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Why’d you do it?

When I was 5 years old, my parents and I moved from Bucharest, Romania to Montreal, Canada. After the initial excitement of my first time on a plane, I struggled to understand why my parents had made this life-altering decision to move as I tried to adapt to a place without my grandparents, in a language I didn’t speak (French) with no friends and other family nearby.

One day, I asked my parents:

“Why would we leave our full apartment in Bucharest to come to an empty apartment in Montreal?” 

I asked my dad how they managed to explain to me their reasons and he remembered answering:

“Because there are more opportunities here.”

I wonder if 5-year old Irina had any idea what an opportunity was… it’s a pretty abstract concept to grasp in childhood, and one that even as adults, we tend to lose sight of when enduring big life transitions.

I think my parents’ reasons for leaving Romania back in 1993 were pretty easy to understand. Life there held a lot of uncertainty, and the country itself was in transition after the revolution and 40+ years of communism. Change was going to be slow. The borders were open and better opportunities on many fronts were (most likely) available at the time in Canada, so why not? (This is the paraphrased & highly over-simplified version.)

Compare this with my reasons for moving to Finland in 2010 (to continue a relationship with the person who ended up becoming my husband) and the reasons seem worlds apart.

I feel as though I’m part of a new generation of immigrants. Some people might call us expats. I don’t like the term though, and I don’t think the differences lie in labels that separate rather than unite us. Rather, I see my generation of immigrants as being different from my parents’ just because our motives for immigrating may be harder to explain to ourselves, as well as to others.

What cannot be denied though, is that today, we have more choices than ever before.

What this generation of immigrants and my parents’ have in common though, is our search for an improvement in our lives, and on some level. The difference is, the criteria has completely changed, so much so that it’s hard to recognize what constitutes an improvement (since the decisions – to stay or go, and if go, then go where –  are so personal). There will always be trade-offs between the place you left and the one you came to, and adjustments are inevitable.

But you too came in search of one opportunity or another, friend. So I want to ask you:

Why did you leave your full apartment in [your home country] for an (initially) empty one here?
What kind of opportunity/improvement were you in search of? (even if you phrased it differently)

Leave a comment below and let me know!

Just so you know, this post is inspired by part 1 of the intro workshop‘Create the life you Crave Abroad with the Desire Map’. A new series of workshop dates has been posted for the fall. For more info, click here. Hope to see you there!

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