Going away or coming back home, what’s harder? + life update

During the holidays, I went back home after almost a whole year of living abroad. If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen that I had the time of my life. It was so good to reunite with family and friends. I’ve enjoyed their company in a way that it wasn’t possible for me before.

I wanted to share with you my thoughts about leaving my hometown and then coming back for a short visit. I was planning to write about my goals and resolutions as my first 2018 post, but I felt this was more appropriate as the things I learned during this little trip back home will guide me through the new year.

Going away or coming back home, what's harder?

By living more than 6,000km away from home, I’ve learned a thing or two about myself and life in general. A year ago I left thinking that I would never go back to Italy. I immediately felt at home in Toronto: I made new friends, I was doing good in school, and after a while I found a decent job. But then, I started thinking that maybe I could have had all of that at home too. I was missing my family and my friends so much. So I decided to go home for Christmas. I had high hopes and expectations for this trip. I really needed to understand a few things.

Going away

“It is so hard to leave – until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world”. I used to firmly believe in this quote by John Green. Now, I think it is the exact opposite. For me, leaving was easy. Leaving was my choice. Sure, I was nervous and a bit afraid, but I was dreaming of living abroad on my own since I was in middle school. I was so ready to leave everything behind and start this new adventure. And then, after the first few months, when everything seemed amazing, it started getting hard.

It is hard staying away knowing that you could go back whenever you want. It is so hard staying away knowing that everyone would welcome me back with open arms and warm smiles. Sometimes I feel guilty, sometimes I feel selfish, sometimes I feel alone. But most of the times, I love my life here in Toronto. I still believe I will move back to the old continent one day (living in Iceland or Norway is still on my bucket list), but not just yet. There are still too many things I want to experience here in Canada.

Coming back

Although my trip back home wasn’t very long nor a permanent move, I felt like I was going back to my roots for a while. I believe it is true what they say that you start to appreciate things once you don’t have them anymore. I’ve never felt so connected to the place I grew up in or to my family and friends before.

The first thing that I’ve realized is that things changed, but not so much. Places were literally the same, hanging out with family and friends felt as good as it used to be. Most of the times I felt like I was never away for a whole year. Yet, everything was different. I’ve seen changes in all the little things and I had to readapt to the way of life in Italy.

During my first year in Canada, there were a few things I missed about Italy. But while I was there, I missed a lot of things about Toronto. Everything works so much better in Toronto. When I first moved here, I used to laugh when Canadians would complain about things here. After a while, I started seeing what didn’t work in their system as well. Now, coming back from Italy, I’m still in the “what are you even complaining about?” mindset.

Also, Toronto is so much cleaner. I remember noticing it when I first moved here and then I got used to it. I am not saying Milan is disgustingly dirty, but graffitis, cigarettes butts, flyers and old train tickets on the ground definitely ruined the atmosphere.

So, what’s harder?

I still don’t have an answer to this question. I made peace with the fact that while in Canada, there will always be things I’ll miss about home. After all, that’s the only thing I had known for years. At the same time, when in Italy, I will miss my life in Toronto so much. I love the freedom I have here, I love that I’m just Sarah, I’m not anyone’s daughter, sister, or friend. I love the life I created for myself. And I love that I can always call back home to share everything good and bad that is happening in my life.

What’s next?

