Emigrating: The friends and family we leave behind

I chose to move to Canada for all the right reasons: to give my kids a better life with more opportunities; to strengthen my marriage; and to indulge the lifestyle that I craved – wide open spaces, pristine alpine lakes, clean air, a walk-in closet…

But to achieve all of this, I had to make a sacrifice. I had to announce to a group of people who love me that I would no longer be living in the same country as them. And then I had to actually leave them.

Abandoning my family in the UK to embark upon my new life on the west coast of Canada was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Yes, my family are weird – aren’t they all? – but they are mine, and, being a little weird myself, I really quite like the security of fitting in; of belonging. As such, I did not take the decision to move 5000 miles away from them lightly.

And then there were my friends: a mixed bunch of men and women who I have known for years; people with whom I share a treasured history, a mutual respect, and perhaps more importantly, a sense of humour.

The goodbye party was a bittersweet, gut-wrenching affair, where I spent the evening alternating between joyful reminiscing, and heart-breaking tears. My recommendation to anyone who is making this same move? Do not have a goodbye party. It becomes a sad, melancholy affair which leaves you with sad, painful memories.

But this is what I discovered: the world is a small place. When my in-laws emigrated 50 years ago, air travel was expensive, phone calls were few and far between, and many years could pass between actual visits. When they left their loved ones behind, they really left them behind; often forever.

Now, my family and I flit between Canada and the UK like we are hopping on the Number 7 bus. We text, facetime, skype and email so much that I actually feel sometimes it gets boring. Sometimes we run out of things to say to each other.

And I am certain that I am in more contact with my sister now than when I lived in the same city as her. I feel like we have re-written the terms of our relationship. The new terms are not better or worse, just different.

In 12 years, my sister has visited Canada four times. My best friend has visited seven times. Both of them have experienced a part of the world that they may never have otherwise seen. Both of them love it. During those visits, we have spent fun, meaningful, quality time together; time that we may not otherwise have had. I hope they realise how lucky they are that I decided to leave…

By Juliet Sullivan