How do you leave everything and move to the other side of the world? I don’t know but I guess I can tell you a thing, or two.
After four months of being an exchange student, three years of uni and a total of six years obsessing over this giant, basically deserted island, I got granted the visa to stay for good into this country without having to beg the Prime Minister.
I looked at my grant email yesterday and played I Believe in You by the one and only Australian icon, Kylie Minogue. I was feeling that Australian that I even thought of repeating the traumatic experience of having Vegemite on your tastebuds, just so that I could feel actually part of this country. A true blue Aussie, mate.
I was feeling really emotional over this visa. Like Leo Di Caprio winning the Oscar kind of emotional.
It’s not just the fact that I spent what could have been three Praga bags or Kylie Jenner’s make up routine on a simple piece of paper that wouldn’t get me shipped back to Italy like a faulty dress from Asos.
I explained it on Snapchat that this visa means a lot of stuff to me – lack of sleep, money and sacrifices, but mostly an accomplishment.
I know that anyone can apply to visas; many people get granted permanent residencies and citizenships and don’t feel the need to pour their feelings about them on social media.
So why is it so different? Why am I acting like I just popped out my first born?
This visa is like a huge stepping stone for me. It’s the end of a chapter that I opened when I first discovered that there was a giant island in the southern hemisphere. And that door shut as soon as I officially became part of this island.
Legally and physically, I have almost spent a third of my life in Australia.
For somebody who didn’t even know that she wasn’t going to attend Hogwarts and who didn’t expect to feel happy at 23 years old – this is like that infamous wedding scene in Game of Thrones.
I am blown away. I have been waiting for this moment for the last six years and now that I have it on my email, I can’t help but going emotional and listening to the Forrest Gump’s song just so I can dig into my emotional breakdown a little bit deeper.
Because even if I was confident and determined to do it, there was this part of me that was always waiting for failure to hit me. I did meet failure a couple of times, but it was never a sad encounter.
I learned a lot. I grew up. I became a different version of the 18-year-old who left home to settle in Australia.
But sometimes I look at myself over the year and I can’t help but wonder,
HOW THE HELL DID I DO IT?
Over the years people have asked me repeatedly how I managed to do it; to pack a teenage life inside a bag and jet off to an adult life by myself.
I can always give two types of answers, depending on who is listening.
The first one is that, I just did it, which sounds really cool and very brave, like Harry, Hermione and Ron just quitting school to look for the Deathly Hollows – and I am comfortable with that because I have always strived to be a heroine; the brave character jumping out of trouble with good fashion and a killer smile.
Well, sorry to break it to you, but this ain’t really the answer.
This is the answer I magically pull out of my hat for times when I don’t have the necessary words to explain how hard and difficult it is to be by yourself for so long and start from zero.
Because the real answer – the one that I would throw up in front of you with my best intentions and love – is that I needed to do it. I needed to leave.
The main reason why I packed everything and left was because I felt like I was going to miss out on something incredibly important if I hadn’t taken the chance.
I don’t know how connected you are with your inner voice, but mine was screaming at me; she was yelling me to get up and go out there, put yourself in the game and show them what you got – it was every day and night, until I got onto that airplane, and everything did change.
Because see, when you need something to happen, it doesn’t matter what you do or how you do it – you find ways, you become an underdog.
The need, the dream is there to light through all the unnecessary things that block your quest.
But here are the things that actually helped me getting from an Italian city to the land Down under.
Here are the most important lessons I have learned on leaving the comfort of your life and throw yourself into the unknown.
CLEAR AND REALISTIC VISION
Before I landed on Australian soil to stay for good, I had only seen quiet Perth and booming Sydney.
I didn’t really know what to expect from the Gold Coast, apart from the grainy pictures I stalked on Google Earth every night leading up to the date of my moving day.
I was picturing a tropical metropolis with sun-kissed surfers, fashion boutiques and my dream of becoming a naturally talented surfer.
I was so set on that picture that when my eyes first glanced on the actual image of the Gold Coast – I was bummed out! I couldn’t help but thinking: ‘Is that all!!??!?’
After having lived here for four years, I can proudly say that my expectation was purely just coming from my immature teenage mind, and that cities that are lived on holidays always look brighter and cleaner than the ones you have to live in.
Home is not meant to tear you apart with its magnificence; it’s not to be ‘holy crap’ at.
Home is a feeling. It’s the smell of the gumtrees when I come back to Australia after a long time; it’s the sound of the crazy birds inhabiting every single surface of this country tweeting at odd hours of the day and night; it’s the peace you get from looking at the ocean and feeling like this is your home, as much as it is your nonna’s kitchen.
I had this vision.
I didn’t know it yet, but I knew that I was looking for this feeling when I was diligently writing my university applications at 17 years old.
