Whispers of My Life Abroad: A Tried Source of Truth
I grew up surrounded by people who loved to travel while at the same time raised by parents who have rarely left their own home towns. My love of travel was influenced by my uncles whom permanently moved abroad in their twenties, and truthfully I always found myself intrigued by their wisdom and way of being. Not to say that I did not like my parents’ more comfortable, acclimated lifestyle, though my uncles truly fascinated me. Outside of my family circle I surrounded myself with friends whose parents were from different countries, and friends who spoke their parents native language. I enjoyed staying at their house, eating exotic Lebanese food and singing Lebanese songs that I wished I’d knew the meaning to.
It wasn’t until later down the road where I embarked on my first trip to Europe, a visit to see my uncle that resides in Paris. I was only fourteen, so I was unable to appreciate all the french charm fully, but that did not stop me from becoming obsessed with my uncle’s way of life. From that trip forward I dreamed of living a life where I could live above a French pastry shop and walk around beautiful lively streets outside of my own flat. Two years later my best friend convinced me to join her on a school trip to see Italy, Greece and Turkey. I was 16 and knew nothing of those countries. It just so happened that this two week trip changed my life.
I was struck with the travel bug and never looked back.
After high school I transitioned into college life: school, sorority, and work on repeat. I was broke as most college kids are and dreamed of traveling nearly every day. I settled for trips around California as I was in my first long term relationship and found myself tied down in an unhealthy way. I tossed around studying abroad with my ex-boyfriend, only to have him threaten our relationship if I went. Unfortunately, I stayed with him instead of pursuing my dreams. Fast forward to my fourth year of college, I finally had the courage to break up with him and book a ticket to Amsterdam to visit my best friend whom was studying abroad. I stayed with her for one month, sleeping on a tiny couch in a small dorm room. I was instantly in love with the person she had become abroad, and the life she had made for herself. That single month in Amsterdam is what led me to where I am today.
Upon graduating I jetted off to Au Pair in Barcelona, Spain. I was nervous to solo travel and move into a strangers home. I was so desperate to follow this dream, so having a small budget was my only option. Three weeks into my trip I met Sebastian, who is from Chile. He opened my eyes up to all things moving and staying abroad. He got his masters in Barcelona and was planning to move to Australia next. I was smitten from the start. I quit my crappy Au Pair job and moved in with him despite my parents’ opinions. I spent my third and last month in Barcelona living at my boyfriends.
Looking back it was the biggest month of growth, it consisted of a deep love combined with a deep homesickness.
No one would have known from the outside looking in, but I was miserable, and thought I was ruining my future by frolicking around Barcelona with no direction except following my heart. Boy, was I WRONG!
With a passion in my heart and the determination to keep my life abroad, my best friend and I moved to Bangkok, Thailand to teach English. She had just gone through a family death, and I didn’t want to go home, so it seemed to be a perfect option for the both of us. Sebastian and I did long distance and had plans to reunite in Australia following my Thailand trip. Our plan was to live there together for one year on a work holiday visa. At the time I never thought I would make it past six months in Australia, but life has a funny way of changing plans.
I am proud to say I have lived in Australia for over two years and am halfway through my Masters in Occupational Therapy. In the past two years I have experienced more emotions and growth than I have in my entire life. My experiences abroad have urged me to grow up faster than I would have liked to, but ultimately my life living abroad has helped shape who I am today. I have lived some of my worst nights, where I was too homesick/lost/confused/depressed to realize how good my life was. And on the other hand, I have created a beautiful family and life here. The amount of highs and lows I have had in the last three years abroad are indescribable. I have been extremely poor and stable, I have had no friends and have had tons of friends, I have been depressed, and also the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.
Living abroad has taught me how to feel my emotions entirely.
When I am depressed from being homesick, or unhappy with work or relationships, I sit with my emotions instead of trying to get rid of them, as we so often aim to do. When I am truly happy and content I can thoroughly feel it and enjoy it.
I often get asked, how do you live your life abroad and do you ever miss home? The answer to both of those are complicated. Yes, I miss home nearly everyday, but we are lucky enough to live a world where we can talk with our loved ones through different means of technology. As for living abroad, you have to follow your own path. If I had listened to my parents, or my inner ‘mean’ girl, I would be at home living someone else’s dream. I aim to wear my heart on my sleeve and not be fearful of insecurity and the future. Living abroad means living for each day as it comes, emotions and all. It also means that you can choose to live in a place that better suits the lifestyle you’ve always dreamt of, which in turn makes your life authentic and happy. The only thing I regret I have in my life is not listening to my heart earlier. Only we have the power to know what makes our soul set on fire. So please, shut down that inner ‘mean girl’ voice inside your head that is stopping you from living your best life, don’t let her plan your future.
Below are a few tips and tricks for moving abroad and staying happy.
Go out and make friends:
Go on awkward first friend dates and be overly social. The main rule of thumb for living and staying abroad is cultivating a family away from home made up of like-minded friends.
Work and stay busy:
This may sound odd considering people think when you live abroad that your life is a full-time vacation. However, in my experience spending a month or more in a different country with no set job or obligations is a recipe to go a little crazy and feel useless. Traveling and vacationing is only so fun for so long mentally and financially.
Participate in new and old hobbies:
I started up surfing with my friends and have tried several yoga studios throughout my travels. I have also created a hobby learning about healthy living. I go to workshops, explore new restaurants, and cook new foods for enjoyment.
Self Care is essential:
Exercise of some form anywhere from 3-4 x per week even if it’s just a walk on the beach. Be conscious of what you feed your body. Eating healthy for majority of meals on the weekdays and allow yourself to enjoy on the weekends. Staying healthy is a foundation for a healthy mind and body to stay happy abroad.
Keep in touch with home:
It is extremely easy to get wrapped up in your life abroad and not keep in touch with family and friends as often once you get busy with work and create a friend circle. Making time to nurture relationships at home is essential for your peace of mind, I try to make time for this daily and speak with my loved ones a few times a week.
Ways you can move abroad:
Au Pairing (or nannying abroad), teaching English abroad, Studying abroad (for undergrad, masters degree, or a course you’ve always dreamt of like yoga teaching, massage therapy or culinary school), working holiday visa (offered in several countries where you can work for 1-2 years ie. Australia and Canada), skilled visas (for certain occupations that allows you to work in your field), Sponsorship visa (which is often used in a way if you already live and work in a country you can ask your boss to sponsor you for them to extend your visa), permanent residency (offered to people who have worked abroad or were sponsored and have passed a certain requirement varying country to country), a partner or spousal visa (dating or marrying a foreigner, probably the easiest yet hardest way to move abroad, but if it happens then it’s a perk)
Author: Christina Thomas | @christinaat