Sunday, July 10, 2016

Nomad No More

Exactly one year ago, I got off the plane after an exhausting 14-hour flight from Manila. I felt excited for my new life but I was also very apprehensive about my future. I have left my family, my friends and my successful career. At 38 years old, I have left my pretty good life to start another chapter that was so vague and uncertain, it caused me a lot of sleepless nights.

I have been thinking about it for years but I have always wavered in my decision to immigrate to another country. I had the heart of a nomad. I liked going from place to place and experiencing new things. I have been to dozens of different cities in North America, Europe and Asia. I felt like I would never be completely satisfied living in one country without going away every now and then. 

Going to a different country as a tourist or a temporary worker isn’t a hard decision at all because it’s only temporary. Deciding to leave one’s own country for good, however, is a momentous one. It took me years and years to make the biggest decision of my life and for good reason.

Back home, I was in no way destitute. I had a higher than average salary that would have enabled me to live for the rest of my life comfortably and free from financial worries. I had an excellent career in Learning and Development working in Junior Management. I have worked for prestigious Global corporations. I have also had the opportunity to work with some of the best HR and Learning professionals in the world (a big shout out to my previous colleagues at HSBC Workplace Learning and Performance and Accenture Capability Development). Some of my previous employers have sent me to different countries for process migration and knowledge transfer. I got perks that most people my age only dreamed of. Some of my relatives thought I was crazy to give all these up and they did have a point.

The truth is, I would have happily stayed where I was if it wasn't for stress. I didn’t really mind it too much when I was younger. I was young and I had the energy to face the daily torment of living in a huge and overcrowded city. It was when I started traveling that I realized that life is not supposed to be just one endless struggle. I could choose how to live. That made me finally take the leap into the big unknown.

The most important decision made, I had to make the second most important one - where to settle. I have been in the US and didn’t really want to live there permanently. It’s a good place to visit but I didn’t want to stay there for good. I toyed with the idea of migrating to Japan. I am fascinated by that country and would have wanted to go back but then I would have to learn Nihonggo and that would take time. I also loved the UK. I would have wanted to emigrate there if it wasn’t so expensive. It was not a good place for me if I wanted financial freedom.

I chose Canada because it is immigrant-friendly. The country really takes care of its immigrants. Even before I left my country, I got to attend seminars to help prepare me for what is coming. After landing, there are Government and privately-funded agencies like the Centre for Newcomers that help newly arrived immigrants to have a smoother transition and integrate successfully. They have weekly seminars here that help people with everything from building credit to building a resume. They even have places where newcomers can print out resumes for free! Now isn’t that nice?

So there I was a year ago, so exhausted it took me a week to get over the jet lag. My future was very uncertain but not for long. Canada has been very good to me, so far. I got a job 7 days after I arrived and I’ve been working there since. Everyone here has free health care, even non-citizens like me. I arrived in Canada as a Permanent Resident and I have all the benefits of a citizen, save one. I could not vote yet but that will come later. I thought 4 years was such a long time to wait but the first year flew by so fast. In 3 more years, I could apply for citizenship.

I love Calgary. It is so far from the bustling and noisy city that I used to work in. I feel so safe here. I could walk the streets with my phone out at 10:00 PM and not feel scared that I would get mugged. The public transportation here is so convenient that people would just drive their cars to the nearest train station and take the train to the city. Even during the rush hour, it is not too crowded. I could still maintain my personal space in the train, which is unimaginable in the MRT at 5 PM. Driving is a dream here. The roads are so wide and there are no hour-long traffic jams. What people consider to be traffic jams here are just like regular traffic light pile-ups in Manila.

I also love the people here. Canadians are nice. Strangers would keep doors open for the people behind them. People would keep the train door open for you so you don’t miss it. Cars would actually stop when you are crossing the street. I used to get so embarrassed because there would literally be 4 cars waiting for me to pass even though I would signal them to go ahead. People would stop what they’re doing to help the elderly with their walkers and mothers with their baby strollers. It is a nice thing to experience when you come from a city where a lot of people are just too busy with their own concerns to care.

What can I say about my life 365 days later? I have a job with great co-workers. I live in an apartment so close to my workplace that I could wake up 30 minutes before my shift and I would still be there on time. I have cousins here that have supported me from day one. I have found wonderful friends. I have made a good life for myself here that is free from stress. The only thing that would make it perfect is if I had my family with me but that will come soon. I’m no longer a nomad and I am happy.