What they don't tell you about living in two countries... and calling both of them home.
Having to set aside money for airplane tickets on a semi-regular basis, for pretty much the rest of your life, is just one of the many things that happens when you start living in two countries for more than just a couple of months.
Many people have asked me what it's like, living overseas and constantly shuttling between the shores of Sydney and Singapore. Here's what I have to say:
You begin to appreciate.
There's something oddly alluring about haphazardly experiencing the weeks as they fly by, and before you know it it'll be time to jet off again. Because you know that you're permanently divided between two places, you make the most of the time you have with your loved ones and the places that you go to. You also learn not to take things for granted, whether it's your favourite bowl of prawn noodles from Singapore or that cafe on the corner of your street in Sydney that you've grown to love.
You find familiarity in the unexpected.
The smallest ounce of familiarity excites you. Whether it's 'Oh! You're from Singapore as well? Cool! Where have you been?' or 'Omg! You're from Sydney?', I've lost count of the number of times I've said that to new faces I meet. Over time, you lose track of what you've found to be 'familiar' or 'expected' because you're so used to meeting new people and seeing new things.
You see things differently.
You start feeling like a tourist in your own country. When you return to your favourite places the second time around, you start seeing things differently, or finding things that you didn't see before. That block of high-rise apartments behind your house - was it there before? Or that bougainvillea tree down the road - when did that pop up? You begin to forget what's 'normal' with everything that's changing so rapidly each time you go home.
And where is home, really?
Living abroad for so many years has meant that home isn't characterised by a specific place, for me, but rather by the people and the experiences that I become attached to.
I remember when I was 12 and dreaming about the day I would live abroad and all the adventures I get to experience.
I remember when I was 17 and stepping onto the plane to Australia - the longest I'd be away from Singapore for the first time.
I remember what it felt like being with family and friends I had known for years, and then coming back to Sydney and being with friends I had known for months - people I treasured equally dearly.
And as Miriam Adeney says,
"You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place."
If you're thinking of moving abroad, check out our blog on what it's like to travel by yourself!