Thinking of moving abroad? Here's what you need to know

OPINION: Nothing can prepare you for the excitement, the adrenaline, and alienation of moving abroad alone. 

Life in New Zealand, one of the world's southernmost nations, carries a certain sense of isolation with it. The thought of venturing overseas seems like an inspiring idea. 

But if you're thinking of doing it alone, there are some things you should know. 

Six months ago I moved back to New Zealand after a three-year solo stint in Dubai. And since I've returned, the most frequent question I'm asked is: "Why did you want to come back?"

For me, the more important question is: Why did I want to leave in the first place? 

The quest to find answers gives meaning to our existence. I couldn't escape the need to leave New Zealand and move to a country where I knew nobody, because of an unexplained curiosity and longing for self-discovery. 

But don't let that romantic idea fool you, because it's not that simple. 

The relocation involved loneliness, anxiety, and many sleepless nights. It opened my eyes to some stark realities I can only imagine refugees must face when they arrive on our shores. 

On the flip side, it forced me to grow up and see the world a bit differently. 

In 2015 I applied for a Dubai-based copywriter job advertised online, and within a couple of weeks I was offered the position, despite my lack of experience. It felt too good to be true.   

After a month of frantic preparation, I showed up in Dubai 18 hours later, only to find myself jetlagged and desperately longing for familiarity. 

I started work for a website that would eventually fold about six months later. Despite that, getting to know my colleagues was arguably the best thing about it. 

They were all from different countries, some I had never heard of. You don't often get to experience that living in New Zealand.  

It wasn't until the weekend rolled around when the loneliness kicked in. 

It was a massive reality check - knowing that everyone I loved was 14,000km away. And I couldn't get in touch with them because of the nine hour time difference. I spent lots of time alone and became my own best friend. 

That's what sets apart moving abroad alone and moving abroad with someone you know. 

A mate of mine moved to London with his girlfriend around the same time as me, and from what I've gathered he had a very different experience because he had someone to rely on and spend time with. 

When you do it alone, you've got to make it work. 

But don't let that put you off. I made some pretty awesome friends during that time - people who grew up so differently to me, which I found quite fascinating. I got to experience Ramadan and other traditions I had never been exposed to. 

Based in the Middle East, I was able to visit places like Europe for much cheaper than it costs from New Zealand; not to mention you don't pay tax on your salary in the UAE which gives you more financial freedom. 

Despite that, three years later something pulled me back home. I missed my friends, my family; and talking to people about New Zealand made realise how much I had left behind. 

I moved home about six months ago, and haven't looked back.  

Settling in to a new place is never easy, and it's even harder when you're doing it alone. But had I not made that decision, I probably wouldn't be the person I am today, and that's an intriguing thought.

If you're thinking of doing it, just remember that it won't be a seamless experience, no matter how much preparation you do. You'll be dampened by loneliness, financial insecurity, cultural differences, and fear of what's to come. 

But through it all, you'll find strengths you never knew you had, you'll meet people that will change your perspective, and you'll see the world in a very different way. 


Zane Small is a digital news producer for Newshub.