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“There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs,” writes Mark Sham who recently penned an open letter to anyone thinking about moving abroad for good.


South Africa (21 July, 2023)—Toying with whether to leave your home country isn’t easy for most people no matter which corner of the world you come from and how complicated the fabric of a country is. Trade-offs are inevitable, even for the people who pack a suitcase every time loadshedding strikes.

We’ve seen expats realise that actually South Africa is worth it despite all the dinner table discussions. Others have let those who did make the move know that many back home still believe in the unicorn. There are also expats who’ve kicked back at the ‘I Told You So’ movement.

Every expat and well-travelled person has their own perspective on ‘life outside’, but sometimes the balanced ones stand out the most.

We’re always ready to hear helpful opinions at Good Things Guy, and Mark Sham’s recent open letter to anyone thinking about making the big trek is exactly that.

Instead of offering a ‘do or don’t’ perspective, Mark weighed up the pros and cons from both sides of the coin under the bigger opinion that there are no all-encompassing solutions, only trade-offs:

For anyone thinking about leaving South Africa permanently, I’d like to attempt to share a balanced perspective on this topic as a well-seasoned traveller and someone that has lived away from home.

As I type this post, I’m sitting at the airport in Paris making my way back home to South Africa after three weeks in Europe. I’ve had the most phenomenal time this side, but I’ve also been struck by a powerful quote the entire trip:

“There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs.”

Leaving Itself isn’t the Solution

The problem is, most people think the act of leaving is the solution, when really all they’re doing is trading one set of pros and cons for another.

Sometimes people are so focused on what [they] don’t like about their home country, and they take the amazing aspects for granted. You only really understand the intrinsic value of these overlooked qualities when you’re on the other side of the world for a while.

The problem is, once you’re in a new country, and once the rose tinted glasses come off, there will be many other things you don’t like on that side of the world too.

As crazy as this may sound, I actually encourage people to leave if they really want to. We live in a global world and it’s not true that just because you’re born somewhere, it means you have to stay there forever. The only advice I ever add is, just make sure you have many good reasons to arrive in a new place. Running away from something will make moving even harder than it already is.

As someone that travels a lot, I speak to many South Africans all over the world. There is no question that most of them see South Africa differently after living abroad for a while. Many other nationalities feel the same about their home country too.

Understand What You Value

Moving away may indeed be the best thing that some of you have ever done. I think the reason for this is simple. When you move, you will either love it or hate it over time depending on what you value. But again, you never just value one thing. And this is often why moving is hard.

Like most of you, I value safety and security. The last few weeks in Europe have been a dream in that sense. But I also value that warm South African spirit and friendliness. It’s just not quite the same this side, at least not for me.

I really value the ease of travel this side. This is something that’s a lot harder to get right back home. When you’re in Europe, you are two hours away from 50 world-class cities. But then travel can be incredibly expensive this side compared to back home. The cost of eating out is so much cheaper and you get so much more bang for your buck.

I could keep going with the comparisons but again, no matter where you live in the world, you have to be aware of all the trade-offs should you want to leave. Leaving in and of itself isn’t the solution.

I absolute LOVE Europe for many reasons, but I also love South Africa for others. As it stands now, I don’t think I ever want to leave South Africa completely but I also can’t live in just one country my whole life. So I’m going to do both (again).

Someone Else’s Experience Doesn’t Predict Yours

Last point. The reason why there’s no right or wrong answer to leaving your home country is because the trade-offs are all relative. Asking someone else if they’re happy they moved isn’t going to answer the question directly for you.

Either Way, Moving Might Realign What Really Matters For You

I don’t blame anyone for wanting more from life. Sometimes a move will give you just that, and other times it will show you that you had the best of life at your fingertips all along. Sometimes you will realise you were never meant to live in just one place, and sometimes you’ll be crazy enough to want to live on two continents at once.

PS. I’ll say this one last time. There are no solutions, only trade-offs.

Sources: Mark Sham
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About the Author

Ashleigh Nefdt is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Ashleigh's favourite stories have always seen the hidden hero (without the cape) come to the rescue. As a journalist, her labour of love is finding those everyday heroes and spotlighting their spark - especially those empowering women, social upliftment movers, sustainability shakers and creatives with hearts of gold. When she's not working on a story, she's dedicated to her canvas or appreciating Mother Nature.

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