The decision to live or spend lots of time abroad is a life-changing one. One day, you decide to get off your current path – perhaps to see more of the world, follow an opportunity or to be with someone you love. The next, your bags are packed and you walk onto a plane and take off toward a new life.
Living or travelling extensively in a foreign country is not easy. It requires diligence, independence and most importantly, patience. But it also allows you to experience some of the most satisfying moments life has to offer.
Here is my top five list of the most satisfying moments that travel has brought to me.
1. Overcoming a Language Barrier for the First Time
Everyone faces cultural and language barriers in a foreign country, even if the languages are very similar. If you live or travel abroad, you’ll need to pick up the small differences quickly and of course, it can be pretty tough to communicate if you don’t know the language. Not being understood can be extremely frustrating, especially in stressful situations. But once you put in the effort to learn, nothing beats the feeling of using your new skills to communicate with others for the first time, even if it’s just a small chat with the person in front of you at the supermarket.
2. Finding Your New ‘Norms’
It’s the little traditions that make life more fun – whether you have a go-to café for weekly brunch with friends or a favourite song you listen to on the subway. When you move to a new place, these seemingly insignificant routines take on a stronger meaning, and help you connect with the people and places around you. The fact that you can’t get home for a holiday dinner with your family makes your potluck meal with your ‘family away from home’ even more special.
3. Realising Just How Independent You’ve Become
Picking up and moving or travelling to a new country requires a lot of courage. You need to have confidence that you can find your way around, secure a job, make new friends, learn a new language or customs and be patient enough to keep your chin up if things don’t happen as planned. You may rely on others who have come before you for advice, but mostly, you need to rely on yourself. Doing things without the safety net of familiarity, family, and close friends can be lonely, but the sense of accomplishment is hard to match. While I may not ever want to spend two hours wandering around a foreign grocery store with only Google Translate as my guide again, I won’t forget the patience and persistence it taught me.
4. Picking Back Up with Old Friends
Some people have lifelong friends, others have friends that belong to different stages of their life. One of the bittersweet parts of travelling for a long time is finding out into what category your friends fall. It can be difficult to find common ground with certain friends when you’re no longer doing the same things, but with others, you can pick up right where you left off. While putting in the effort to maintain friendships is important, it is such a good feeling knowing that your ‘people’ are still there for you and that you still laugh at the same things, no matter the distance or how much time or has passed.
5. Knowing That You Made the Right Decision
Not everyone will understand your decision to move abroad or spend a year travelling. They might think you’re making a lateral move or possibly even a step backward in your career. But that’s because living abroad isn’t for everyone. It can be hard to see your friends back home progressing towards life milestones while you’re away – going to reunions, getting married, having babies, and buying homes especially when you are essentially ‘starting over’ in a lot of ways. But in your gut, you’ll have that ‘knowing’ feeling that you made the right decision for YOU. And in the end, that’s all that really matters.