As I prepared for my ‘daughter in the faith’ to move to Paris, I thought a lot about a gift I could get her to celebrate her moving here and also to remind her about the adventure she’s undertaken.
I found art and jewelry with birds with open wings, inspirational quotes about living a grand life, and lots of stuff about spreading your wings.
But actually moving abroad doesn’t feel like spreading your wings or flying at all. It’s nice to think of it that way. But it actually feels a lot more like climbing a mountain.
1. It looks exciting when it’s in the distance but kind of boring most days when it’s up close.
Before I moved to Paris I dreamed about what it might be like. I also had nightmares about being lost. I lost sleep night after night as I wondered at the grand adventure I would have.
But then I arrived and found, to my surprise, I was still me. Sure, there were days when the view was fantastic, but a lot of days looked like waking up, eating cereal, and checking things off my to-do list.
The mountain had become individual trees, dirt paths, and some pretty boring views. But then when I saw it in the distance behind me, again the collection of simple elements worked together to create something beautiful. It was each day individually that added up to something fantastic.
2. Some days it’s breathtaking.
The reason people love hiking is because eventually you come out of the path or look between the trees and you can see for miles. It’s exquisite. Seeing things from above changes your worldview, literally. There are days when the streets of Paris are magical. Every place is beautiful for different reasons, and reveling in the joy of where you are is part of living a grateful life.
3. Some days it’s awful.
Yes there are days climbing the mountain that you hate it and wish you had never started. You miss comfort and family and you are tired. These are days that it’s not gorgeous, and it’s not even boring – it’s just awful. These days happen. And depending on why you’ve moved abroad, you don’t always feel like you can be honest about the difficulty of these days. But just like climbing a mountain, the total experience makes those tough days worth every second.
4. A lot of times you’re alone.
Everyone wants to say they’ve climbed a mountain but not many people actually put on their boots and do it. A lot of people will promise you that they’ll come with you or that they’ll come see you, but when it comes down to it, the journey is yours alone. And you can take pictures of the things you see or try to tell people about it, but ultimately you come to understand that there are things about this journey that you will hide in your heart and never be able to share.
5. You will never ever regret it.
It’s not just being able to tell people you did it. It’s that for the rest of your life you will be marked by the experience. The people you meet will change you. The hard days will toughen you up. The beautiful days will imprint themselves on your heart. And you won’t regret it, because for all the days that were hard and for all the loneliness and confusion and beauty, you worked for it. You lived it. You let yourself change.
So no, you won’t soar. You won’t spread your wings. You’ll pack your bags, tie your shoes, and walk. Uphill.
The reality is, moving abroad is hard. The things in your daily life that you never had to think about are suddenly tasks that are near impossible. The adventure is not for the faint of heart or the weak of knee, but putting on your gear and taking those first steps will lead you places you never imagined in your wildest dreams.