There are the facts: when I was 18, I got a job in Hong Kong. After a few months, I realized I didn’t like it that much after all and quit to go traveling the world. Feng and I traveled for three years, almost non-stop. After each trip, we would come back home, on different continents — Europe for me, North America for him. We would literally slave for a few months, make money, and meet each other again to go traveling. Eventually, we were broke and got tired of it. We talk of settling somewhere, at least for a little while. We briefly considered the USA but then more or less agreed on Canada — at least, one of us would be legal there. I spent a year in Canada on a tourist visa, another year on a working holidays visa and eventually completed the immigration paperwork. And here I was, half Canadian.
There is the mindset: for some reasons that I can’t fully explain, I had never thought of living in France. I mean, I can’t really complain — I had it all. A democratic country, a loving family, friends and well, I was smart enough to get a few degrees as well. But I made a mistake along the way: I had a taste of freedom when I was 16, when I spend a summer alone in China, studying Chinese at university and traveling around Beijing. Once I realized the world wasn’t a scary place, once I realized I could go as far as I wanted and that, after all, it wasn’t because I was French that I had to live in France, I could only think of one thing: traveling and experiencing the world. I didn’t reject my country: I saw the world and got addicted to it. I like to think of it as the ultimate freedom: choosing a new place to live, instead of living my life where I was born.
And there is a little bit of luck: I was lucky to immigrate to a country that has an open immigration policy. It was very important for me to be legal, a full citizen. I couldn’t have spent years and years on tourist visas, working visas, you name it. I wanted to belong. Immigrating to Canada wasn’t easy but it was doable. That what mattered. And it worked out fine: it only took me a few months to get my permanent residence in Canada (after months of preparing the immigration file though). Meanwhile, I learned about my new country and got comfortable there.
All that wasn’t easy. It was a long process. Immigrating doesn’t come without a few tears, a few scars, a few questions and a lot of doubts.
At first, just thinking that I was alone in this big continent would make my head spin. Freedom was almost intoxicating. I could be whatever I wanted, do whatever I wanted. It came with its counterparts though, fear and angst. It’s not like I had a safety net. Adapting to a new culture can be tough too. Think of all that you learned in life and that you now master, the things you inherited from your culture: your mother tongue, the basic social skills, your political and maybe religious backgrounds. Now, keep them, but start from zero somewhere else, somewhere where the values and the way of live are different. See the world under a new perspective, and adapt to it.
But instead of feeling powerless, like I had felt in France, it seemed like I had the world in my hand. Sure, there were many things to learn and I felt frustrated more than once. But I had hope. Somehow, starting from zero was an headache but it was also very liberating. I would question everything and find the answers by myself. I would look at the bright side of things and would naively ignore things I didn’t like. Being somewhat of an outsider made me understand theories I would have rejected had I been at home. Made me more daring as well.
Maybe it’s that. Canada gave me a future, hope and the ability to choose the life I wanted. Little by little, the jigsaw fell into place. Today, I can’t really imagine what would have been my life if I had stayed in France. Maybe better, maybe worse, who knows. But I’m glad I took a chance.