4 ways I think that moving countries when I was only 19 years old completely changed me.
It was the move that I never knew I needed, or that I wanted, it was an opportunity that turned my life on its head and ultimately shaped who I am today.
If you had told me on the new year of 2009 that this time next year I would be packing up one suitcase (...only one) to move to the other side of the world, I would never have thought it could be true.
I honestly had never even looked at Mexico on a map and travel outside of Europe was exceedingly rare for me. So when I got talking to an old friend from my dance competition days and she mentioned she would be heading out to Mexico on a six-month contract, it didn’t take much for me to be interested. It was a cold winter in London and bikinis, sun and making money from my passion all seemed appealing.
"It was the move that I never knew I needed, or that I wanted, it was an opportunity that turned my life on its head and ultimately shaped who I am today. "
Six months turned into nine months, I was hooked, after a quick two week trip back home I was on a plane again to start from scratch. This time with no job, no house, no plan, just a lot of drive inside of me to make it work. Ever since then I haven’t looked back!
I have travelled the world, lived right by the ocean in different continents and all of that moving and hustling has created this version of Jamila, if I had stayed in England I wouldn’t doubt that I would be a totally different person.
Here at 4 ways that I think moving countries and living somewhere new totally changes who you are and why I would and without a doubt recommend to everyone out there, young or not to live in a country far away from your own at least once in your life.
1. I STARTED TO VALUE MYSELF A LOT MORE.
Moving country to make a living alone meant I had to nestle down into my gut and start believing in my talent and drive if I was going to make it sustainable long-term.
This was the moment I could leave all of the preconceived ideas I had of myself behind, and hustle like never before in area of my life that I felt passionate about.
What leaving home at 19 did for me was push me out of my comfort zone and rely on my talent; I had to carve a way for myself in a country so different to mine.
You realize that you can do anything anywhere and in fact the restrictions you put upon yourself or that society has bound you by are in fact all in your mind. In turn making you more driven to succeed and much more confident in abilities you had doubted.
2. CHARACTER BUILDING. REINVENTING AND UNDERSTANDING WHO I AM.
I had such a moment of realization of what life was like outside my bubble.
I had never really immersed myself in a culture outside of the British one in my whole life.
I had vacationed and stayed in places for a week or two but this was the first time I really was able to understand how other people lived, what it was that was important to me and to others. There were ways of living that I wanted to keep, whilst other aspects of my life were up for change.
When we grow up our surroundings, our friends, our families, society majorly influence us, some of us even born into religions we have never questioned. When I moved away, after a few months and even to this day I was able to really reflect and reinvent parts of me that didn’t fit with who I wanted to become. When you move to a different country nobody knows you, or your past or what you are about so it’s the perfect time to clarify with your inner self who it is you want to be and what you want to believe in. Whilst inevitably learning from everyone you meet along the way.
Sometimes life long beliefs, habits and mentalities can be up for question and that is totally ok and actually goddamn exciting!
3. ENHANCED MY PROBLEM SOLVING ABILITIES
I learnt how to be alone, which in turn meant I learnt A LOT about myself.
I don’t think ever in my life I had so much time to be alone, and it showed.
I experienced major lows and huge highs that rocked me, but in these moments I was put on the spot to solve big and small issues with a mature head.
I gained complete independence. I was no longer relying on my parents financially, I had few people to reach out for guidance because nobody I knew had done this before, the time difference was a burden but also because I am stubborn and it was gratifying to be able to do these things alone.
I learnt a new language without a single lesson, sorted out visas, hospital trips, renting…things I had never had to do before, and all in a country that was alien to me. I was accomplishing things without a second thought because I HAD TO and if didn’t do it no one else would. When you move country at a young age your drive to succeed and problem solve is put into overdrive and your independence relies on it.
4. I LOST ALL SENSE OF “NORMAL”
I never really felt like I wanted or could have a structured life. From a young age school and the routine was a drag and I found it hard to imagine a life that consisted of monotony. Whilst I have friends who thrive in their daily routine, structure and continued education it just wasn’t for me, and understanding that from a young age I craved to find somewhere that I could fit in. When I moved initially on a dance contract, although we had a work schedule my normal became glitter, sequins, feathers, rehearsals, 40· heat and living on the shores of a Caribbean beach. And quickly after it finished I felt so comfortable in the relaxed way of life that Mexico had offered me, and the uncertainty of everyday I knew I wanted more.
Very quickly my normal became constant road trips to unknown towns to discover, self employment, which meant being able to travel when I wanted to, accepting crazy opportunities to meet new people, working with incredible companies and huge opportunities this all became my reality. I had manifested a mad life that had very little sense of “normal” where I didn’t always know where my next paycheck would come from, but I had adventures constantly and like-minded people surrounded me. I don’t know if I could ever go back to a “Normal” life, and moving countries at 19 allowed that to be possible.
When you reflect on the time you spent living in a country so diverse from your own, you will be able to remember with fond memories huge chunks of our life filled with challenges, friendships, insane scenery and massive achievement that would have been impossible to experience by staying at home.
"You have to try it, you have to live, feel, breath and immerse yourself in another culture."
Living in a new country is not for everyone, but if you are sat at home reading this now and you have a little itch somewhere thinking about a country you so desperately want to explore, you are one of us. You have to try it, you have to live, feel, breath and immerse yourself in another culture.
You will grow, its an invaluable opportunity that you could never regret. It most certainly wont always be happy and enjoyable, you will face some major lows, difficult situations, huge challenges, a load of fear and question yourself regularly...but to answer the question ‘Should I try it? Do you think I should take the risk’, I would say, YES! If you get the opportunity, or you can create your own opportunity to go, you should do it! Even if it’s only for a few months, maybe they will turn into years (like me) the experience will change you, mold you and you will never be the same again! Living overseas whether you are young, old, alone or with friends is life changing.
Photographer: Gerardo Arteaga
Location: Caleta Tankah, Tulum, Mexico