  • School. Because of the Ontario colleges strike, I am still finishing my fall semester. I have one last paper to write and just two finals out of four classes I am taking (which is amazing!). I’ll start my last semester at the end of January, which will consist mainly of placement. I’ll be in an elementary school four days a week, from 8am to 3am. My plan is to also keep working at the after-school program I am working at right now. Hopefully, it won’t be too much and I’ll be able to manage everything. I really enjoy my workplace and I feel like I’m getting a good experience and that I am learning things I’ll be able to use in the future. I’ve already did placement + work this summer and if I was able to manage working at the camp from 7am to 2pm and going to placement from 3pm to 11pm, I’ll definitely be able to manage an 8am to 6pm day.
  • Blog. I’ve been away from the blog for a long time, but I really missed writing and sharing things. I feel like I now have a good routine and I am confident I can post at least once a week. For now, I will update the blog every Monday morning. I will also try to work on social media for the blog. I’m going to start with Pinterest and then I want to move to Twitter. I’m going to keep my Instagram more personal and I will keep sharing pictures of my adventures.
    • College. I have a couple of posts already planned on college tips, how to survive last semester anxiety, and how to get the most from your placement/internship. I am still not sure if I’ll keep writing about college once I’m done with it.
    • Travel. I really enjoy writing trip recaps and since I have plans to travel a bit during the spring, I will definitely share those adventures.
    • Lifestyle. When I started this blog one of my ideas was to share the differences between Canada and Italy. I’ve realized I’ve actually never made any comparison post. I will work on this. I also want to write more personal posts about things I like to and places I like to visit in Toronto. Does this sound interesting?
  • Personal. I am determined to make 2018 as good as 2017 was, especially the first half of 2017 when I felt motivated and was actively working toward my goals. I made a list (in my bullet journal) of things I want to accomplish and also resolutions I want to keep. I feel like the list is pretty simple, unoriginal, and probably totally lame, but that’s what I like:
    • Read 20 books. I know this isn’t a high number, but I haven’t read that many books in a year probably since my last year of high school. What a shame! I really love reading, but I feel like I can’t find the right books anymore. I’m kind of over YA novels, so do you have any suggestion?
    • Work out regularly. I love to take long power walks through the park, the problem is that I can’t do that when it is too cold or if there’s snow on the ground. I usually do at-home workouts during the winter, the thingΒ is I do it twice and then forget for a whole month. I have a free gym and pool membership, so I really want to use it and establish a regular workout routine.
    • Practice foreign languages. Since I’ve moved to Canada I kind of stopped formally studying English as I am surrounded by it, but sometimes I feel like I still don’t know it well enough. For English, my goal is to spend just half an hour every week to revise some grammar and learn new words. I am also brushing up my Spanish (I still can understand pretty much everything, but I can’t speak it anymore) and my goal is to learn it well enough that I will be able to speak it when I’ll be in Mexico. I am listening to a Spanish podcast almost every day on the subway and I am also tempted to join a conversation club (but I am too scared). Finally, last year I’ve picked up Norwegian and I am slowly learning some new things. Ideally, I will study it at least two hours a week (I know, not enough, but I’m not sure I’ll even be able to do two hours).

Have you ever spent a long time abroad? How was going back home? Also, do you have any new year’s resolution?

You may also like

  • You are so brave for moving so far away from your home. I have never lived abroad though I think it is an amazing and eye opening experience. I can see why you have challenges either way but ultimately you are following your heart <3

  • I share your sentiments. After moving back home from Italy. For me both was hard, a different hard..with their own difficulties, adjustments, and challenges. It is so so so true when people say that you start to appreciate things once you don’t have them anymore. Moving, living, and working abroad changes your perspective on life that you wouldn’t typically grasp and understand when being a tourist. Now that I am back I don’t want to lose my Italian skills especially since I worked really really hard to get to a C1 advanced level. I also want to start learning french this year. I always admirable how the rest of world is usually fluent in more than one language.

    • Wow, C1 is such a good level! How long did you stay there? Well, good luck with learning French, hopefully you’ll be more successful than me. I’ve been trying to study it for year, but it just doesn’t stuck into my brain, even though I should have it easier since it’s similar to Italian.

      • I was only there for 6 months but it was my minor during my time at uni. I also studied in Italy during the summer of 2016

  • I feel like the going away part would be soo hard for me I’d never leave in the first place!

    • It’s hard and scary, but you’ll find a way to manage that, if it’s something that you really want to do.

  • Azanique

    I love this post girl! I’ve never studied abroad but I moved 8 hours away for college and know that internal struggle. I have never regretted leaving and love that I always have somewhere to come back to.

    -xo, Azanique | http://www.lotsofsass.com

    • That’s exactly the same for me. I think it makes everything so much better knowing that you always have somewhere to come back to. Thanks, Azanique!

  • Tori Dunlap

    I love that you wrote this post — it was hard leaving for my 6-month stint in Ireland, but then getting home and re-adjusting was difficult too. It’s a balance that takes patience.
    Tori || Victori Media

    • I totally agree. Thanks, Tori!

  • I did my master’s degree abroad and when I left at first it was surprisingly easy. It was definitely harder going back after coming home for Christmas break though!

    • I totally get you. Even for me, it was definitely harder leaving this time than the first time I’ve left.

  • Audrey Knizek

    I studied abroad for just 3 months, and coming home was conflicting! I loved being back home in my own bed and seeing friends and family, but I also missed bits of the country I had left behind.

    • Yes, I felt exactly the same. There is a quote I really like: “You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place” and it describes what I feel so well.

  • I studied abroad (though not as long as you) and I’ve found that when I returned home I experienced reverse culture shock. I think you talk about it a bit too but it’s always a weird feeling coming back home after a long time abroad!

    • Yes, it is a weird feeling and it is so hard to put it into words. Thanks for your comment, Deborah.

  • I’ve never spent a long time abroad, but I know how conflicting I used to feel when I would go back home during college. I love learning more about you in this post <3

    • Thank you, Rachel!

  • I spent 6 weeks in London for study abroad and I loved it! A lot of my classmates were homesick by the end, but I felt like I could live there forever. I think it’s really nice that you get to experience a new city while appreciating the little things that Italy has to offer!


