Brexit is the buzzword of 2016 – the most sensational event of the decade, the end of a nation, “Independence Day”. Not a day goes by without hearing or seeing something which is related to the Britain’s absurd decision to leave the European Union, after a campaign fuelled on xenophobia, fear, and lies somehow spoke to more people than plain sanity and compassion did. But this is not a post about Britain choosing to leave the EU, it is instead about choosing to leave Britain. When you live in country that you find difficult to identify with, or feel that your talents and ideas are not worthy, is there any point in sticking around?
For a very long time, I’ve held onto this idea that I would one day leave Britain and start a life somewhere new, like many of my friends have done around Europe and Australia. Many of us dream of packing up and going somewhere else, especially when we’re going through a particularly testing time; nothing seems better than sticking two fingers up to the place where all your problems root and boarding a plane to Anytown, Anycountry. Being one of those pragmatic types, I was never convinced that I’d found the place for me; I’d been to many great cities and countries that fascinated me, but few that I’d want to call home, and Australia just doesn’t appeal. Germany was the place that shouted loudest, especially Berlin and Munich, and after graduating I started learning German in a bid to lay the foundations to move there. I’d loved Germany since I’d visited for the first time in 2010, and even more after they hosted the perfect Eurovision of all time a year later. It seemed that each time I went, I fell in love with the place even more; the way of life, the language, the relaxed and liberal approach to everything – we connected.
I think I took it a little bit too far too quickly though, and my most recent trip back in March made me just switch off and I came to the conclusion that Germany was instead best kept as a friend to visit every now and then. It was as though the relationship had fizzled out, we still enjoyed each other’s company but just not enough to spend every waking minute together. Me and Germany were on a break, and it worked for both of us. We would still see each other time-to-time, but there would be no going back to what we once had. I quite enjoyed the single life and the months of procrastinating and recharging that took place; I sent a few job applications here and there, on the off-chance that someone, somewhere would be impressed.
Then, out of the blue, a company over in Amsterdam got in contact and said they had shortlisted me for an opportunity as a Social Media Officer. Suddenly, The Netherlands was on the cards – how had I been so foolish to miss out Amsterdam as a home? My first love – the place I’d caught a serious strain of the travel bug and been infected ever since. The city where freedom is in the air, and living life is in the city’s DNA?! After successfully passing the Skype interview and writing assignment, I flew over for the face-to-face interview, in which I felt I staked my claim to be a Social Media Officer in the world’s most laid-back city pretty well. Afterwards, I found myself walking around the city with an adopted swagger which suggested ‘yeah, I live here’, and I got to thinking of all of the wonderful things living in Amsterdam would bring. I realised that this had actually been a much bigger opportunity than I’d perhaps first thought, and was now completely sold on the idea; in my head I was packing up all of things back home, booking KLM flights with extra luggage, and planning a goodbye party back in Liverpool.
Then came that phone call; the someone else had more experience line, the ‘stay in touch, we might have an opportunity for you in the future’, the rejection. In the space of that one-minute call, the Dutch flag had been ripped out underneath my wooden clogs and left me falling back to Liverpool with nothing to hold onto or catch my fall. The flight home was one of many thoughts and emotions; I was proud of myself for getting so close, but also so bitterly disappointed that I’d missed out on exactly what I was looking for and was instead going back to the usual, safe, and boring Britain. I didn’t update my Facebook status with the news that night; I couldn’t confirm to myself that it was over, but I also didn’t want to publicly admit defeat and make all of those good luck wishes hollow. I also couldn’t deal with seeing those wishes morph into clichéd ‘you’re better than them’, ‘you’ll find something else’ stock phrases that people say almost because they’re expected to – that faux sentimentalism utilised exclusively in times of bad news.
After a couple of days of mental recovery, I rationalised in my head that this eagerness to get out of Britain couldn’t stand for nothing, and so I decided to join one my best friends in a trip around South America for a few months. We had everything planned out, I had all of my vaccinations, and I was already there mentally weeks before I stepped onto the flight to Lima. But after facing some extremely coincidental events, I never actually made it onto the flight to Lima. Some may categorically deny the existence of fate; the abstract idea that everything is planned out for us by the cosmos and we live out our lives like a pre-written and well-rehearsed play. But when you find yourself facing just a few too many coincidences that all point in the same direction, you can’t help but wonder whether there may actually be some truth to it. Nevertheless, I came home broken and bruised once again. It was another failure to add to a growing list of failures, and I began to question whether my spark for adventure had all but died. Was I not supposed to go to South America after all? Had I planned to go down the wrong path and been abruptly halted by some external force? Was I to realise that my fate was to remain in Britain? Twice within the space of three weeks, I’d had my dreams crushed. Twice, I had to come home with my tail between my legs. Twice, I was left to deal with my own emotional fallout and fragility.
Refusing to be beaten down and playing a victim, I spent hours on the internet searching flights to anywhere in what felt like my last chance at adventure. If something was seemingly telling me not to explore and travel, then I wasn’t listening. I had booked a flight to Reykjavik so as to complete the Europe trip, but even that didn’t satisfy me – I wasn’t willing to swap a few months adventuring a new continent for three days in Iceland, and so I kept looking with a fading hope that something would come up. That’s when I found a flight from Reykjavik to Montréal for £150 and my mind was put to rest. Upon arrival in Montréal, everything fell into place, and that summer of disappointment suddenly made sense. A rush of excitement, like I had never experienced before, came over me as I walked out of those automatic doors into the Arrivals Hall, and I knew that this was where I was supposed to be. Now, I understood exactly why the last month had been so testing – my “fate” was always going to take me to Canada, one way or another. It was a moment that couldn’t possibly be explained with logic, simply because it was illogical. One of those incidents that remind us that we’re human and we have the ability and understanding to feel right, to feel good, to feel happy. In a completely irrational way, I knew immediately that Canada ticked all of the above.
It turned out that my intuition was to be confirmed and living the Canadian Dream was in fact so remarkable that I toyed with the idea of not going home. Seeing “London Gatwick” on the departures board only cemented this thought, and I reckoned that if missing a flight had led me to Canada in the first place, then perhaps missing another would keep me there. I begrudgingly decided against this decision because I knew, and indeed still know, that it won’t be long until I return. Never before have I fell so deeply in love with a country and longed to go back so much that each day apart is somewhat painful, that each spare moment is spent imaging what life could be like across the Atlantic. Previous attempts at breaking free from this Island may have led me straight back home, and at 25 I still find myself in the city I was born, but now there is change in the air and it feels like something is about to happen. I may have chosen to vote to Remain in the referendum but I still, thankfully, have the chance to Leave in reality.