so is just full of family dinners and is go-go-go.

Lack of travel talk

Okay, hear me out. I know that if your audience (AKA my friends and family) are not used to travel they may not have much to contribute in conversation. But it was a bit disheartening to not even be asked much about my travels, and I just found myself defaulting to conversation about the local less-exciting life of my home town.

Not having people to converse with about my adventures is the main reason I’m writing this post, because some things need to be said and there’s just too much in my head to not put it somewhere!

Life here has moved on

I admit I wasn’t the best at keeping in contact with all my mates back home while I was abroad. There was just always so much happening and the time difference turned phone calls into text messages which turned fewer and fewer as the months went on.

The space you once filled in their lives, they filled with something else. And now that you’re back, you’re the one with the huge gap and it’s a bit shocking to deal with all of that at once.

Of course you can try to reconnect or even make new friendships, but you have to accept both of these courses will require work.

Yet things have stayed the same

As much as people have gotten used to you being away, much of the daily lives of your friends and family have remained the same.

It’s difficult to relate to people who have worked at the same job everyday and have stayed in the same city.

I haven’t even spoken to many people in person yet about my travels but to “catch up” with me would require a 200 page PDF document listing everything that has happened in the past 2 years.

I’ve already even classed (to myself) three different versions of each country I’ve been to depending on who I was talking to; ie. there’s a scandalous version, a PG version (for the fam), and a personal version that could contain small things that meant a lot to me but may be indifferent to others.

Let me know if you’d like some tidbits of any of these possible lists! I’ll put a list of the countries I’ve been to down below, feel free to question me on anything as I consider myself quite knowledgeable now on solo travel.

The isolation is real

Right before moving back home I was living in a share house with 8 other people similar to my age from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and England.

If you know anything about these lovely countries, you know that they mean a great time with a social atmosphere.

Coming from that to living with a dog is a lot.

I’ve barely been alone at all in the past few years, so it’s very different to experience quiet and personal space. I’ve grown used to always being around people, which as an introvert, has been such a great transformation for me personally.

I’ve grown to speak my mind and always have someone to bounce ideas off of. That connection is something I miss, but hope to find again wherever I am.

I guess you will never really feel at home again, so what you have to feel is at home with yourself.

I really think that that is key in moving forward.

Please let me know if you’ve experienced this reverse culture shock before and how you’ve handled it! Alternatively, if you had the means to move to another place, would you?

xoxo

Christina

PS. As promised:

Countries I’ve explored:

Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnian, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Macedonia, Montenegro, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Turkey, United States, Wales

Stonehenge Tour | English Heritage

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When you go to England, what’s the one tourist spot that everyone tells you to visit? Why, Stonehenge, of course! Last weekend I got the amazing opportunity to not only visit, but take an amazing tour of the stones with some other interns.

We took a coach bus from Embarkment station in London directly to Stonehenge where we proceeded to get on another bus from the coaching area to the stones.

We didn’t hit any rain, but it was quite cold when we arrived in the field! Luckily my Canadian roots prepared me well. Wearing three layers under my coat along with hat, gloves, and scarf, kept me bundled!

I’m glad I had a friend with me who who I could do impromptu photo ops with—the possibilities are endless with the beautiful backdrop.

We had a tour guide show us the best places to stand for pictures, and had a little help from the photographer she brought along. For information on tickets, check out English Heritage.

It’s always fun to spend 15 minutes trying to get the lining up just right so it looks like you are lifting or touching the stones! The poor tourists around us politely waiting to cross, while we urge them to go ahead, as we’ll ‘be a while’, were priceless.

There was something special about being so close to something so large and mysterious. Its complete isolation makes a powerful impact!

Have any of you ever been or want to go to Stonehenge?  Let me know what you think!

More photos:

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Day Trip to Birmingham

This past Saturday I took it upon myself to take a train over to Birmingham from London. I went for a YouTuber’s book signing, and it was great to do something completely on my own!

I had a peaceful train ride over and a seat to myself which is always nice. With two hours of relaxation staring out at the vast London countryside, I made my way on over to Birmingham New Street Station.

I found my way over to Waterstones, where I queued up with a few other girls to meet the fabulous Charlie McDonnell, who was also the first UK YouTuber I ever watched and contributed to my initial interest in coming to London.

