10 Ways How Living Abroad Changed my Life



 
living-abroad-backpacking-unnavigated

10 Ways How Living Abroad Changed my Life

It was in the early summer of 2016 when I made the game-changer decision.
I was about to go and pack my bags for living abroad on the other end of the world.

I guess I was answering a feeling that was calling me. Needing a break from my usual life at that time. I didn’t feel quite ready yet to go look for a job back home and wanted to do something different first. That’s why I took that plane to Sri Lanka in October, a couple months later.

It felt like a dream coming true. I was about to go live the next chapter in my life. Living abroad was about to become real for me.

 

1. New habits became my culture

Starting a new life in a different country, caused me to be exposed to many new experiences. New tastes of exotic food, the daily feeling of a tropical atmosphere on my skin, different noises, different people; All were there.

I was staying with 2 different Sri Lankan families (3 months per family) and I really loved their culture. New habits, like eating rice and curry with my hands, praying to Buddha, drinking tea or speaking small words of the local language of Sinhala, became a habitual thing in my life. These new daily habits, coming from a different culture, became my culture.

I either had the choice to try and integrate as much as possible or to rather keep my distance when I was living abroad.

I do understand that some people maybe don’t want to integrate too much into a different culture when they visit a foreign country. This, I do understand if you are only passing through, or are on a short holiday trip. But for me this was different. I was living abroad for longer than 2-3 months. So, integration and acceptance were key elements for me to be able to have the best experience.

 

Living abroad in Sri Lanka. Kotagala Train station. - Unnavigated Living abroad in Sri Lanka. Kotagala Train station.

 

2. The world I live in became much bigger

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart. –  Helen Keller

With every new experience, in a different place that you have never visited before, the world around you changes.

My world has been changing constantly with small steps from since I was very young. Which is a perfectly normal thing, I guess. And, it changed a lot again because of my experience living abroad. I feel stronger, having grown in experience.

Living abroad was one of the most impactful experiences of my life, in a very positive way.

I feel that my perception of the world became much bigger, and is still growing. Living abroad gave an extra dimension to the world for me. It doubled all experiences I ever had before. It triggered me Now, I really can’t anymore to further explore more parts of the world to even further expand my view on the world.

3. All the gear I needed was fitting in my backpack

“You only need as much as you really need”. That’s a rule I learned from my experience living abroad.

All my necessary belonging were fitted into one backpack at the time.

It wasn’t much, but after living abroad for 6 months I realized I didn’t need more stuff than only the basic necessities.
And, when something got worn out, broke or/and needed to be replaced, I just bought it again.

I realized that having to take care of less stuff, gives a feeling of peace and simplicity. Because you don’t have to think as much about where you kept something or how you could have lost it.

Having all the gear in needed fitting in my backpack when I was living abroad, caused me to have more time for myself. I had the time to think about myself, or about what I want to achieve in life. It made me enjoy the small stuff in life more.

Keeping it simple can give a lot of peace to the mind.

4. The feeling of ‘home’ changes forever.

The longer I was living abroad, away from my former home, more I started to realize that the meaning of ‘home’ is not a place for me, but merely a feeling.

I guess that’s why people say: “home is where the heart is.”

I started seeing home in a different light after living abroad for a few months. I really liked it and after some time, that new place felt like home for me too.

After a time living abroad, the overall feeling of a place called ‘home’ changed for me.

Home became a place for me where I can find all the comfort I need, where my heart can rest, where the desire to escape ceases to exist.

The feeling of a place called ‘home’ can change. This is what I learned when I was living abroad. I started to see the meaning of the word in a different light. It’s something that might be have changed me forever. I feel more open, less connected to one place now. And, I’m looking forward to making the next move towards a new home soon somewhere else in the world.

5. Speaking new languages became a habit

Whilst living abroad in a different country with different languages, I wasn’t really able to use my native dutch in conversations many times.

I had to speak English for 6 months when I was living abroad because it’s the second language in Sri Lanka. That’s the country where I was living abroad. Plus, the local language on the island, Sinhala, also became necessary for me to maintain for being able to have a good talk.

Not every Sri Lankan spoke the best English. And, I felt to be more on an equal level with the locals when I learned to speak a few Sinhala sentences. I know that they really appreciated it.

Listening to Sinhala became a habit after some time when I was living abroad and, caused me to gain a better experience in hearing/speaking different languages. Which I consider being a good thing.

