Tips on Self-care For Expats While Moving Abroad

Self-care has become a buzzword of our time. You can find advice on self-care from a simple Google search. I’m not going to give you advice on how to do your own self-care. However, I can’t emphasize this enough: You need to take care of yourself when you’re doing an international move. If you need Me Time, whatever that involves, take it. Want to eat a certain food? Do it! If you can’t bear to pack your books before reading some of them, go for it! Need to sleep 12 hours a night? That’s okay! You’re exhausted and your body is telling you how much sleep it needs. 

Problems I have had:

I exhausted myself when I was preparing to repatriate to the US from London. I would spend a long day packing and dealing with logistics. Then I would pig out on Chinese food watching House M.D. and then sleep for 12-14 hours. That wasn’t the way to handle the move. I had two months to get ready to move, but I could still have made time to take care of myself. By the time the move was complete, I was burned out. That experience made me indecisive about moving to another country again. 

What I do now:

It’s not about the amount of the things you have to do before you do an international move. It’s about how you plan to do those things and taking care of yourself along the way. When I was moving to the US, I was not good at taking care of myself. If anything, working myself to death was a badge of honor. Now, I know how to take care of myself, so I’m more consistent about planning relaxation into my day. I take regular breaks and treat myself now. So far, that has helped me immensely in coping with any unpredictabilities about moving abroad.

To be honest, writing this blog is a good self-care thing for me. It’s a common thing for me to need to sleep a lot when I’m moving. Making time to chill during the day doesn’t completely alleviate my fatigue. That can be scary because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I have been staying at home, but I still worry if my fatigue is normal preparation fatigue, or if I’m sick! So far, it’s been my paranoia talking. I love listening to an audiobook or music while I’m packing. 

Nature is a great stress reliever as well. Sometimes I forget to go outside and get some fresh air regularly, so I keep some photos on hand to enjoy. I have included them in this post for you to enjoy as well.

Pet Peeves:

The hardest things for me to deal with during an international move are a sudden change in plans. Normally, I am adaptable, but being fatigued about moving tries my patience and adaptability. Sometimes I need to vent, cry, or express any feelings about notifying another company that I’m moving overseas because it was unexpected! I let myself do it though. Sometimes, certain unexpected things aren’t emergencies, so I can watch a movie, take a nap, or read until I feel better and then take care of the problem. If it’s a high priority item, I can grit my teeth, sort out the problem, and treat myself afterward.

When I am packing I set small goals for a day and remember to treat myself. If I don’t know the next step with packing, I take a break until I know what I want to pack next. I don’t spend a whole day packing anymore because there will always be time to take care of it.

A Word About Unsupportive People:

One thing I would suggest as a self-care move to anyone moving internationally is to reach out to other expats or have someone you can talk to. International moves create their own set of problems and pet peeves that only people who have been through the process can understand.

Sometimes, people can be unsupportive or ignorant, even if they don’t realize it. When I moved to London when I was 10, the people I told usually responded with, “You’ll hate it!” but they would never say why I would hate it. It can be hard to tell people why you want to move to a new country. There is always someone else who finds a reason to disagree with you. It’s hard to express your hopes and desires for what you want to achieve in your new country, because those same people tell you something along the lines of, “You can do that here!”

On behalf of expats, I would just like to say to those people’s faces, “I’m glad you think so”. I also want to say, please don’t do this. It’s unsupportive because our feelings and reasons for moving are not up for debate. It’s starting to become common knowledge to use language to listen and not dismiss people’s feelings and experiences, so please apply what you know about that. You don’t have to understand why people want to move to another country. You just have to be supportive of people’s reasons and listen so they feel heard.

To my fellow expats past, present and future, hang in there! I know it’s stressful to deal with this stuff from people who don’t understand, even if they are your closest friends.

How to Organize the Timing of an International Move

How long does it take to prepare for moving abroad? Simple answer: as long as you want it. In the past, I have moved abroad a few months after deciding to do so. I made the decision to move to Canada last April. I am moving as soon as the border re-opens. The border may reopen at the end of July this year, according to recent updates. I am prepared for the border to reopen later than that though. Restrictions will relax, but not completely go away. I may have a chance to move soon, but we’ll see! It’s about finding a window of opportunity and grabbing the chance!

Know Your Timeframe:

My friends who are international students have said that it generally took them a year to get ready to move. Applying to universities and getting visas processed can take a long time! I have heard of other people who get a job overseas and then move a few months later. The International Experience Canada visa rules state that I have to get the visa first before I can look for a job. Therefore, I decided to go to Canada on a visitor’s visa first. While I am waiting for the IEC visa, I can get settled and then I can start working. Even if your timeframe keeps changing, like mine is, you can still do a lot of preparation.

Set Goals that work with Your Time Frame:

Sometimes, you have an established goal to move, such as starting a job or university. If you don’t have that, make your own goal. Right now, I’m staying up to date on the border situation. I can get my IEC visa processed once I move to Canada. Visa processing and other services are delayed because of COVID-19. I can still be efficient in my own plans and preparation for moving though. The time you spend planning is not a waste of time!

A Note on Getting Settled:

It takes a long time to get settled in a new country. That’s the main reason why I’m going to move when the border opens. I do not want to rush the process of settling into a new country. It takes a MINIMUM of two months to get settled! It’s a variable, unpredictable time and you have to plan for that. If I waited to move until I got my IEC visa, there would be too much to do and too little time to do it.

I’m Moving To Canada! Read On To Find Out Why!

I get asked this question a lot. Here are my reasons why:

I Am A Third Culture Kid (or TCK):

What is a Third Culture Kid? Sociologist Ruth Useem developed the term to mean “a child who grows up in a culture different from the one in which his or her parents grew up.” So what’s my TCK story? I have lived in four countries, so far. I was born a US citizen in Switzerland, but my parents were dividing life between there and France. My childhood in the USA was spent in three different states during an eight-year period. I grew up in England and obtained dual UK nationality. I repatriated to the US seven years ago, intending to stay permanently. So, I have itchy feet! Plus, the election results in 2016 were an utter disaster! Trump and his ilk go against everything I stand for as a TCK! At least I can rely on my experience of moving to other countries to help me in the process.

Good Quality of Life in Canada:

Growing up, I learned what qualities make a country good to live in. Canada has consistently scored high in quality of life, happiness and health in international rankings. It’s further ahead on those rankings than other countries I have lived in, with the exception of Switzerland. I guess I will find out soon why that’s the case!

I Want A Better Life:

The main reason why people move to another country is to achieve a better life for themselves and their family. Deciding to move to a new country takes a lot of honest self-reflection. At first, I did not want to move to another country. I know the challenges and stressors that can happen during the process of immigration. I had hoped that the US would recover from the disastrous 2016 election results and I wished to be a part of the process. Then, I saw the shock waves of the disastrous election are being felt most strongly during the COVID-19 pandemic. This has led to more disastrous consequences. I cannot see myself having any sort of future in the US anymore. The more I learned about Canada, the more convinced I am of moving there. I shall continue my reasons for wanting to move to Canada in future posts.

More About Me:

Here’s some more about me. I recently graduated from college/university as an Economics and Data Science major. I am moving to Canada on the International Experience Canada (IEC) visa through InterExchange. Any students or graduates out there who wish to learn more about this visa? Please leave a comment and I will direct you to the right places!

If you want to follow me on social media, you can find the links on my Contact page.

Coming soon: Packing tips, finance tips and doing your research. Stay tuned for more!