Emigration, Travel

Why I left Ireland and why I still haven’t moved back

I’ve written a blog before on emigration and the positive aspects of emigrating, but this time I want to delve into why I emigrated, why I left Ireland in the first place, and why, nine years later, I still haven’t moved back.

last night in Galway before i moved to Korea

I still feel that a lot of the time, the Irish media portray the whole idea of emigration in a very negative light. The stories are often about the people who were forced to leave Ireland in search of work when the recession hit, or more recently, the stories focus on the people who left during the recession but now want to return, but can’t because the Irish government aren’t offering them enough support. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to take away from those issues, and they are issues, I recognize that. And as a result I know it wouldnt be an easy decision for us to return home to Ireland. Would we get a mortgage? Would car insurance be insanely high? Would we find it hard to get jobs because we havent had Irish experience in so long? Would we experience culture shock? It seems weird to think that you would experience culture shock moving back to your own home country, but when you have been away for a long time, it can happen. I left Ireland in 2010, so it’s almost been a decade. We have been living in Toronto for over 5 years and Toronto is very different to Ireland, so I strongly believe we would experience culture shock if we moved home. I even notice the stark differences every time I travel home, and not because I’m trying to pick out the differences, but because they are so obvious to me now.

Our first time at Niagara Falls (we have since been there like 10 times!)

We are all well aware that thousands of people left during the recession because they lost their jobs and couldn’t find work in Ireland (although Fianna Fail still did pretty well in the elections in 2016, just a short few years later, showing that the Irish electorate has a short memory). But my point is, we know that, it’s been covered, and we don’t need to constantly read about it. And again, it is an issue that the Irish government are trying to encourage emigrants to return to Ireland, but are not doing much to help those said emigrants settle back into Ireland, or even attract them back. But what about those of us who left Ireland of our own free will? What about those who were forced out by the recession, but as a result found new opportunities in greener pastures and are now happy they left? Those stories are not covered nearly enough by the Irish media in my opinion and as a result, emigration seems to be something to fear and hate in Ireland, becoming just another thing to hold against the Government. Ireland has always been a country that has dealt with emigration, going back to the famine, but it seems that we always want to have someone or something to blame for those high emigration numbers. That was definitely the case when I originally wrote this post in 2016, however, I am happy to say that I have seen more stories featuring emigrants who are happy they made the move.

I left Ireland when I was 23. I packed my suitcase and headed to South Korea by myself and I haven’t looked back since. I had a job, a good job at that and one that I enjoyed, and one within the area that I had studied – marketing. Many thought I was crazy to be leaving a job during the height of the recession and many thought I was even crazier to be going to South Korea – sure who goes there? I also had a boyfriend. We were together a year when I headed off to Korea, but I didn’t let that stop me. As hard as it was, I knew I had to leave, it was something I had to do for myself, and it’s worth noting that we are still together, and actually got married this summer!

Me, in Korea in 2010

I knew since I was a teenager than I wanted to travel, get out there and see the world. My sister had lived in Poland for a while, my brother had travelled, and one of my uncles had travelled a lot, so travelling was literally in my blood. When I was 23 I knew it was a case of “now or never”. I was settling into a job, settling into a nice life in Galway, settling into a relationship, and I knew if I didn’t leave then, I would grow comfortable within my life, and I’d never go. Now, I’m not saying it was easy. I had to say goodbye to all my friends, my family and of course, Phil. I was an emotional mess the week before I left – after I had said my goodbyes to Phil. I would literally burst into tears for no reason. But I still went, why? Because, even though it was hard, I knew that I would regret it forever if I didn’t at least give it a go. So off I set on May 13, 2010, with my bulging suitcase and a heart full of excitement, sadness and fear. I cried the whole time on my flight from Dublin to Heathrow! It was tough, but I’m so glad I did it.

Phil’s first visit to Korea in late 2010

Fast forward nine years and I’m living in Toronto, and have been here over 5 years. We are permanent residents and will probably apply for citizenship next year. We own a condo here and have two cats. We have set up a great lives for ourselves here in Toronto, with good jobs and great friends. We enjoy a good lifestyle here, we have an outdoor pool and hot tub in our condo building, we have excellent benefits with work which means I never have to pay for my glasses or contact lenses or to go to the dentist, and we can have free massages, yes FREE massages. We have amazing healthcare meaning we dont ever have to pay to see the doctor and the vast majority of prescriptions are covered by our work benefits. I know that we wouldnt enjoy the same perks and benefits at home in Ireland and I know that we aren’t the only Irish people that emigrated and made a better lives for themselves. But I often feel that we aren’t being reflected in the stories that the Irish media portrays about Irish people who emigrated.

I lived in Australia for 2 years, before that, South Korea, and I’ve done a lot of travelling in between. These past 9 years since I left Ireland have been amazing; I have seen so much, done so much, and learned so much and as corny as it sounds, I truly believe that travel is the best education you can get. I have made so many friends along the way, from so many different places and my eyes haven been opened so much. There is a whole world out there and you cannot let your life pass you by without seeing as much of it as you can.

In Mildura, Australia in 2011

So anybody out there who wants to travel, or wants to emigrate, but has something holding them back, I urge you to go, just go for it, do it for yourself. Even if your parents don’t want you to, or your scared, just take that leap and do it. There will always be a reason not to go; a job, friends, family, a boyfriend or girlfriend, but you owe it to yourself to at least try. I’m not saying it will be easy. Living abroad means you miss out on a huge amount of things including important events. I missed my own grandads funeral and I’ve missed so many friends’ weddings that I’ve lost count. But it’s a risk worth taking in my mind, you might not like it, you might go back to Ireland after 6 months but who cares, at least you will always know that you tried. On the other hand, you might love it, it might be the best thing that’s ever happened to you and it might set you on a path that will change your life forever, do you want to risk missing out on that?

Until next time 🙂

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