So. You would love to live abroad.
People often say how amazed and slightly jealous they are that I (we) get to live abroad. My answer is usually: ‘Hey, yes it is! You can try it too. No?‘ Mostly their answer is something along: ‘Oh no, I wouldn’t do that/ don’t have the courage/ don’t know how to make it happen’ etc.
What must I do to relocate or live abroad? There is no magic answers to that question. A lot may depend on your personal circumstances, decision-making skills, adjustment to change, and also how much you actually want it!
You will just know
First, I would look out for ‘signs’ that may show you if are keen to change some things around you and may be ready for a new chapter. Perhaps something significant has happened and you are ready to change your life a little (finished school, boring job, a break up, email from a friend that lives abroad)? Perhaps you feel irritated with where you live, keep looking for things that ‘don’t work’ they way you would like them to?
Do you follow hundreds of Instagram accounts about traveling and stunning holiday destinations? Do you have friends or family that live elsewhere and feed you with stories about ‘those beautiful foreign places’? Or maybe you find yourself super excited about possibility of work transfer briefly mentioned by your boss?
My dad was in military so we moved a few times when I was a kid. But, the first big and solo move (to London, UK) came eventually and happen pretty smoothly. Despite the fact of having only £200 in my pocket and no job when I made the move! Young, wild and brave. Things slowly fall into right places and after a few months I never looked back. I loved soaking up the new life experiences and I enjoyed learning about the new cultures and meet amazing people from all over the globe. It all felt right and I just knew this is for me. My relationship with living abroad and having temporary ‘homes’ has not always been a smooth sailing all along, but overall – it has grown better and bigger over time. Almost like my love for red wine :)
Relocation and living outside of your city/ country can be an incredible experience and I think everyone should have a right to try it. It broadens your perspective on life and yourself; it shapes you and keeps you sharp by constant learning and it gives you a sense of belonging to this big-small world out there. Once you start traveling and living that other life, you may realize how accessible the world actually is. And that is a beautiful thing!
I have a tendency to overthink, but when it comes to living abroad – there really is a lot of things to consider! I took a stab at narrowing down for you to few pros and cons below:
Yay For Living Abroad
- It is an adventure! Whatever and however you do it, relocation will be a whole new experience. Embrace it. Enjoy it and remind yourself every day why are you’re doing it.
- You will travel more and become a tourist in your new backyard. Wherever you go, new things, people and places will surround you. I laugh that you can always recognize an expat or a traveller- those are the ‘weird’ people that go to a museum on Sunday instead of grocery shopping or sign up all those free walking tours around the city. They want to soak up all the good (and bad) stuff that the new city/ country has to offer. It’s fun!
- You will learn to be more tolerant and respectful by seeing and getting to know other people and cultures. Just let it in.
- You will learn some amazing life skills and become (more) independent.
- You will discover some amazing new foods. I mean it – amazing.
- You will keep yourself on your toes. Being outside of your comfort zone is proven to be good for you! Why not to try?
- Most likely, you may always leave/ move again or go back to where you came from. So nothing needs to be forever!
Nay For Living Abroad
- You will be far away from your friends and family. It can be tough, especially during the first 6 months and if you’ve never moved before. Being technology savvy may pay off – better teach your mum how to use Skype or FaceTime now!
- You may not feel understood. And we are not only talking about language barrier. You sometimes may feel that you talk to people from a different planet. Remember, everyone is different and each country has their own culture and set of unwritten social rules. Take a deep breath, count to 10 and keep practicing effective communication. Having said that, someones you may feel nothing is working and you and rest of the people are like peach and carrot (so different) – that does happen! Cultural adjustment or differences can be huge.
- It may be hard to meet make friends or meet new people. Every time you move, you face the same issue – how to make friends in the new place? Work, activities or kids’ school certainly can help. Even if you won’t find friends for life, you will probably meet someone you can hang out with for an hour or two on weekends or meet for a quick drink in the evening. Have realistic expectations though!
- You may feel unsettled. This feeling usually kicks in (for me) after first 18 months. The initial stress and excitement are gone. So now you face a new dilemma – does it feel like home yet? Why don’t I (do I?) want to make long-term plans / commitments just yet?
The above are just examples and you probably will have some more personal reasons for either yay or nay.
I find that it can make a difference if you’re moving with work or without, or with partner/ family or solo. Traveling with loved ones can be easier and more challenging at the same time- you have the extra support and someone who goes through the same thing as you do is always calming. But on the other hand, that is additional person you must think about! Their feelings, needs, wants and expectations about the new home are as important as yours. It may be hard to manage it at times, even if you’ve been together for a number of years, and open commutation is always a key.
When you relocate with work, things will probably be more stable and ‘normal’ from the very start. You will quickly establish your new routine, meet people and discover good coffee or dry cleaning places. That may give you some steadiness when everything around you is so new and unknown.
Moving with no work on the other hand – and when you have this luxury and opportunity to do so — may allow you to discover new surroundings in your own pace. You could take your time to browse around the area, taste those espressos in the nearby coffee shops (that would be my priority!) or slowly discover secrets of successful grocery shopping art in your new town/ country.
Memories you will have
During the last 13 years of living abroad, I’ve collected a lot of fantastic and a handful of bad experiences. There isn’t one with a tag ‘the best’ or ‘the worse’. But there are hundreds of beautiful moments and memories that always bring a smile on my face and I cannot imagine not having them. Like seeing Bruce Springsteen during a rainy British summer in Hyde Park or enjoying Olympics events in London; trying Penang local street food (aka hawker centre) or climbing overnight to see sunrise at Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia; my surprise birthday trip to Isle of Wight or New Years Eve at Marina Bay in Singapore. Would those experiences happen without me living at different homes, moving around, being curious? Maybe they would anyway. But helping a little bit along the way doesn’t hurt.
If you feel a little itch to go and try living somewhere new, whether that is a new street, borough, city or country, that’s great. That decision is where it all starts. If you still unsure or just don’t have desire to change anything right now, that’s pretty great too (at least you know it!). Maybe start being a tourist in your own city to rediscover it and see where this takes you?
Be open minded and ready for opportunity to grab you. Try to travel, to move places and enjoy the new experiences – no matter how big or small. Keep asking yourself everyday: ‘Why not?’. Stay curious. Be brave. And do it, if it feels right – you will know if it does.