It was during the summer of 2003 that we first decided to move abroad. The idea was already there but, during those months, we began to grow this idea into reality. A year later and our first stop was Vancouver, Canada, where I turned my back on the corporate world and went back to student life. It was difficult going but got easier over time. And we moved on. To Ottawa and a job with the government, made new friends, our first house in Canada and a more relaxed way of life. But we were young and we got restless.
With the quest for travel and adventure still in our hearts, we left Canada in search of long warm summers and a more laid-back lifestyle. The next move took us to the lovely harbor city of Sydney, Australia. Over the past 11 years, I’ve lived in many countries and visited even more. I’ve embraced foreign cultures and traditions, faced a lot of uncertainty and accepted often unease, met interesting people and gathered friendships for life.
I did try to live my life to the fullest. Because living abroad is a very satisfying and challenging thing a person can do. It changed the core of whom I thought I was and who I am today. Living abroad changed me. There are four ways it will change you as well, and forever.
You’re no longer the same person you were.
Living in a foreign country is one of the most profound undertakings a person can make. You don’t change job or move house, you do that and you do a lot more. The scenery changes outside along with everything and everyone you once knew. The impact this has on you is huge. You might not realize it in the beginning, but one day you’ll see it for what it is. You grew, evolved and you moved on. You faced setbacks and dealt with them by yourself.
You survived obstacles, beat back the naysayers and you have the scars to prove it. Some scars are good, some are bad, but things can ever be the same. Things that were once important no longer matter to you. Things that didn’t seem important before now actually matter more. The value of friendship is paramount. Familiarity is a forgotten concept and you no longer take anything for granted.
Moving abroad made you realize that “things” are not the same as happiness. In fact, you begin to redefine your original idea of success. During your international journey, you have learned more than just differences – people, culture, language, places. You learned about you. You have faced challenges, got to know a side of you that you never realized existed and you’re amazed at what you’ve become. You are different now.
You can never go back home.
You could go back if you wanted to but things won’t ever be the same. While you experienced new adventures, life at home carried on as it was before. People went to work, went shopping, went on holiday, celebrated birthdays, they got married. They changed jobs and moved house. And while everything appears to have remained the same, the truth is that life carried on without you.
This is a very high price to pay with moving abroad. You have the adventures and the experiences but you can’t have “them.” You’ll miss everything from the life you used to have and all you can do is watch from the sidelines as people carry on with their lives. One day, you realize you couldn’t go back even if you wanted to. Some people have tried and succeeded, others have failed. Your former life moved on, you moved on, and all this time you both moved apart. Phone calls drop off, emails become less frequent. You’ll never lose your friends and your family will always remain family. But to them, you’ll matter less. It’s a hard reality, so deal with it. Or go back while you still can.
Your world became much larger.
The moment you moved, the world grew bigger. New sights, sounds and smells opened up. Your addiction to explore became a permanent fixture. And now there’s no way back. You always knew the world was big but only when you stepped upon its far-flung corners you realized just how large it is.
How amazing it is. Knowing this, how could you ever give this up? The answer is that you can’t. You’ll never stop looking for more. Living abroad encourages responsibility and independence. And It creates respect and an opportunity to appreciate everyone and everything around you. These lessons stay with you and make you the person you become. Rejoice in it, because it’s all good.
Everything is possible.
The most difficult part was leaving. Now that you’ve left, everything is possible. Remember that you changed and the old “you” is a far away memory. Think about what you can do now and what you already achieved. You can speak another language, cook different kinds of foods and embrace different cultures. You understand local traditions, open your mind to opportunity a lot more frequently, approach strangers with confidence and say goodbye to former home comforts. You have proved now that you can live abroad – you survived. You followed your dreams.
You opened Pandora’s Box and you’ll not be able to close it but you’re a happier, more content, less restless version of the old “you.” And now you’re finally free. You earned true freedom. To explore. To choose whatever you want. The freedom to be yourself. You got rid of the creature comforts and made a life for yourself a very long way from home. You did it. So give yourself a pat on your back, allow a smile and go back to doing what you do best. Because it’s working.
How has living abroad changed you?