Immigrating to a different country breaks something in you. Something that can never be repaired. Is it for better or worse? After living and working in Canada for a decade today it’s time to make up the balance.
Why did I move? I’ve been asked that question many times. It’s not because Europe is so bad. For me, it was the change of scenery, combined with a sense of adventure. I wanted to experience something different than the environment I had grown accustomed to. That drive hasn’t changed. It’s what keeps me going every day. Wanting something new, something different. It must make living with me a tricky experience as I’m never truly satisfied, get bored easily, and I’m constantly looking to make the most out of everything. That hasn’t always made it an easy journey. I’ve said it before: when you leave everything familiar behind, the one thing you can’t leave behind comes with you – your self. You’ll have to face all those problems that you kept tucked away in between the comforting familiarities of your previous life.
A severance pay, but worse
I watched a documentary the other day about Dutch people moving to Canada shortly after World War II. The country was in such a bad shape that the government recommended people to leave. They didn’t shy away from backing their recommendation with a subsidy to pay for the journey. You literally got a bonus if you left. It’s like a severance pay, but worse. Imagine not just one company, but the entire country is in such bad shape that they’d rather pay you to leave than keeping you around. Many took the bait, packed their limited belongings, and left.
The journey would take about a week, by boat. Luggage was restricted to about a crate per family, so there wasn’t much they could bring along. Once in Canada, the opinion on the new life varied. Some loved the space and opportunities, but others struggled for many years. For most though, the miserable jobs they had to work to barely make a living was a common theme. Many started their own businesses after a few years. That didn’t make their life easier. Often life became harder as finances were even more tight now than before. But the increased freedom and control that the entrepreneurship brought with it, was worth the additional struggle.
Love it – or list it?
After ten years, I’m still not entirely sure on which side of the fence I would place myself. Do I love it here, or hate it? It’s like that TV show – love it or list it. Do you love it enough to stay, or is time to move on to somewhere else? I’ve asked myself that question a few times. But Canada has allowed me many experiences that I would have not been able to enjoy in Europe as easily. To list a few – living on a 26 acre property, the ability to drive a “big” car (even though mine is modest for Canadian standards), live in a bigger home (again modest for North American standards – I requested the builder to show me the smallest house they could build me on the plot of land I liked, and bought that one). Also traveling from a North American base makes many destinations easier to get to. Las Vegas, Hawaii, even Central and South America – just to name a few.
But there’s been a shadow side. There’s been difficult years. Separation, divorce, missing friends and family. And jobs that I hated so much I didn’t want to wake up in the morning. Micromanagement comes standard and the pure managing by numbers is something I clearly don’t endure well. For a while that was fine to get started and get my feet on the ground. After the first few years it started to take a toll, both mentally and physically. Several times I felt lonely, and depressed beyond the point of having a rough couple of days. About halfway through my first decade I thought starting my own business as a photographer would bring salvation, but it brought me a near-bankruptcy experience instead with money flying out the door much faster than it was coming in. I had reached rock bottom, and had started to dig. What was next?
Making up the balance
At the end of the decade (aka today) it didn’t necessarily get easier, but I’m grateful for the many experiences and memories I’ve been able to make here. I’m happy I made the move out here in 2008, and also happy I’m still here. Has it all worked out the way I envisioned? Did I reach my goals, despite the many self-realization workshops and conferences I attended? The short answer: no. The long answer became a book series. After arriving in Canada and being faced with just myself, the experience stripped away everything I used to stand for. Every belief got questioned, including my belief in myself and (for a while) even my sanity. But as long as you think you’re going crazy, you’re not. The crazy ones are the ones that don’t question themselves, but believe the rest of the world had lost it.
Would I do it all again? Honestly, I’m not sure. But if I did get to do it all over again, I would make all the same mistakes once again, just a lot faster. I wouldn’t wait as long to see if things would turn out for the better, but make a decision sooner. And that pretty much sums up the past decade: making mistakes, getting knocked down, and trying again.
Today, I keep trying. Live in the moment, be with the now. That’s love. Love is in the now, the present moment. Even when you don’t see it. The past is just a story we tell ourselves. The story can be as upsetting as we make it to be. The power is to let it all go, and be here. Be here now. Be willing to let everything, and everyone else go if you had to, and just be with what is now.
An upgraded view
My third Freedom Project book, about love (of all things) was published a few weeks ago. The book marked the completion of my first decade of living the dream in Canada. Ten years have gone by. Time flies when you’re having fun, or not having any fun at all. It’s been a hell of a ride, and I’m grateful to those who shared some of that journey with me. I hope the next ten years are going to be less turbulent – but equally exciting as the past decade. As I say every Canaversary: Thank you Canada, for everything.Read Love 2.0