Living Abroad For All It’s Worth

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Living abroad can be incredibly rewarding, but let’s be honest, it also comes with its sacrifices. Although we make many new friends, learn to trust strangers and speak new languages, we also find ourselves missing our own country, culture and beautiful family members. Things that both places have in common like the sunshine, a smile, or a crashing ocean wave can seem to be our only constant between the two worlds we love so dearly. Yet, we must remember to fully embrace living in the present moment, no matter how challenging it may be.

Whether you are making plans to live abroad for the first time or have done it for years, here are some tips to help you make the most of your experience:

Schedule Regular Communication 
The more time you let pass by without catching up with your loved ones will seem like a mountain to climb when you do sit down to chat. Leaving the question, “So how is __insert country here__?” open for too long will leave you fumbling to catch your mother up on a month’s worth of stories which leaves you feeling like you have to explain an entire lifetime. Many times we hunger for normality in those conversations and to feel understood. Taking the time to schedule and invest in long distance relationships will keep you feeling more supported long term.

Indulge In Something Familiar
Even if it costs a little more, make it a point to treat yourself every now and then with something that reminds you of home. This could be eating your favorite food, shopping for local fabric, going dancing with friends, or drinking coffee exactly the way you like it.

Create A Good Support Network
This is different for different people, but know that no matter where you live, there are always people who are in a similar situation. Ex-pats, global volunteers, non-profit workers, and foreign service employees usually have their own surrogate families in-country. Find these people, attend networking events as much as you can, and don’t give up until you find a great group of individuals that you can connect with and confide in. It usually takes some time to connect.

Travel With Memories
It always feels so much more like home with photos of your family on the wall, your favorite scarf around your neck as you hop through airports or bus stations, and to have a few of your favorite spices to cook a favorite meal with. Never underestimate how good your favorite paintbrush will feel in your hand or how amazing your favorite perfume will smell when you’re far away from the comforts of home.

Stay Mentally & Physically Healthy
Stay active and stay true to your heart. Find a yoga class; take your running shoes – even if you can only exercise in your room. Listen to your favorite music, continue to practice your faith even if you can’t do it exactly as you would be able to at home, and above all else, surround yourself with positive people who love living there.

Image via Izzie Rae Photography

Andrea is a freshly married Epidemiologist specializing HIV/AIDS work. A returned Peace Corps Volunteer with a Masters in Global Health, she has traveled to over 22 countries and has lived abroad in Africa, Australia, the Caribbean, and most recently, Malawi. When she’s not traveling, she spends her time working as a professional photographer and artist taking her inspiration from the places, cultures, and people that she’s seen. You can read more about her travels, work in public health, and check out her artwork on her blog, Hippie By The Sea.

6 COMMENTS
  • Lydia Klemensowicz May 11, 2015

    I am currently living abroad in Ireland right now, and this couldn’t resonate more with my heart and soul.

  • Grace March 22, 2014

    Thank you for this article! I’m currently living abroad and am definitely struggling with a bit of homesickness. This read was a great way to put it all in perspective as a growth experience.

  • Izzie Rae Photography March 17, 2014

    I am still living abroad and every bit about this article rings true in my heart. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Ps- and thank you for sharing my image! 🙂

  • Virginia March 16, 2014

    We moved to Wiesbaden nine months ago for three years and I love, love, love, that you wrote about being an expat, I’m still finding my footing here and truly appreciate your suggestions. Thank you!
    x Virginia

  • Hannah March 14, 2014

    I miss living abroad! I lived overseas for three years and in many ways I still feel my heart is absent my body. Though I must admit, I’m beginning to grow tired of so many ‘list’ or ‘tips’ articles on here. They just seem too shallow to explain such a rich experience.

  • Leslie March 14, 2014

    These insights could not be more spot-on. The initial magic of living abroad often fades after six weeks or so. But what comes next can be a beautiful process of growth and discovery (if you let it). When I lived abroad I had to remind myself that “life goes on” back home. I had to get rid of any guilt I had from being far away in order to fully indulge the experiences of my present.

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