Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Living Abroad

Updated October 21, 2015
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Why You Shouldn't Be Afraid Of Living Abroad

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 on migrating overseas 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 every day. 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 and move abroad, especially solo, 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

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 up 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 starter, it helped me with 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.

Not convinced?

How do you make living abroad less daunting?

1. Don’t make it permanent

Explore short term opportunities first:

  • Study Abroad
  • Teach English overseas (I lived in Spain teaching English for a year)
  • Work Exchange – HelpX, Workaway, Woofing
  • Think about living abroad for 6 months, or a year, or whatever timeframe you’re happy with. I guarantee once you start you’ll probably want to extend it!

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.

For my part, I got so used to choosing the adventure of a new place that I didn’t and don’t hesitate when I think about moving country. But then, I was never that afraid to begin with.

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, and the things you should know before moving abroad, 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?

Sonja x

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  • Reply Amanda Williams October 24, 2015 at 9:34 pm

    Great post. I have been thinking about living abroad a lot recently, so glad I found this.

    • Reply Migrating Miss October 25, 2015 at 3:50 pm

      Hi Amanda! Living abroad is a really great way to experience a lot of new things and to travel. I’m so glad you’re considering it! Have you thought about where you might go? I’ll be posting lots more tips on living abroad so stay tuned :).

  • Reply Taylor October 27, 2015 at 5:14 pm

    Awesome post! I just moved to Thailand and will be moving to a new city after a week of training. So far it’s been amazing but im definitely nervous to see if I meet people since I’m moving to an area that’s not a very popular city as it’s more rural and smaller!

    • Reply Migrating Miss October 28, 2015 at 12:35 pm

      It’s so amazing you have moved to Thailand! I’m sure you will still be able to meet people, and it will give you a chance to really see local life! Where are you based?

  • Reply Sally November 6, 2015 at 9:10 am

    Love this post! I’m working to move to Spain and have been feeling simultaneously excited and apprehensive, so this post hit the spot!

    • Reply Migrating Miss November 7, 2015 at 10:03 am

      Thank you! Glad it helped! Where are you moving to?

  • Reply Tristian November 15, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    I think that the main reason we are afraid is usually money, to be more precisely lack of money during your travel and/or how to earn some money + what you do when you are out of them 😉 ?

    • Reply Migrating Miss November 16, 2015 at 7:17 am

      Possibly Tristian! Although I think that there are a lot of ways to travel that don’t make you broke. I would really encourage living abroad, or doing things like HelpX. If you do your research right then hopefully you won’t end up in a situation where you have no money, or you’ll know how to get out of it if you do! Travel doesn’t have to be months of saving, quitting your job and then coming home broke! I’ll be writing more about this 🙂

  • Reply Mike Bertini November 15, 2015 at 11:35 pm

    I moved from New York to London three months ago – first experience outside of North America. While I am such an extrovert, social and outgoing, I have found that living abroad, in a country where I knew nobody, has made me more introverted. I can put myself into any situation and go to any place by myself and have fun, strike up conversations with strangers, etc… But something about being in a city/country without my usual support system has made me think more before I act. Instead of diving right in, I see myself becoming more reserved which at first frightened me! I think everybody should live abroad at least once because you truly learn so much about yourself and experience feelings you may never have felt before!

    • Reply Migrating Miss November 16, 2015 at 7:19 am

      Thanks for sharing your experience Mike! That’s so interesting that you have found yourself becoming more introverted, most people say travel makes them the opposite! I hope in time you’ll become more comfortable in London, and build up more of a social network that will let you feel that way. In the meantime though, like you say, you can learn so much about yourself!

  • Reply Warren Williams November 16, 2015 at 2:53 am

    Great post! I just got back from 6 weeks in Thailand & Cambodia, saw the Angkor Wat temple complex. I have lived in Singapore for 4 months and have been to Asia 11 times. I am hoping to live in Thailand or Cambodia in 2017 for 6 months or more. Not sure yet how I am gonna make it work….but I will!

    • Reply Migrating Miss November 16, 2015 at 7:20 am

      Thanks Warren! 11 times! So jealous haha. I absolutely love Asia, living there would really be an amazing experience I think. You’ll definitely find a way to make it work! Maybe look into hostels, or teaching English as a first step?

