In the New Year of 2019, I decided that I needed to start a new adventure so started to look at where that could take me. There was not a clear decision in mind but anywhere outside of my home country became very appealing. The main factors that I looked for consisted of only three things, culture, money and sights. The first being most important as I wanted to change every aspect of my current life and with a contrasting culture to my own, I believed this would be the deciding factor. Of course, money was something I had to think about but as long as I could live comfortably then it wasn’t a pressing concern. Finally, the sights, which in my opinion is the pinnacle of any trip, whether as a tourist or expat.
Through my searches, I stumbled upon China and it instantly became my top choice as not only did it fit all of my criteria but it also dawned on me that I really didn’t know much about the place except for some Westernised food and famous celebrities that it had produced (namely Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan). So it was settled, China would be my fresh start. It didn’t come so easy though; after deciding the location, I now had to figure out how I would actually enter a country that has some of the tightest regulations on incoming visitors in the world. For that I needed some assistance, and so began looking for companies that were hiring foreigners to work for their companies that offered the much-desired work permit.
The process actually proved quite simple but acted as a time drain meaning I would waste literal days standing in line and waiting for documents. While I had heard you could pay someone else to do all of this for you, I felt that in order to feel the change I had been searching for, I would need to do this on my own. I filled out every form, waited in every line and notarised every document that was required and before long I had my flight confirmation and could begin packing.
Before this journey, I had done some travelling but usually only for a couple of weeks and in places that were very easy to come back from (most recently being Iceland and Spain) and so didn’t have a clue about what I could potentially need or want when I arrived. Of course, the obvious items of clothes, electronics (and chargers), legal documents and good book were the first to be thrown in the bag. It was then a good friend made me realise that that’s all you really need as, after all, it wasn’t like I was going to middle of the jungle and could easily purchase anything I was missing once I settled in.
It was also at this point that I decided to learn some basic Mandarin and research a little more about the area I was travelling to in the hopes it would quell the growing nervousness I began feeling. If you have never attempted to learn this image-based language before then I can tell you, it takes a lot more effort than passively listening to YouTube videos. Before long I had memorised the number one to ten and could introduce myself with the worst pronunciation you have ever heard. Equipped with my luggage and basic language, I headed to the airport.
Now you probably wouldn’t think a guy that is embarking on a journey that would take him across the planet would have a fear of flying, but you would be wrong. I have hated flying since I was very young which is most likely why all of my travels tended to be only a few hours journey; I was setting off on what would be a 23-hour commute to my new job. The silver lining of this being that because I was so caught up in the ‘getting there’ aspect, I had completely lost all nervousness I had off moving to China. I started at Heathrow and flew to Moscow (the most cost-effective route) on a 13 hour flight in which I steadily read my way through and with a row to myself no less. We landed at Moscow around 4am and a wave of excitement had grown in me to being closer to my final destination. What I didn’t account for was the 3 hours I had to wait for my next connection to arrive. That book started to prove its worth.
‘The flight is now boarding’ took me by surprise as I had lost all track of time and made my way to the gate for departure. This line looked almost double to the previous but for some reason, it didn’t cross my mind that this would also mean the plane would be busier (I blame this solely on the lack of sleep). I sat in my seat and kept hoping that I would get as lucky as I did on the last flight but as the last remaining people are finding their seats, two rather large gentlemen inform me that I am in the middle of their respective seats. Usually this would be a rather unwanted inconvenience, I was so securely stuck to my seat that it eased my phobia if only for a little while. On this flight I decided that I would sleep as much as a could in order to be fully refreshed for the other side.
My sleep plan had completely failed as I dragged my bags through the busy airport but wasn’t long before I could see a sign with my name on it. It was a local representative for the company and made me feel relieved that I wouldn’t need to figure out the next steps without at least a little help. She aided with the bag relocation into the back of mini-van in which I had as much space as any one could ask for. We now headed for the city, in this case, the growing city of Guangzhou which would become my home. I was to be placed in a hotel during the orientation stages of my training in which time I could look for my home away from home. My research really paid off after this as the company had already contacted some estate agents who were ready to see me almost immediately and wasn’t long before I was moving my belongings from the hotel into my new apartment. That is the moment that it really hit me that this was meant to be my life for as long as I wanted, a very different feeling to travels I had experienced before.
Looking back, the process wasn’t too difficult and living here for nearly two years has proven that this was the change I was looking for. As I write this now, my plans are to move to the next country and start this process all over again but worth it to know how much I have learnt from this first experience. If there is one lesson that I can leave you with it would be this: despite any fears or concerns you may feel about change, embrace it as it could be the beginning of something very beautiful.