The idea of foreign lands and new adventures is exciting for most. Many of us have dreamt of living abroad at some point in our lives. And for good reason; the chance to experience a world of new people, culture, food, and language has its draws.
Daydreams of wandering narrow winding streets, taking in unfamiliar sights, sounds, smells, and tastes are common. A little less common is imagining the reality that can beset the best of us once the novelty has worn off. With so many people, myself included, now moving to new cities and countries, it’s important to talk about the potential downside and what your options are.
“Being in a foreign country means walking a tightrope high above the ground without the net afforded a person by the country where he has his family, colleagues, and friends, and where he can easily say what he has to say in a language he has known from childhood.” – Milan Kundera
Living in a foreign country is like walking a tightrope. Some days it’s fabulous, other days you could die of homesickness and loneliness. There is so much to gain from living outside your comfort zone and pushing your boundaries. You learn more about what you’re made of and about the wider world. Both of these are invaluable.
But there is something to be said about the importance of living with a sense of belonging, having your family and friends nearby during both the good times and the bad, having a professional network to draw from, and being able to properly express yourself which is directly tied to your self-esteem and well-being.
Ironically, finding happiness abroad seems to be connected to your ability to find yourself in this new place. You will need to find some kind of familiar comfort in your new home. Some do this more easily than others.
Finding like-minded people, independence, and purpose are all equally important abroad as they are at home for your pursuit of happiness. If you live abroad or are thinking about moving, keep this in mind. Pick your new place wisely, think about the kind of life you want to lead on a daily basis and make sure that wherever you choose is in line with that.
We can overcome feelings of loneliness and lack of belonging by getting connected. Go walking in your neighbourhood, get involved in clubs or take lessons, meet people, share yourself with others.
And if all else fails and you fall from the tightrope, know that you can always go home, reconnect, and recharge because going back home after living abroad is an adventure in itself.
Ultimately, my message is this: don’t be afraid to pack your bags and head out on expat adventures but also, don’t be afraid to pack your bags and head home when you need to.
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