6. Pushing boundaries becomes an addiction

Whenever it’s a small barrier or a more ambitious one, pushing your limits can become an addiction.

This happened to me when I was living abroad because I had to encounter new challenges many times. Like meeting new people all the time from different cultures or visiting many new places I have never been to before.

And, I have to say that I really started to like having these new experiences over and over again. Every new challenge made me feel like a stronger person. It made me grow, but also feel addicted to searching new boundaries to push.

It feels like I want to keep on growing as a person and have more extreme experiences every time. Mind that this might also happen to you when you are living abroad at some time.

7. Saying goodbye becomes easier after time

Meeting a lot of new people when you are living abroad, but knowing that you won’t be able to stay with them for long isn’t always the easiest thing.

Especially when you meet the most lovely people on the road as a backpacker, and you know you probably only will spend 1-3 days with them, and then perhaps you will never see them again. This can be a very difficult thing to accept.

For me, I accepted the fact after having the experience of saying goodbye a couple of times. Saying goodbye becomes easier, but it will always remain a sad experience. This depends on who you meet, what and how the situation is of course.

When I was living abroad, I only had to say goodbye often when I was on the road on the weekend or holidays. It was a different experience with the people I stayed at. I had a few months to spend time with them. After those months, saying goodbye wasn’t that easy either. But, goodbyes did become easier after time when I was living abroad.

8. The longer the distance, the stronger the relationships

People say that you only realize how much you can truly miss someone when you are away from them.

And, having that person very close to yourself for a time can have an opposite and blinding effect.

I felt that my relations with friends & family from back home got much stronger when I was living abroad.
A strange feeling maybe. It felt like the longer distance was improving the strength of the relationship.

Maybe that’s because the communication was always about very positive things. I was very often sending pictures home when I was living abroad and my family, friends and I were often chatting about funny stuff.

Living abroad can cause some relationships to get stronger because you might miss people and they probably will miss you too.

9. I started to romanticize my home country

The idea of my home country became very idealized when I was living abroad.

I started romanticizing the smallest habits from back home. Like going to local bars, doing fun stuff in hometown, meeting family and friends… All of them were very positive memories. No negative thoughts came into my mind.

I think this happened because I stepped right out of my comfort zone when I was living abroad. Being exposed to a new location, new people and many other new influences were probably the main reason for this feeling.

I automatically started thinking about back home and focussed on all the good things around it. It’s probably something that’s in the nature of a human mind to do so. I heard more foreign people sharing the same thought when I was living abroad.

I think that keeping yourself open to finding goodness in living abroad in a new location can be a major key to success. In the beginning, it may be difficult. I also had this experience in the beginning when I was living abroad in Sri Lanka. But, looking for the small things already helped me a lot to get started.

10. Coming back home will never be the same

While I had the experience of living abroad in a tropical paradise for 6 months in 2016, my world slowed down. Just because I was living the good life there and didn’t have a lot of real things to worry about.

Life at home carried on as before. People went to work, they lived their usual lives, did what they had to do. That’s what I realized afterward.

Truth for me was that the biggest culture shock of the whole ‘living abroad’ experience happened when I returned back home. When I came back from living abroad in Sri Lanka, I had to do the biggest efforts to be able again to adjust to my home country’s culture and habits. Like searching for a job, finished the last bit of my studies, getting ready to save some money for the next trip…

It didn’t feel great to get back home from living abroad at first. I really missed the freedom and ‘carpe diem’ feeling of being on the road as a backpacker and to be living abroad in an exotic location. But, I did really enjoy to see friends and family again that I had missed for such a long time when I was living abroad.

Experiencing this reverse culture shock, having difficulties with psychological, emotional and cultural aspects of reentry, made me only more motivated though. It made me rather feel like someone that became richer from the experience of living abroad and not bounded anymore by the limits of a nationality.

Conclusion: how living abroad can change your life.

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. – Mahatma Gandi”

Living abroad made me mentally and physically feel healthier. Because of all the new experiences, I had and because I met so many new people from different cultures, I became a stronger and wealthier (in experience) person. Also, I became addicted to having new adventures and being on the road all the time.

I’m not saying that living abroad is the best thing for you to do, but leaving your current home for some time might not be a bad thing to do. It might let you see another way of life and give you the opportunity to grow.

And, you might as well happen to like that life a lot. So, I would recommend you to try it out at least once in your life.

Mind that you don’t have to go and live abroad for a long time. Even a 3-week backpacking trip can have a big impact on your life and personality.

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