For most of us, moving abroad was a lifelong dream. It was something we always thought about as being a normal part of life. Whether it was for the travel, the language, the culture, or the professional opportunities, we all knew it was something we had to do. The moment it actually happens, however, it turns from a dream to reality. Whether we welcome it or not, moving abroad will teach you lessons and change your way of thinking. You will care about different things, want to talk about different subjects, and have a tendency to spend your time differently.
You may start to feel some of these after living abroad for some time:
Stepping out of your cultural bubble will push your limits
Culture shock is real, and you experience it in ways you don’t expect. The moment you step away from your bubble – not to travel, but to live – you will be forced to interact with others differently. Whether you are experiencing cultural differences, a language barrier, or a foreign work environment, you will be pushed to your limits. You will become braver and more patient as each day passes, so long as you don’t let the frustrations get to your head.
You’ll learn about spending and budgets in a new way
Living abroad will teach you to appreciate money in a new way. If you’re like me, you will be living in a place with a very low cost of living, but also receiving a low salary. You will learn to budget and spend your money in different ways. Without the prevalence of Target, malls, and commercial ads convincing you you need every little thing, you will likely resort back to the basic living expenses. That isn’t to say you won’t yearn for shopping trips now and then, but you’ll realize that $20 top could pay for ten lunches, and it will become harder to reason with retail therapy.
You won’t relate to your friends like you did before
Depending on where you are in the world, you’ll likely be out of touch with the latest happenings of your old world. Of course, it is always fun to go back and reminisce and gossip about all the people you know. But, you won’t be going to the same bars, cafes, or watching the newest episodes of the show-of-the-moment. You’ll likely feel on the outside, as you are not part of that world anymore. If you’re lucky, you will have your forever friends, your soul sisters, who don’t apply to this rule. No matter where you both are in the world, your friendship only grows, and that’s a beautiful thing.
You won’t be able to ignore the injustices of the world
Again, depending on where you are in the world, you will likely see a level of extreme poverty that you have never seen before. Whether you’re involved in social justice projects or not, individuals and families will have an impact on you for the rest of your life. They will teach you about gratitude, love, and generosity. From my experience here, those who have the least give the most. If you weren’t angry already, you will likely develop a great anger for the systematic inequalities of the world like you never had.
You will appreciate “home” in a new way
Going back “home” will be a whole new experience. On one hand, you could come back and step into a time warp – your friends and family are in the same houses, same jobs, same lives. It may feel strange to come back and feel stuck in time. This may be your thing, or it might feel really strange. On the other hand, you could return back home, and realize that everyone has moved on. Your childhood house is gone, and your friends have all moved away from your hometown. Either way, you’ll learn to appreciate time spent together in a new way. You’ll (hopefully) feel as though it is the quality of time, not the quantity, that keeps your bond strong with your loved ones, and carry their love with you across borders.
You will (likely) have a lifelong case of wanderlust
After living abroad, you will probably have the itch to travel for the rest of your life. Living abroad gives you the chance to see new places, whether near or far. The reality of being a backpacker or jetsetter in the abroad life is low, unless your wallet or job allow for it, but nonetheless, you will see travel in a whole new way. The popular phrase “not all who wander are lost” will take on a new meaning for you personally. Likely you will go on in life to value moments over material things. Whether a day hike or a long trip abroad, you will value these experiences in a way that others might not.
I often see a beautiful image that says “you’ve changed… I’d hope so.” Moving abroad does not have to change you, but it will likely change your way of thinking.
Challenge it. Embrace it. Live it.