Edinburgh Castle Cherry Blossoms

On Leaving Edinburgh and Life Lately

My last week in Edinburgh was pretty surreal.

I had grand plans – I was determined to make the most of every last second in the city. In reality, I ended up spending most of the time curled up on the couch, watching TV in my pyjamas. Whenever I did leave the house, I just couldn’t enjoy myself. I felt so obligated to take everything in, to try and memorize every tiny detail of the city as if I’d never see it again.

When it came time to leave on that final day, I didn’t cry. I didn’t cry at the airport, or on the plane. I felt sick at the thought of leaving – physically sick to my stomach – but I couldn’t muster a tear.

Maybe it was because I cried so much in the weeks and months leading up to my departure. Maybe my travels through Istanbul, the Balkans, and Italy helped to clear my head. Maybe I had finally come to terms with the fact that I was leaving for good.

Regardless, saying goodbye to Edinburgh wasn’t easy. I’ve left so many places before I felt ready. It’s an art that frequent travellers know all too well, the reluctant goodbye.

But this goodbye was different.

Edinburgh is more than just a city I love – it means more to me than any other place I’ve visited. It was my home for two years. It was a city that changed me for the better, a place that granted me the freedom to grow into the person I didn’t know I was longing to become. It was a place that felt more transformative than any other.

When I moved to Edinburgh, I didn’t experience a transitional period. I don’t remember having to adjust – it just felt like home from the get-go. It felt natural and effortless.

And yet the transition back to my hometown – the place where I was born and raised, and where I’ve lived for nearly 30 years – has been really tough. How does that even happen?

Everything here is comfortable and familiar, yet strangely foreign at the same time. This city is exactly the same, but I’m so utterly different. I feel like a fish out of water, like a complete stranger in a place that I know like the back of my hand.

Coming back hasn’t only been reverse culture shock and panic attacks – there have been so many moments of joy too. I’m loving the sunshine and humidity, and catching up with my nearest and dearest. But I still feel like I don’t really belong here; the nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach serves as a constant reminder.

It’s a bizarre feeling, to feel like you don’t belong in the one place that’s supposed to feel like home.

I guess that’s the risk you take when you live abroad and when you travel: you always return a different person.

Have you ever felt this way?
Any tips for readjusting after living abroad or travelling long-term?


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19 Comments

  1. Oh, I get it! I think it was easier for me last time to return home and move onto Melbourne, a new place within Australia. It was a new adventure, within the comforts of the country I grew up in. That move changed everything, because I now know it’s Melbourne I want to return to next year. I’m certain another grand adventure is around the corner for you πŸ˜‰

    1. Thanks, Hayley πŸ™‚ I’m glad to hear you can relate! I think moving to a new city here would definitely help me as well. And hopefully that would make me feel more at home here again.

  2. I think I’ve said it before, the parallels we share are quite similar. I am essentially you two years ago.

    I, literally, just uprooted my life in Toronto, to move across the pond, to Edinburgh of all places. To me, though my time here hasn’t been long, Edinburgh already feels like home. If anything, I feel comfortable here.

    I feel for you. To have to leave behind a life, frinds, the place you called home for the past 2 years, cannot be easy. And though I only recently moved here myself, in my head, a timer has already begun to countdown, because I know though this may only be the start of my adventures, it has a time limit that’s constantly winding down.

    Give me a shout at my email below. I would love to correspond with you a bit more, only if you’re keen though.

    Your refound reader,
    J.

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Joyce! I’m glad to hear you’re settling into Edinburgh nicely, and that it’s already feeling like home. I know thinking about the time constraint is stressful, but try not to let it take away from your time in Edinburgh! I just sent you an email.

    2. Ashley, I love the blog and I’m sorry you are going through the pains of leaving a place you love. I did the same four years ago when I left the UK and am in the process of doing th same as Joyce, leaving life in smoggy Toronto to move to Edinburgn two years.

      1. Thank you, Madeleine πŸ™‚ I’m in the process of doing the opposite – trying to move to Toronto. I hope it’s not too smoggy these days haha. So exciting that you’re heading to Edinburgh – best of luck with your move!

  3. I was wondering how you were doing with settling in back home the other day. Am glad to hear there is some joy in the familiar. I guess at the very least Edinburgh will always be special to you – there will always be that case of unfinished business between you and the city. Funnily enough, I feel very similarly about Melbourne to how you feel about Edinburgh!

    1. Nice to know you can relate, LC! And you’re right – I’ll always have unfinished business there. Hopefully, in time it’ll start to feel comforting knowing I have a place like Edinburgh as my ‘second home.’

  4. It’s so much more difficult to leave a place when leaving isn’t your choice. It’s hard enough on a two week, month-long, or year long trip to say goodbye, but when it’s a full uproot, it can leave you reeling. It’s definitely an adjustment, and I’m sorry it’s not as easy as you hoped for. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the good stays good and the bad gets better.

  5. It must be really hard to leave a place that’s very meaningful to you especially when you’ve made a lot of good friends but hey! maybe you’ll find the new places more comfortable and fun, who knows πŸ™‚

  6. Hi Ashley! I just discovered your blog, and this post really resonates with me. I’m American, and I just moved back to the US after spending 3.5 years living in Edinburgh (1 year of studying, 3 months searching for jobs, and just over two years working). My situation was slightly different than yours (I chose to leave Edinburgh to pursue a great career opportunity), but honestly, I felt (and still feel) exactly the same. Deciding to leave Edinburgh was a very difficult decision for me, and I’m still dealing with the ramifications of it (i.e. reverse culture shock, not feeling like you really belong, a feeling of nostalgia and longing that never really seems to go away, etc..). Moving back to Edinburgh may be in the cards one day; but until then, as I settle back into life in the US, it’s been very comforting for me being able to read your blogs and knowing that someone was/is in a similar situation as me.

    1. Hey Annie, I’m so glad to hear you can relate to everything I felt when I left Edinburgh! Eight months after leaving, I still miss it dearly, so I also find it comforting knowing you’re going through the same thing. I know how difficult it must be for you right now, so keep your head up! Wishing you the best of luck wherever you end up.

  7. Thanks for you posts!
    I am thinking about moving to Scotland from the US. I am an EU citizen. Is it true that one has to be in the country by year’s end in order to qualify for legal residency next year due to Brexit?

    1. Hey Annette, I’d heard something to that effect a while ago when Brexit terms were still being ironed out, but I’m not sure what the latest requirements are now! Best of luck with your move!

  8. hey girl, im 31 and living in australia but had lived in edi for two years 2019-2021. im going back in May for a holiday and basically to see if i want to move back again. I am lucky enough to have a British passport (thanks dad). Any advice on how to overcome feeling guilty with moving away from family and re buliding life.

    1. I was in Edinburgh on a temporary visa. There are links to other articles in this post with a bit more detail about this and why I couldn’t stay.

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