I had this vision of happiness that tasted less bittersweet than what I was feeling in Italy.
Don’t limit yourself to dreaming of colourful buildings, beautiful people and incredible experiences.
Visualise the kind of lessons you want to gain from a place. Dig deeper into yourself, tap into the core things that you are striving to find to achieve real happiness.
They are the real essence of the things you desire the most. The rest is just filtered bullshit.
Someone once told me that I was lucky to have moved to Australia that young because it gets harder as you get older.
I will fight against the serious procrastinator in me and agree with the fact that doing things early is a lot more beneficial – that going to Australia at 15 years old definitely made a huge difference. But it’s not easier, nor it ever gets easier.
It’s not really about age, of talents, it’s more about the mindset.
What is beneficial about starting earlier is that it develops mental strength and willingness to achieve something at a young age; however, I find this theory so dull and negative.
No matter how depressed and anxious I get sometimes, I always see the glass full to the brim. I know that my overreacting is just a reflection of my drama queen behaviour; but I do truly see a hopeful and brighter future than most.
Saying that you’re too old to do anything is just hitting yourself with a rotten banana. It’s sloppy, it smells disgusting and leaves you feeling sticky.
You don’t want those feelings of being inadequate sticking to you for days, so quit people who keep reminding you of a giant sloppy banana mess.
To me starting early means valuing every single action towards a future goal. Because I was set on moving to Australia, I made extra effort in learning English; I prepared my visa and uni applications with the help of my parents because I knew that I was going to be alone. I made the most of my friends and family’s company; I got rid of unnecessary stuff and friendships that weren’t adding any value to this future experience.
I started living this dream; this future reality as if it was was already certain to happen.
And you may not believe in destiny or star signs, but I believe that even if things don’t come out as we want them to, there is an incredible and magnificent force in believing wholeheartedly in plan A.
And trust me, you’re never too old to learn that.
GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER.
Anyone who is crazy and curious enough to cross oceans to get to this steaming hot, dangerous place has a great motive to be here. It’s not like Europe, where you accidentally cross the border with France, or go on a ski trip to Austria.
Border protection laws make it extra clear that you have to tick all the boxes and avoid smuggling even your dog if you want to be in Australia. Don’t miss the memo like Johnny Depp did.
So Australia isn’t really the destination for the Eat, Pray, Love kind of person. There is no enlightenment moments to hit you at barbecue parties, nor will you find some old man talking to you about life, apart from the drunks at the train station on a Saturday night.
Australia is the beautiful and organised nerd that every high school has.
Australia isn’t for the spirit-minded, the free-thinkers and hungry for culture. It’s not a hipster playground, nor it’s the place where you will find yourself, like your ‘spiritual’ self.
Australia may be the parents that you always needed. Firm, strict, but so beautiful and wise. It teaches you lessons without having to really offer anything but a stunning view.
You learn how to find yourself by looking for jobs, battling for some food that actually tastes like food. You meet another side of yourself.
So that’s why it’s important that you get your shit together before you get here.
Enough with the sleep-ins, the ‘mom, can you do this‘ and not knowing how to find a job, or keep a job.
Get prepared to fight against millions of people who all want to live in this beautiful, strictly regulated paradise.
Get ready for a life that is incredibly fulfilling, but that can be empty if not filled by your OWN interests and hobbies.
Because if you don’t hold on to something that is yours, you will get lost.
You will find this hollow part of you that can’t be fulfilled by anything, which you will try to fill with empty relationships, shopping addictions and unhealthy habits.
You already have a reason to be alive: this is your dream, remember?
You wanted this. Don’t forget who you were before you got on that plane.
And lastly, the only one that I still struggle to embrace, but that it had major impact on moving to the other side of the world is..
Be patient with yourself, with your family who is worried about you, and your friends who don’t want you to live. Be patient with your body who will change when you will leave the comfort of your home; be patient with your mind who will swallow with emotions when you will see something that will remind you of home.
Leaving home; finding your own path is one of the scariest things to face. No humans is ever fully prepared to handle that, not even Bear Grylls. I bet he wets his pants a little bit every time he is dropped into random place – he may not show it, but everybody is scared of the unexpected. Of failure.
So you gotta be patient. Or at least,try to understand that millions of people like you have done this and will be doing this – you are no different than others.
The journey isn’t in the making bank, or getting somewhere else.
The journey is in learning to trust yourself enough to know that you have done the right thing.
The victory is looking back to see that you have done it.
So what are you waiting for?
What are the places you want to see, or the things you have always wished to cross off your bucket list.
I want to know them all. Write them in the comments here, or Snap me (@challengeyoass) the pictures of the places you have always wanted to visit.