A terrible traveller’s ode to moving abroad

This month. This July has been a messy break-up, a long drawn out good-bye to my St. John’s and my apartment, my loft bedroom with The Narrows view.

My home for six years, the place where some of my dearest friendships were established, struck up by Friday nights and India beers and Cards Against Humanity and keg parties involving angry neighbours. My first roommates, moved on, for years, established in careers. My final roommates, moved on, house bought, established in careers. My house void of cats and furniture, almost to my relief. Like a great life-purge after a long six-year binge. And here I am adrift on a cloud somewhere in Bay d’Espoir, letting all the emotions crash into me like a train.

I slingshot back and forth between intense-almost-unbearable excitement, and devastation over something entirely in my control – something entirely reversible with the purchase of a return plane ticket.

But I have just a one-way: Berlin, August 2nd, via the red-eye to London. St. John’s has been tired out for some time. Not much for me there other than good friends, and my empty nest. (Sarcasm, if you couldn’t tell.)

The same faces on Water Street, the same panhandlers, the same Monday night line-up at Shamrock City. But Berlin promises anonymity, and fresh starts, and newness.

I’m like a druggie addicted to chasing that next high, although I already know that for the first two months I’ll spend much of my time in my bedroom, door closed, looking out my window onto my street in Prenzlauer Berg, aching all over with a loneliness that I brought on myself. I will find my gym and my used bookstore and a new circle of friends and eventually order will be restored.

But there will be no ocean, no violent winds, no echo of music floating up from George Street cutting through a crisp summer night. A weird comforting sound of humanity. No cats curled against the back of my knees, no storms to drive me under fleece blankets.

Well, there might be storms.

Over the past few months I’ve been baffled by my own feelings. Pulling books from bookshelves, stacking them in cardboard boxes, shipping them home to Mom and Dad, crying about the finality. I said goodbye to the other cats and sat on the couch, pathetic, tears streaming down my face. Kissed two of my friends with a sayonara, farewell! See you in Berlin, maybe next year. Crawled home to my parents to see my extended family, my great big warm family who all worry about me lost in Germany. The love palatable, everywhere, me enveloped in it.

Even if I’ve spent the last year complaining about my lack of love life, my freezing house, the boredom of a too-small town. Filling out visa forms and changing addresses and cancelling bills. A relief to be done with a lot of it, eager to move back someday, maybe, and start fresh with new Tupperware and fluffy pillows. Optimistic I’ll meet my dream man in Germany but deep down knowing that no, it could not ever happen. My life too intertwined in Newfoundland. Me, rooted too deep, like the tuckamore bent by the wind.

What is it about us, the restless souls, the ones who can’t sit still?

Is it a design flaw? A design perk? I am a terrible traveller, my soul always divided deeply. Attached to so many spaces, returning always to same destinations, but with the inability to claim one as my own.

I spent last week wandering the empty rooms of my house and wondering why I feel so left behind when I’m the one that’s always leaving. The deep ache for change and new experiences just as strong as the great love for the familiar, the need to be surrounded by wonderful people, by family.

I’ll lock the door behind me, toss my keys in the mailbox for the landlord. Step onto a plane and then I’ll be gone, for now. Me, sitting here in my childhood bed rifling through bags of old letters, thinking, how crazy am I to be leaving all those I love behind?

Two weeks from now I’ll be touching the Berlin wall, visiting Checkpoint Charlie, practicing my terrible German. Missing my loved ones. But I’ll be back.

Maybe I’ll be back.

  • July 29 2015

    Hey Candice, I’ve been a quiet follower for some time now, but felt compelled to comment on this post and wish you well in your move to Berlin.

    I can relate whole-heartedly to this post having moved 6 months ago from comfy Minneapolis USA – full of family and the dearest of friends – to a new life in Glasgow Scotland, home of not one familiar soul. For no other reason than I visited and fell in love with Glasgow and could no longer imagine my life NOT living there. I had the same fears you mention, but found them all to be completely unfounded as I fell easily into my new life. You will too. So happy for you taking this giant step, it really is the best thing ever to chuck it all in and see where it lands.

