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The Great Adventure

24/04/2018

Here it is, the story of how The Great Adventure began.

So you may be wondering “how did this all start?” or “what on earth is this girl on about”.

If you have not read my first blog about who I am, then here is a quick info burst: My name is Gabriella (Gabi as most people call me, although the spelling is usually debated). I am a 25 year old explorer (EXPLORER is the word I am using because there is no one word for: I studied Communication Management, worked in Marketing and am currently unemployed and living out an adventure), and have FINALLY started a blog that I have been wanting to do for a very long time. I am a wife, married my soul mate Stewart on the 27th of May 2017, and recently immigrated to a small town in Germany called Siegen so that my wonderfully talented, smart and all round fantastic husband could follow a dream of his.

Okay, so that covers the basic info needed to understand the contents of this blog. For a full introduction to Gabi-Go-Lucky check out my previous blog “And then God Created Gabi“.

If you have never experienced immigrating, you may wonder what it is like – I can’t tell you what it will be like for you if it is something that comes along your way, but I can explain some feelings, realisations, and recommendations from my journey to making the big move.

The Build Up

Living overseas has always been a childhood dream of mine, one that never went away, but was perhaps buried a bit further in my mind by new experiences and the new dreams and desires that popped up as I grew up and while life happened. I suppose one could say I had a bit of a sheltered life, I lived with my parents in Pretoria South Africa until I got married to Stewart last year May, and then we moved into our own little home in Johannesburg (less than an hour away from Pretoria). I have never lived alone, or gone on my own adventure or anything like that (I know right, some explorer I am).

Stewart, on the other hand, has had all sorts of exploring experience from boarding school, to living alone during University, living in Vienna for 5 months during an internship and more. So as you can see, God truly chose a man after my own heart and dreams for me.

I think it’s safe to say that adventure and the desire to experience a life overseas was becoming a frequent discussion and active player in our lives. The opportunity was fast approaching and slight panic may have been bubbling alongside it – for my part at least.

Now you may or may not be religious, and that is completely your prerogative, but I am a Catholic Christian and wholeheartedly believe in God, so He will definitely be a part of my journey and blogs going forward. Throughout my relationship with Stew, I have always known his desire to experience life overseas and his search for opportunities – I still had that same flame in me so I knew that it would become a reality at some point.

However, I still felt I wasn’t quite ready for it. Knowing I had never experienced real life-altering change and facing big changes in the near future (because marriage is one of the most incredible life-changing moments, and so is moving out of your childhood home and becoming a grown-up), I knew that moving overseas immediately would be too overwhelming for someone as sensitive as myself. And so I turned to God with my fears and thoughts and trusted in His will.

And then…

…out of all the opportunities that could have realised throughout our relationship, God decided it was time. I had time to adjust being away from my parents and siblings, time to enjoy figuring out marriage and setting up a home with Stewart, I changed jobs and learned a whole lot about adapting and rising to the occasion when I needed to. He gave me all the learning opportunities and preparation I needed to be able to face the next task.

Roughly 5 months into our marriage an incredible opportunity popped into our path, one that we simply could not let pass. Stewart was accepted to be part of a 3-year research project, based in Germany, where he would be able to earn his Ph.D. as well as do research for CERN! For an engineer and lover of adventure, this was a dream come true.

As ready as I was (even though I did not realise it at the time), I did not take too well to the news. This is not my finest hour in the story, but it is what I went through so I will share. I suppose I went through some of the stages of grief now that I think about it. As happy and proud as I was for Stewart, because this truly was such an incredible achievement for him and career, I didn’t want to believe it was true for the first few days, and I was so frightened.

Something I have learned about myself…

…my mind tends to jump to the negative when facing situations like this. I focussed on how I would be leaving my family and friends, I would leave behind my career and have to find something else (which may not even happen), we had just bought an apartment and furnished it and it was becoming our home – my mind found all sorts of reasons NOT to go. On top of this, I felt so ashamed that I had not shown my happiness for Stewart and only the sadness. A lot of crying was done.

The next thing was to seek advice. I turned to my friends and family for support and to help me see all sides of the opportunity. I also prayed about it… a lot. And the more I searched, the more God answered me. My eyes opened to the answered prayers, the good timing, the chance to have my own adventures, the opportunity to discover my passions and to deepen my Faith by truly trusting in Him.