After I met him and snagged a picture, I gracefully went down to a different floor and charged my phone for the journey back to London.

I’m not sure if I will ever be making it back to Birmingham, but it was nice to travel outside London and its constant excitement and activity.

Have any of you ever travelled outside London before? Please let me know of any places I should go next!

Buckingham Palace Adventures

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Victoria Memorial Statue

I was lucky enough to go to Buckingham Palace on the last day that it was open to the public before the Queen came back. The day that I went was also displaying many of her dresses as part of her 90th birthday celebrations.

We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, but the rooms were breathtaking. the Royal Staircase was the most magical of them all.

There were paintings lining the walls, different sizes and frame types adding interest. They were all portraits of different important people, and the went all the way up to the arched ceiling which itself was engraved with beautiful angels.

I was also happy that it was sunny out when I went! Walking around the grounds behind Buckingham Palace with the sun shining was amazing. I didn’t want to leave!

Eventually I did, and made my way over to St. James Park which was right around the corner.

Did any of you get to do a tour of Buckingham Palace? What did you think? Please let me know!

More photos:

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Walking Back to the Tube
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Buckingham Palace’s Back Yard

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Windsor Castle in the Fall

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There’s nothing like spending the day in Windsor to freshen up your perspective on life. That’s where I found myself last Saturday with my intern group: the magical grounds surrounding Windsor Castle.

We started out by taking an express train from Paddington station—it was around 30 minutes before we were in Windsor which was quite fast!

We had a lovely tour guide who took us around the grounds and told us the history behind parts of the Castle’s exterior and interior.

You aren’t allowed taking pictures inside, but there were beautiful paintings lining the walls and in some rooms, the entire ceiling was a painting.

It reminded me of when I went to Buckingham Palace, and funnily enough, both then and during Windsor Castle were exhibits of the Queen’s wardrobe. It was neat! The dresses were different during both exhibitions.

Afterward, we checked out the areas around Windsor Castle. We went to Eaton College, saw some swans, had some ice cream and then made our way back to London.

The calmer atmosphere compared to Zone 1 in London was a joy to experience. Have any of you been to Windsor? What did you think? I’d love to hear!

More photos:

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Gargoyle attached to Eton College

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The oldest building left standing in Windsor

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The raised flag means the Queen is in!

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Windsor Library

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The London Eye in Pictures

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I’ve been a bit sick recently, but that hasn’t stopped me from taking part in more touristy attractions during my stay here in London!

I had the opportunity to go on The London Eye this past Sunday and am really glad I got to experience the ride.

You start out in a large capsule that can fit up to 28 people. There is a bench in the middle for seating, as well as tablet guides explaining different parts of the view.

One rotation takes around 30 minutes which goes by quite quickly when you’re trying to capture the best images!

I was lucky enough to go with my friend’s mom who is staying here temporarily for work, which was a great feeling to spend time with someone from my hometown.

I hope to experience other exciting attractions—there’s always something incredible to do here.

Have you ever been on The London Eye? Are there any other noteworthy sights that must be seen, in your opinion? Please let me know!

More photos:

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Living Life like a Londoner

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Near Piccadilly Circus

It’s crazy to think that just a few weeks ago I was incredibly homesick and questioned my decision to intern abroad in London. Things couldn’t be more different now, and I’m glad I stuck it out!

Meeting new people has been a highlight for me. One of the best things about London is that there are so many foreigners! A coworker from just outside London said that she’s the one who feels like the minority, not the other way around.

It’s an interesting perspective, and I just feel that everyone is so nice here! I had the total bias that people would be distant, but so far my experience has been the complete opposite.

I feel quite lucky to be living in central London; there is always something happening—always an event to attend. Too many things to do in too little time. Good thing I love to be busy!

Have any of you experienced London as a foreigner? What did you think?

Easy (Like Sunday Morning) | Living in London

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Ahhh. One of the benefits of working a 9-5 job? Having Sundays off. Sweet, tiny victory as you wake up, sans alarm, to a beautiful late-morning sunshine—rare for London.

As I wake, I remember the things I planned to do for the day, and suddenly they seem like distant dreams. Waking up again several hours later, window cracked open, I can hear the music and laughing from outside.

I make a move towards my wardrobe, when I hear the sound of rain pattering down on the pavement, even though the sun is still at its peak.

