I’ve been lucky enough to have moved country several times since I was 16 years old for different reasons and in different ways.
Because of this I firmly believe living abroad is one of the most rewarding things you could ever do. Experiences help us to grow, and living abroad is a sure way to cram in a bunch of new adventures. Living abroad doesn’t scare me anymore and I forget sometimes that it can be a big deal until I start speaking more about it. It’s not that easy for everyone and it is certainly life changing, which is why I know taking that chance can be daunting. In my opinion though, there are certain risks in life worth taking, and moving abroad is definitely one of them. Even if it doesn’t quite work out how you expect, there is a much to be gained!
So what is there to actually gain from living abroad?
1. A wider circle of friends
Moving abroad inevitably means making new connections with people all over the world, not necessarily just the place you’re going to. Living in a new place means you can naturally gravitate to other newcomers or outsiders like yourself who will understand what you’re experiencing. After years of travel I have friends all over the world that, thanks to the awesomeness of social media, I can connect with everyday. Knowing people from different backgrounds and with different experiences has enriched my life and I’m so grateful for all the friends I have everywhere, even if they will never all be in one place!
2. Constant new experiences
We seem to be constantly striving for more and often talk about “getting out of the rut”. What better way to “live life to the fullest”, as the cliche goes, than by moving somewhere new? I can advocate trying to be a tourist in your own city but living abroad is a definite push to undertaking new experiences. While it can be daunting once you push yourself out of your comfort zone you’ll be rewarded with experiences that can shape your life, or at least make an awesome story in the future.
3. Improved self confidence
When you only have yourself, then you have to step up. I’ve never said it was easy to move country and it can definitely be scary if you’ve never done it before, but I’ll always say it’s worth it. Living somewhere new means you can have confidence in be whoever you want to be. When I was younger I used to have to psych myself up to answer “here” when the teacher called the classroom role. Somehow I was fairly good at reading and public speaking, but it was always pushing myself rather than something that came naturally. I still have my moments, but travelling has made me confident in my ability to spark a conversation with anyone.
4. Opportunities at home
If you plan on going back, living abroad is actually a great way to further your opportunities for later. I have found my overseas experience invaluable when I’ve been at home. For starters it helped with me job applications because I had so many examples to pull from about how I was “flexible” and “adaptable” and “can work with people from diverse backgrounds.” More importantly it helped me to be more open. Open to putting time into exploring my own country. Open to making connections with people outside my normal friends group I had known for years and was comfortable with.
How do you make living abroad less daunting?
1. Don’t make it permanent
Explore short term opportunities first:
- Study Abroad
- Teach English overseas
- Work Exchange – HelpX, Workaway, Woofing
Having a plan of somewhere to go and some support will make it easier for you.
2. Take a friend
This one comes with a caveat. If you are planning on going with a friend make sure you’re still prepared to go alone. Sometimes plans with friends fall through. I think solo travel is one of the best experiences you can ever have. If your friend doesn’t I guarantee you can make friends yourself and in my opinion solo travel is hardly ever solo. People seem to want to talk to you more if you’re by yourself so you make your friends on the road.
3. Go to a friend
If you have other friends who have travelled or are travelling, could you meet them? Could you move to where they are? It can help to pick somewhere popular with expats for your first experience living abroad, although you shouldn’t just stick to what you know! For example though, there are so many Kiwi’s and Aussies in the UK it’s not such a scary move (see how to get the Youth Mobility Visa here).
Travellers are like this not so secret community that you just need to tap into.
I’m not saying it isn’t a big decision, but in some ways it doesn’t have to be. Not that a bit of adrenalin and fear isn’t good for you, but it shouldn’t stop you. If you don’t know where to start then, check out How To Choose A Country To Move To, talk to your friends, and think about it living abroad even for a few months is something you can fit into your life. The rewards are worth it.
Have you made the leap to live abroad? What made you do it?