It was not easy, and huge apologies were made to my patient and loving husband who calmly explained the opportunity, waited for me to come to terms, and did everything he could to make the transition as simple as possible. He has taught me to be brave, and to chase my dreams and that nothing is too great to be tackled, as long as you give it your best shot. So thank you Stewart Leith, you are my inspiration and God could not have made a more wonderful husband for me.

It’s our way of showing love…

So that is the story and more haha.

Here are some realisations, recommendations, and realities that come with my Great Adventure:

  • Denial is a real thing. It is, for some, a natural way of processing information that has a big impact on your life. Stewart applied to hundreds (yes hundreds) of jobs that were based overseas before this opportunity came through. With all those hundreds of applications came hundreds of nervous waiting and expectations. And then hundreds of “Thank you for your application, but…”. Naturally, when Stewart told me he applied for this position, my mind was already set on it just being an application. I did not think of what it meant should he get accepted. I suppose my advice would be to always remember what opportunities like this involve. Think about the good and the bad, so that your mind prepares for all aspects of the move.
  • When reality hits – your reaction may not be what you thought. As I said before, I have always wanted to live overseas and experience the independence it would give me. But the thought of doing something is VERY DIFFERENT to actually being faced with doing it. As much as I wanted (and still want to) believe I was and am a great explorer with no fears and ready to try new and crazy things, I was still scared when faced with the opportunity. This is also normal, there is nothing wrong with you, and you are or still can be the explorer you dreamed of, your emotions just need to catch up a bit.
  • It’s a process. How does that old yet annoyingly true saying go…? “Rome was not built in a day” (no matter how much we wish it was). It takes time, not only to adjust emotionally and accept what is happening, but the amount of time, planning and preparation that goes into moving to another continent is plentiful. We were left, to be honest, more Stewart than myself as he took most of it under his wing, exhausted. It can be daunting, but don’t let this put you off, just be prepared.
    • Research is key!
    • Make lists
    • Tackle each step or item on that list one at a time
    • Once you have started the process on one step and need to wait, start with the next
    • Make sure you research each step so you start with the most time consuming
    • Communication is key! Not only with your partner (if you are moving with someone), but with your family and friends. It will help you get your mind around everything and prepare you.

So during this process, I have come to realise certain contradicting qualities about myself:

  • I LOVE comfort. My goodness, as boring as it sounds, I love having my things around me. My routine (to a certain point), knowing my family is close, knowing what will be happening most days etc. It’s that feeling of security, that you won’t fail. I suppose there is nothing wrong with that. Except in my case, it goes against that sense of adventure I longed for. Do I miss it, yes! But I know that if I held on to comfort I would miss out on this adventure and regret it. There is so much more to life outside our comfort zone. That’s where we find what we are truly capable of. It opens our eyes to what we don’t know and allows us to experience everything God created for us.
  • I don’t like change or the unknown. I like to know what I am going to be doing and what will happen next. So it would be a bit of an adjustment. Moving to a different country, different language, living in a small town and being unemployed. All the unknowns awaited me. But life is full of unknowns. Whether we have a detailed daily routine in life or not, and you make more memories when you experience something that was not planned.
  • FOMO is a real thing. I get FOMO from a lot of things. Then this amazing opportunity presented itself to Stewart and I, and all I could think about was FOMO! I would be leaving my family, friends and work behind. No matter what we do in life, we will miss out on something else. Family and friends will always love me and I them. I will visit and with technology like Skype and WhatsApp video call, it’s much easier to stay in touch. And besides, more travel opportunities for them! As for the job, you will find something. It may not be what you expected, but something will come up as long as you keep looking.

Now as I sit in my new country, on this grand adventure, I can think about how I got here. I overcame so many fears, experienced so many “firsts” and am finally doing what I always dreamt of doing… I am lucky (hence the name Gabi Go Lucky).

Things to remember: always be open to change, trust and believe in yourself and Gods plan for you. There is more to experience outside of your comfort zone and preparation is key!

Tanks (yes this is not a typo, just a quirky Gabi way of saying thanks) for reading 🙂

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