    Best wishes to you in Berlin xx

    • August 05 2015

      Jenny, I love hearing from my quiet followers! Thanks so much, that means a lot to me. Isn’t it wonderful when you feel that pull? Exciting and terrifying all at once. I’m glad you found it to be the right decision. I’m three days in and haven’t seen a great deal yet, but here’s hoping

  • July 29 2015
    Susan Beare

    Excellent writing. You are not alone in feeling like picking up and moving yet staying close to home all at the same time. Good luck and Godspeed. You will be fabulous in Germany.

  • July 29 2015

    Beautifully written, Candice! I know exactly how you are feeling at the moment – 3 months ago I flew to Edinburgh with a one-way ticket. Before I left I was so excited, but when the time came to leave, and I realized how much love and support I was surrounded by, I felt devastated to leave. But moving to Edinburgh has been the best decision of my life, and I’m sure you’ll end up feeling the same about Berlin – despite the inevitable difficulties you’ll experience when you first arrive. Good luck with the move, and know that St. John’s (and everything and everyone in it) will always be there, ready to welcome you back whenever you decide to return.

    • August 05 2015

      You’re so right, Ashley, it’s not like I’m banished from the country! Haha. I’m so glad you can share your experience with me. That makes me hopeful about adjusting to life here in Berlin

  • July 29 2015

    Reading this made me feel so excited and so nervous right along with you- as terrified and isolated as you might feel at first, I know this will be such an awesome experience for you. Anything this big will only make you grow braver, wiser, teach you new things and leave you with unerasable memories. I’m also in Germany at the moment, albeit sheltered under the safe wings of my friends & family. Next week though I’ll be setting out on the next leg of my trip completely alone, which is a scary challenge I’m really looking forward to. After all, how can I grow if I’m constantly following behind someone else and having them speak German for me? :P
    Anyways, I wish you the best of luck with your move, we’re rooting for you! Viel Glück und viel Spass! :)

  • July 29 2015

    Oh Candice, you will be OK. I am currently one month into a one year trip and for the six months before I left I was the same as you. I jumped from uncontrollable excitement to depression. I clung to my fiance during the weeks before I departed as he is only joining me for short interludes during my trip. The first two weeks were exciting then the loneliness hit me really hard. I missed home and him so much. But you just keep going and things will be OK. Your new reality will become your norm

    • August 05 2015

      I’m so happy you guys are chiming in with relatable stories! You all really are bringing me a world of comfort. Thank you. I’m impressed you did this while being attached to someone. Way to go!

  • July 29 2015

    “Attached to so many spaces, returning always to same destinations, but with the inability to claim one as my own.”

    I left home at 20 with a one-way flight to London and $1000. I barely spoke the language. It shaped me, everything I do, everything I am. 2 years later I moved to Toronto. And now I’m divided between Montreal, London and Toronto. When someones asks me where I feel at home though, it’s always, always London. I’ve been back for 5 years, but in my heart London is still my true home. I hope you find that in Germany x

    • August 05 2015

      Ah, Andy, such words of comfort. :) Thank you! 20 is an incredible age to do such a thing. If you can do it, so can I

  • July 30 2015
    Lauren @BonVoyageLauren

    Beautifully written, as always. I wish you the very best and I’m looking forward to more posts from Europe!!! <3

  • July 30 2015
    Ailsa Ross

    Beautiful piece. And yay Prenzlauer! Is so lifestyley — http://www.saintgeorgesbookshop.com/ is a great English bookstore, every recommendation I’ve had from the staff has been challenging, but in a good way. And Jimavukti yoga does the first month for super cheap, 39 eur or something like that, and there’s tons of classes in English as well as German: http://www.jivamuktiberlin.de/indexeng.html. And it’s only, like, 20 minutes to bike into the thick of Kreuzberg from Prenzlauer, and maybe 30-40 to get to Neukolln which is where all, or at least a lot, of the nighttime happenings are. Enjoy!