London weather, eh?

Wearing a dress and rainboots, I embrace the day—heading off to an art fair at Regent’s park. Hundreds of exhibits (and photos) later, I leave satisfied with the creativity I’ve seen.

With Regent’s park just around the corner, I explore for the first time. There’s something tranquil about walking, crisp leaves crunching beneath your feet, as you make your way across the grounds.

The fountains and flowers were remarkably beautiful, and I’m glad I got to experience such a peaceful place.

Do any of you like to take liesurely strolls by yourself? Autumn is such an amazing season for exploration.

More photos:

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One Month In | London 2016

So much has happened over the past few weeks here in London! I’m happy to say that I’m no longer homesick and am in love with the city!

Summary: I now have several different friend groups, adults to talk to whom I’ve met through volunteering, designers to keep in touch with, tourist attractions checked off the bucket list and an excellent internship that’s progressing wonderfully!

—This is where I remember to breathe.

I distinctly remember the first night that changed everything:

Friday, September 16th: The Mary Martin London Fashion Show

This was the first event I decided to go to alone. Completely by myself, I went to this fashion show hosted at the Kensington Close Hotel, which was a stunning venue with glass chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.

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No. 41 inside the Kensington Close Hotel

Before this event, I questioned my ability to meet people on my own.

It’s true what they say about when you’re by yourself: you’re forced to talk to others! But just in case this plan failed, I did do a little prep work. I may have read articles on how to talk to people on the tube ride to the event.

They had a few good tips!

One article was How to Network When You’re an Introvert, which emphasized making connections online and not overthinking things.

So I posted in the Facebook event that if anyone was thinking of going to the show, but had no one to go with, I would be walking around with a camera taking pictures for my blog. This lead to a few direct messages from people attending the event.

Through my Google rendezvous, I also stumbled upon the concept of standing by the bar. People are always ordering drinks which requires waiting time! Genius.

So, after changing into my confidence-boosting heels in the washroom (where I briefly stumbled into two models and the designer herself), I stood by the bar and had my camera slung around my neck like the professional photographer that I am.

There was a small group of guys at the bar; I introduced myself to someone which was followed by many more introductions, and before I knew it, I had met a over a dozen people.

I never expected people to be so nice to me! The sense of feeling welcome was a great shock to how I thought people would be at fashion events. (Devil Wears Prada, anyone?) I took over one hundred photographs, yet the highlight was knowing I could be fine on my own.

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Marie Martin London 2016
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Two gentlemen in the centre, requesting an appearance on The Blog

So that was the first event of many! I met some amazing people from all over the world; it was a very exciting experience and an absolutely amazing show!

I have many more events to write about; I think I’ll try adding a ‘Fashion’ segment soon! Slightly more formal posts with tons of pictures (approved by the designers beforehand). Let me know if you think that’s a good idea!

Guess I should try to sleep now? 3 a.m. sure does come fast!

xx

To Making New Friends | London 2016

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My view from the Shard, London

I surprised myself over the past few days by putting in the extra effort to meet new people. I already have one group of interns here to hang out with, but I’ve always been the person with multiple friend groups—so it’s been hard over the past week and a half to adjust!

I had my first ‘couch surfing experience’ on Sunday. This is quite the cool app; it isn’t limited to people who are looking for a place to stay. The ‘events’ section allows you to see what’s going on near you, organized by other couchsurfers.

This is a place full of people who want to meet other travellers, or locals, and try new experiences! I went for a 8k run through Hyde park (my first time being there) with a super friendly guy who had been in London for six years already.

It’s a fresh perspective to hear stories from a local. We had a great time, I pet some swans—and got a bit of exercise in too!

On a different note, I also met up with a new group of girls the next evening. One girl coincidentally moved here the same day as me, is from Ottawa (like me) and is getting into a similar field that I want to pursue.

And this connection all began through me reading her blog a few months ago! So she organized a group hangout, with other new girls, and we met up in person for the first time at the Aqua Shard (the 32nd floor of the Shard).

After some photography sessions, we moved onward to another (less expensive) restaurant for fish and chips!

What a great past few days it’s been. I hope to be as busy as possible for the next little while! I’m always happiest with an full schedule.

Anyone else love meeting new people, but find it challenging to get things started? I’d love to hear!