When I look back at my journals from five years ago, it all seemed to come together as if it was meant to be. All the arrangements came together at the right time. Everything seemed to fall into place. We immediately felt settled and at home, no trace of homesickness then or since.
There was lots of good luck in the mix for sure, which made it all the more remarkable. Any one of a hundred things could have gone wrong ... but didn't.
I won't pretend that our experience was in any way representative. That would be unfair. It was our experience. Everyone's is different and not all stories have happy endings. And, to be fair, our experience included many obstacles, difficulties, and hard graft. It wasn't all plain sailing.
But there are some parts of "luck" that you make for yourselves, and some factors are entirely within your own control. For me, two huge factors are ... preparation, and expectations.
Many members of my parents' and grandparents' generations emigrated in the years after WWII. They had absolutely no idea what they were going to find when they got off the boat. And they never expected to see their friends and family again.
That really was a leap into the unknown.
Today, we have the Internet.
Long before we left Guernsey, we'd arranged our first three months' accommodation and car rental. We'd taken virtual tours of many areas in and around Victoria with an eye to permanent housing. True, when we toured in the flesh we often got a very different perspective, but it did work for us in some important ways. When we arrived in Victoria, tired and jet-lagged, our apartment was already so familiar to us that we were able to settle straight in without a problem.
And the global village helps too. Many months ahead of time we consolidated our bank accounts into a bank with an international presence. Through them we were able to open up Canadian accounts, order cheque books, and transfer funds before we left Guernsey. And our main credit card was also held with an international company, which we were able to leverage once we'd landed. Things like that are worth thinking of very early on, because having an established relationship can help smooth the way.
Finally, and totally unglamourously, we paid close attention to simple logistics. Selling up and packing, winding up all our affairs in Guernsey, paperwork, travel and accommodation, kenneling and transporting the cats.
Moving is a project. It needs to be managed as such. List out everything that needs to be done. Organise things logically. Brainstorm to make sure nothing gets missed. What needs to happen, in what order, by whom, how far in advance? Write it down. Track it all. Check and double-check. Review every day, sometimes several times a day, to make sure nothing gets overlooked. It's a project. Maybe the most important one you'll ever do in your life.
So be prepared.
... And expectations ...
Wherever you make your home, life is hard. The world doesn't owe you a living, and changing countries and cultures will not change that universal truth.
If you come with unrealistic expectations, you are likely to have a hard time of it.
If you carry your problems with you, they will seek you out no matter where you settle.
Embrace the culture.
There will be differences. Expect them. There will be downsides and disappointments. Expect them too!
And there will be positive differences. Hopefully many of them. Embrace and celebrate them!
It may sound obvious, but don't expect to recreate your old life. Heck, why did you want to leave it in the first place?
This brings me on to one phenomenal piece of advice we read about before we moved: Before you move, make a list of all the things you are hoping to leave behind and all the things you are hoping to find.
Then, when things get tough, get out The List and remind yourself why you are doing this.