    • August 05 2015

      Love your suggestions, THANK you! Definitely need some yoga classes!

  • July 31 2015

    You’re giving me flashbacks to the day, two and a half years ago, that I moved abroad. I felt EXACTLY like this. So torn and sad and, well, emo. Haha. Excited for new beginnings but wondering why I felt so compelled to leave a good life behind. I still haven’t moved home and even though I’m thinking next year after I turn 30 it might be time to go home and “settle down” I have my doubts that it’ll last long. We restless souls will always be restless! But it’s good that you’re following your heart and I think it will all turn out for the best in the long run. The pieces may seem scattered now but they’ll come together in a surprising way. Best of luck in the move! :)

    • August 05 2015

      “The pieces may seem scattered now but they’ll come together in a surprising way.” I love that, thank you!

  • July 31 2015

    What a whirlwind story! Reading this makes me realize how easy I had it. I moved from Belgium to Switzerland 2.5 years ago, and I felt right at home here. Leaving Belgium behind was easy for me. It didn’t bother me. Leaving friends and family behind was tough of course, but all in all I had a very smooth transition. The moment I knew we were gonna move I just flipped a switch and that was it.

    • August 05 2015

      I’m just a big baby! :) Newfoundlanders are raised to be very attached to their homes, I believe. We can’t help it. I’m a few days into Berlin and I find the language extremely daunting, but so far so good

  • August 01 2015

    Candice you’re a writer! “Attached to so many spaces, returning always to same destinations, but with the inability to claim one as my own.” So beautiful. I can feel you’re hurting, though, and hope you find comfort in the anonymity you spoke of. New is good, good is to come! <3 x

    • August 05 2015

      Saz, such a lovely comment, thank you! I’m a few days into Berlin and although it’s overwhelming, I DO love the anonymity.

  • August 02 2015
    Maggie BB

    Been avoiding reading this one because I knew it would make me cry.
    So, obviously, reading it after I dropped you off at the airport was a good idea.
    I get it, and I have words, but I can’t really share them right now because I have that uncomfortable I’m gonna cry now throat ache…
    You’re an inspiration.

    • August 05 2015

      NO! NO CRYING! It’s just another extended trip! I could never leave my St. John’s family for good! I love you all too much, especially you

  • September 18 2015

    Beautiful Written

  • November 09 2015

    Really interesting and well-written post! I understand the excitement of moving abroad! I moved from London to Copenhagen before many years and it was amazing experience! Now I am back in London. :)

    • November 10 2015

      Thank you, Silvia! :) I think MAYBE I’ve settled into the expat life, haha.

  • May 11 2016

    Hi Candice, another quiet follower here haha. I tuned in to your blog a couple of weeks ago after reading your Camino posts. Since then I have become an avid reader and a huge fan! You write beautifully.

    I spend boring days at work secretly reading your posts, getting inspired for my Euro-rail journey in 5 weeks :) I am 30 and single and have quit my job and home to travel alone. In 5 weeks it will be just me, a backpack and a rail ticket. Your posts have inspired me to add Bosnia and others to my list of destinations!

    I have chosen to comment on this particular post because it resonates so much with me. Especially right now… mourning the loss of my little flat and leaving my lovely family behind, yet knowing I am doing the right thing for my “restless soul”.

    You are cool, funny and you have a new loyal fan. Might see you in Europe! :D

    Heather x

    • May 16 2016

      Aw! What an amazing comment to read today. Thank you so much. If it makes you feel better, once you get out there, you won’t look back for long. Haha. Leaving is the hardest part — the rest is easy. And I’m SO glad you’re going to Bosnia!! If you find yourself in Berlin, send me a message!

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