    • Thank you, Hannah. I’m glad you enjoyed London so much. There are places that are so good that make you forget about home and homesickness.

  • Miss ALK

    Wow!! I feel like I learned a lot about you from this post. I went to school quite far from home (not as far as you do! But still a plane ride away.) so I can relate to some of this. I never related very well to my hometown and visits home after I’d moved to college were always interesting!

    xoxo A

    • I was the same, I’ve never actually thought much about my hometown, but it was so interesting being there almost as a tourist.

  • thesophiadiaries

    looks like you got some good posts lined up that i can’t wait for!! i actually think for me personally neither is hard πŸ™‚ both sides have its good points. the only thing i sometimes find annoying is the actual traveling to get to those places haha but otherwise, i’m good πŸ™‚

    • Thank you, Sophia. I hope the posts will live up to your expectations! Anyways, I totally agree with you, it is sooo annoying to spend hours on a plane, especially when you can’t sleep.

  • Michelle Williams

    Definitely an interesting perspective! I think I agree with you on most points. Something I have been wondering about lately as well, so thank you for sharing.

    • Thank you, Michelle!

  • I think going away after you come back to visit is the hardest. The first time you leave it’s exciting and full of opportunity.

    • Yes, that’s true! But I think the first time you go back after a long time is exciting as well, because you don’t really know what’s expecting you there.

  • I haven’t been back to my actual childhood home in about 10 years and haven’t visited my hometown in years. I have quite a few FB friends that still live in my hometown, and it seems to be changing for the better (which is good, because it’s ranked one of the hardest places to live in the US). I consider where I live now my home, so I just spend the holidays here πŸ™‚

    • It is always good to see that a place is changing for the better!

  • I haven’t really been back ‘home’ in over 10 years. I can imagine how different and yet the same things will be once I go back. This was such an honest post – thanks so much for sharing.

    • Thank you, Tiffany. Yes, I can’t even imagine how many things can change when you’re away for that long! Do you have plans to visit your hometown in the future?

  • I really like this post, and the question you tried to answer. I have been away from home for almost two years now and I am going to head back soon. I’ve never really put too much thought into it, but I agree — I have no idea which one is harder. There are many points you mentioned here that I completely relate to, like leaving being super easy, and how you miss AND get used to things being a certain way in each place.

    Actually now that I write this comment, I’m thinking going back is harder because when you leave, you have the excitement and curiosity that kind of keeps you distracted and entertained. But when you go back home, it’s a very bittersweet feeling — going back to what you know and having to leave behind your “new life” and everything you learned and got accustomed to. The worst part is that if the experience you have in the new country is an amazing one, you can’t go back after some time and relive it — it will never be as good as you remembered or as good as you experienced it at that moment.

    Sorry for the super long comment, but your post really got me thinking! Great post! (and we have a lot of similar resolutions!)
    Nicole | http://www.badwithdirections.com

    • Thank you for your comment, Nicole. I also definitely agree with everything you said. I agree that going back will be influenced by how the experience in the new country was and also why you left your home country in the first place. For me, it was just to experience something new and I found out I actually prefer life here so it will be hard moving back, if I’ll ever do so. It might also depend on how much your hometown changed. Going back home, I thought I would find a lot of different things, but maybe a year isn’t that long to see a lot of changes. So now I don’t know if I was disappointed that most things remained the same while I changed a lot or if I was relieved that I could easily re-adjust to life there even if it was just for a short period.

  • Larissa Joassaint

    I haven’t ever lived abroad or been away from home as long as you have. I did study abroad a couple of times, but that was for max 3 weeks. I also did a solo trip abroad for about 1.5 months. That trip was super scary to leave, and I was so ready to get back home. I’m an introvert, so that was just a long time on the road for me and I also felt guilty if I just wanted to spend a day indoors just relaxing.

    As for resolutions for this year, one of mine is being more consistent on my blogging schedule as well as my workout schedule. And I noticed one of yours is reading more books. I know exactly what you mean about not knowing which books to read anymore. I’m having the same dilemma. If you haven’t read books by Jodi Picoult or Mitch Albom, I highly recommend both. I’m pretty sure I’ve ready almost all their books, if not all of them!

    • Wow! One month and a half is definitely a long trip if it’s just visiting places. My longest trip was about a month, I wasn’t even alone, but at the end I was exhausted because I felt exactly the same, like you have to always be out and explore something new. What was your destination?

      Thank you for the suggestions. I’ve read something of Jodi Picoult and I’ve enjoyed it, so maybe I’ll try and read another one of her books. I will take a look at Mitch Albom works too as I’ve never read anything he wrote. Also, good luck with your resolutions πŸ™‚