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Living abroad alone - ups and downs

Photographs: Pexels

Text: Ophelia Wu

As expats, chances are this is not our first move. For whatever reason, relocation is both an exciting and daunting experience. If you moved to Denmark with your family or partner, congratulations. It's a good start to having a little sense of home and anchoring in a new country.

I have always moved abroad on my own. Moving to Denmark was not my first. When I was young, I moved to London for school, and it was a whole different world. As a student, you get thrown into all sorts of fun organisations and clubs, and there's so much good stuff and help that's so welcoming and supportive for students. But when I moved to Denmark, it was another story. I moved to Denmark just because I wanted to. Without a place, a partner, a job, a contract or any education, I bought a one-way ticket and moved from London after ten years of living there alone. Sure, I met many friends and people during my time in London. It was great fun and the best years of my life, so what's one more move to Denmark? I met local friends here throughout my work and travels, so the idea of moving here had been brewing for a while. Now, in hindsight, I finally understand why everyone (every Danish friend of mine) said it's so crazy and cool at the same time for me to move to Denmark just because. It was a little crazy.

The ups of living abroad alone

Perhaps I've been used to living abroad alone since I was 21. It's always so fun to enjoy that level of freedom and take control of everything in my life, down to where I want to sit and have an ice cream at home. There's so much room to meet new people, go out at any given time, and come home without worrying that I'd be told off, asked 1000 questions, or wake up any family members. Every day is exciting to encounter anything, especially in London, where you can very easily walk down the street, stop by a pub, grab a pint and meet new people who take you to parties at night. You have so much time and space to explore every bit of the city, plan your day, and do as you wish. In other words, just live the life you want without explaining it to anyone. The possibility is infinite if you open up your senses and space.

"As much as we enjoy our space and time, we human beings need connection, help, and interaction."

The downs

Now, who are we kidding? All of us expats had moments of reality checks. The downsides of living abroad alone are sometimes unbearable. While riding on all the woo-hoo joy and fun, sometimes reality hits, and you realise how lonely it can be. You may be homesick and missing your family and closest friends. The idea of being unable to pick up a call and meet up in the next hour daunts you, and you're now miles apart, time zones away. During festive seasons, if you're alone, all that liberation becomes a nostalgic cloud hanging above your head. Maybe you wish you had someone, your family is here, or just someone to share the joy and day with. When you get sick, it hits hardest. If you're lucky to have friends and colleagues that you're close with, then you have someone to take care of you or help you out a bit, but if you don't, your world suddenly flips upside down, and all that silence you enjoy becomes a miserable feeling. On a more practical side, things like moving homes, asking for advice, sharing ideas, etc. If you're living abroad alone without friends, the sense of solitude and helplessness in getting things done quicker or finding a solution affects your emotional well-being. As much as we enjoy our space and time, we humans need connection, help, and interaction.

As an expat, I have been fortunate that despite being far from my family and closest friends, I've always made new friends everywhere I go and maintain a solid social circle and lifestyle. But that doesn't mean all is without struggle. It just makes it easier to get through with that support you have. If you have your dear ones with you, hold onto them and don't be shy about showing love, support and care for each other; if you haven't yet, go out and make new friends and build your support system while enjoying all the freedom- they can, and they should co-exist.

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