One of my favourite things to do while browsing Facebook is answering the weekly question in the Girl Gone International Facebook groups. However, I didn’t answer the question last week, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. The question read When you are asked, “Why did you leave your country of birth?”, what is your reply? The question wasn’t difficult, but every time I tried to write an answer, I wasn’t sure what to say. It’s not the first time I’ve been asked this question. However, as I try to settle into my new home in my second European country, I’ve been thinking a lot about it. This, inevitably, leads me to think about how moving to Europe 11 years ago completely changed my life.
A True Canadian
If you know anything about me, you probably know that I got the travel bug young. My mom always said she knew that I would be a traveller and live abroad. She also knew that I’d go as far away from home as possible. It’s not that I don’t love Canada — I do! I’m very patriotic: I always wear red and white on Canada day, eat poutine whenever I can, put maple syrup on everything, and say sorry for the smallest of things. However, despite all of this, I never felt truly connected to Canada. I also knew that I didn’t want to spend my life in my tiny hometown.
The first time I stepped off a plane in Berlin, I felt a rush. The atmosphere was so different from where I grew up. I could feel the history everywhere, and the architecture surrounding me was so old and beautiful. At that moment, something clicked in me, and I knew I needed to move to Europe after university. That opportunity came to me in the form of a Teach English Abroad program in Madrid.
Arriving in Madrid was thrilling! The rush of traffic, the sights and sounds of Huertas and Puerta del Sol, seeing whole ham legs hanging from the ceilings in bars, eating mounds of free tapas with each beer, partying until 6 am, and staying up to watch the sunrise all felt like a natural fit for me. As the months passed, I experienced more of Madrid, improved my Spanish, and observed the Spanish way of life. All of these experiences helped to build and cement my love for my new home.
Home Is Who You’re With
I was lucky to make some really great friends early on. Most of them were other Canadians and Americans who felt the same as I did — like they didn’t belong in their home country. Although some of these friends have since left, I still have a tight circle of people who have made lives for themselves in Madrid.
Meeting my now-husband is probably what solidified my reasons for staying in Spain. With his help, I was able to get real working papers and transition into a full-time teaching job at a private school in Spain. I’ve met some amazing friends there (both Spanish and expat) and made a name for myself at the school. I’ve also been lucky enough to take advantage of cheap flights and travel to other amazing European cities. This has allowed me to try their food, learn their history, and experience their way of life.
New Beginnings in Strasbourg, France
My most recent European adventure has taken me to Strasbourg, France, for a two-year sabbatical while my husband fulfills one of his professional goals. Although I’m in a different time in my life than I was 11 years ago when I moved to Madrid (I now have a four-month-old baby girl), I still feel the same excitement I felt when I first stepped foot in Europe so many years ago. I’m excited to re-learn French (or at least try!). I’m also excited to see the beautiful Alsatian towns with their traditional timbered houses. I want to explore as much as I can on this sabbatical. I want to see the Black Forest and nearby mountain ranges. I’m looking forward to experiencing all that France has to offer while I’m here!
Moving to Europe Was the Right Choice for Me
So I guess to answer the question, “Why did you leave your country of birth?” I would have to say that Canada just didn’t (and still doesn’t) give me the rush and excitement I’m looking for in my life. Europe, whether it be Spain or France, just feels right to me. I’ve checked off so many places on my travel list, learned so much about myself over the past 11 years, and made a life for myself here that I wouldn’t change for the world. Sure, I miss my family in Canada, but I’m happy here, and I know that moving to Europe was the right choice to make all those years ago.