  • Reply jaklien January 7, 2016 at 7:05 pm

    So true. I have been living outside my country for 15 years now. Best idea ever!

    • Reply Migrating Miss January 7, 2016 at 9:02 pm

      It´s definitely been my best decision! I´ve spent most of my 20s overseas and wouldn´t have it any other way. Where have you been living?

  • Reply Kate January 19, 2016 at 8:33 am

    I moved from Auckland, New Zealand to Essex, UK almost a month ago. It was simultaneously the most exciting and scary thing I’ve ever done. I have travelled solo but there was always the knowledge that I’d be going home! Still having the odd pangs of homesickness but I’m getting used to being here. I agree, I have had to step up a lot.

    • Reply Migrating Miss January 19, 2016 at 7:28 pm

      That’s really great you made the move! I went to Edinburgh and it’s nice to see someone else not choosing London. Not that I don’t like it in London but I think it’s great to experience living in other places around the UK. I only had a two year visa unfortunately so still had my end date! The homesickness will come and go, but I think it’s worth it! Best of luck 🙂

  • Reply Sunny London February 21, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    Fantastic list! Blogging while you live abroad also makes it even easier to meet people when you arrive in a new country because you can connect with them virtually before arriving. At least this was my experience when moving from Florida to London. By starting my blog ‘Sunny in London’, I found tons of American expats experiencing the same things I was. BTW- Just added you on Snapchat (SunnyInLondon2) 🙂

    • Reply Migrating Miss February 21, 2016 at 7:02 pm

      That’s a great point! I didn’t blog much about moving to Spain before I did so, but now I’m blogging more regularly I’ll probably discuss my next move ahead of time! Thanks will add back 🙂

  • Reply Eliana May 28, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    Hi! I loved this post. Would you help me with something more personal? I’m 19 and I’m thinking about living in Ireland while doing my career and working there, do you think it’s a good idea? I want to study Civil Engineering.

    • Reply Migrating Miss May 29, 2016 at 9:20 pm

      Hi Eliana! I’m glad you liked the post :). I can’t tell you exactly what to do, since I don’t really know your circumstances (or where you’re even from, so if it’s possible!) but I think if you do your research and find it’s something you want to do, go for it! If you want to take the chance, then do it.

  • Reply krys June 1, 2016 at 6:21 am

    sooooo glad i read this….planning on moving for a few months to France and felt like my fear was starting to double and triple in size!! this reminded me of my decision is a great one!

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 1, 2016 at 5:27 pm

      I bet it will be Krys! Any overseas experience has it’s ups and downs but I sincerely think it’s always worth it!

  • Reply Jonathan Ho October 23, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    Great article Sonja! I write on my wife’s blog on the very same topics – hoping to share stories with the expat community. Living abroad always seems frightening at first but it definitely gets easier as you go. I find that having a plan is a great way to remind yourself that you are in control. When I first moved abroad from Canada to Hong Kong, it was overwhelming but after looking back, I actually loved every bit of it.

    You will need to have an open mindset and step outside your comfort zone in a new place. I found that I had to do that constantly in order to enrich my experiences abroad. “Don’t be afraid! You’re not alone!” is what I always tell myself.

    • Reply Migrating Miss October 23, 2016 at 4:06 pm

      Thanks very much! It’s very true, at first it can be so overwhelming but you have to keep reminding yourself why you’re doing it and just take it one day at a time. Overwise it’s far too much! Even after moving abroad several times I still get like that!

  • Reply Ian May 30, 2017 at 7:35 am

    I don’t get it. You have to be brave. I see some people who are inquiring about teaching abroad, but they care too much about security. They want a guaranteed job and everything all set up. Korea is good for that. Teaching abroad is work you’ll have plenty of that since you’ll probably sign a contract for a year.

    Moving abroad to teach can be a bit of adventure if you go there and look for a job.

    • Reply Migrating Miss June 1, 2017 at 11:55 am

      Hi Ian! Teaching English somewhere like Korea is a really good option for people who are a bit worried about making the move abroad, because it’s a bit more set up for them, you’re right. I feel like when you’ve done it once though you realise it’s not as scary as you might have thought and you can do it again on your own!

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