The cold hard truth on living abroad – what nobody tells you

The images in this post are brought by an amazing photographer who I am lucky to call one of my best friends, Gustavo Amat. Please, get yourself some eye candy and check out his work at 500px or his Instagram page.

We have a bad habit of saying that when we achieve this or that we will be truly happy. We postpone instantaneous happiness that is fully possible in exchange for an illusory potential happy feeling in a plan that is often long – very long – term.

I say that it is illusory because we rarely know the circumstances surrounding the plan. We know how to plan a wedding, apply for a job, set up a trip, save money to buy a car, or an apartment, workout to get a body we have always idealized… But we do not know, and we have no way of knowing, the factors beyond our control that directly influence our relationship with the outcome.

Ever since I can remember, I wanted to live abroad. For a few months, for a few years, for life … I didn’t care, I wanted to have the experience, even if it was quick, of being a foreign resident. I idealized personal growth, maturing, partying (am I going to lie?), and even the amplitude of my social circle. But I was still happy while that was just a plan, I’m glad to say. Anyhow, the plan was on. I did what I had to do in terms of research (both within and on external matters), I saved money, and the plan finally succeeded. Today, I am a resident on another continent and I am extremely grateful for absolutely everything I have achieved so far, whether in the country where I call my old home or in the country where I call my new home. Much of what I thought I was going to achieve while living abroad, I did. But what I can’t control came as a welcome gift.

I have seen an extraordinary incentive for people to move abroad, especially where political and economical situations are going bad. Also, after the COVID-19 pandemic, people have decided to enjoy life the most without any fears to hold on to, so they have at least set the intention or the interest in moving abroad. Have you noticed that too? I understand the reasons and I understand the disappointment, although they were not my motivational elements in this movement to leave my country. I traveled to study but decided to stay.

One of my first memories from my first days living abroad was hearing stories about people, or even families, that took this courageous step just like I and many other people around the world did, but didn’t manage to stay and live it. Sadly, this sort of memory has followed me throughout time and up to this very moment I still listen to the same story, but with different characters.

photo by Gustavo Amat – check it out @ 500px

Of course, I cannot say that everyone was out of luck because some of them were. They did their “homework”, but things just didn’t happen, so they had to look for a different path. But for a large group apart from this one, it wasn’t a lack of luck or opportunity. It was a lack of reality and common sense. I get very amazed (irony plaque) by the disappointed people who do not find jobs, opportunities, or anything else they sought, without, however, doing the proper research before taking this step and, mainly, thinking about the difficult days. Difficult days are more difficult than you might think.

It’s not just homesickness, it’s emptiness. It is the desire to go home, your first one, on a beautiful sunny Sunday, and all you wanted was to be close to the people you love. It is the desire to drive back home on a rainy and cold Monday, and all you wanted was to be in an environment that protects you like the native that, out there, you are not and never will be. It is doubtful if your cycle outside your homeland is over and it is time to go back and put everything you’ve grown up to be on the table for your fellow compatriots to see, or if it is a kind of natural selection to see if your emotional state and your piggy bank are really able to hold you while you are far away. Oh, the complexities of being an expat…

As an expact, we live one day at a time. Some days, you can actually feel your chest getting heavy, and then you get discouraged from everything you had planned to do with your time abroad. In those days, you need the silence that only exists in you, even though all you want is to be in the middle of the chaotic noise that you have left behind before moving abroad. This moment is quite confusing because you figure out that the chaos played you well – sometimes, it bothered you; some other times, it feels like a relief. But there are days when that pressure in your chest is no longer there, and you can catch deep breaths with a huge smile on your face. In those days, you look around to be proud of where you have gotten to and who you have discovered yourself to be.

photo by Gustavo Amat – check it out @ 500px

What have I learned with all of that? Well, today is one day and tomorrow will be another. Some days are ideal to make important decisions, and some days are there to make you understand who you are when things are in its most painful stage, and all you can do is observe yourself and learn about this “new” reality that will hit you more often than I’d like to admit, in a pool of distressing patience. I’m sorry to be the one that brings this information to you, but it’s the truth.

So, whether you are at your primary home or at your home overseas, take it easy. Be conscious that loneliness, homesick and sadness are going to hit you hard sometimes, but take it as an opportunity to learn about yourself and grow. If you got there after a long run of research and preparing yourself for all the unexpected things, hold on. There are days and days. In another hand, if you had a moment of impulse and decided to go without any preparation at all, I hope you learned your lesson and that you too stay strong. Remind yourself that doing this you have done also requires your courage and that you have, at least, tried.

The decision on going back home or staying abroad demands a lot from us. It is just as powerful as the decision to leave our countries, also just as hard. For me, the hardest part was the decision, not the movement to go (but I confess that my last week in Brazil I cried my eyes out in fear 🤪). You know, deep inside, what you have to do. Step by step, be gentle to your heart and acknowledge that some days are better than others – and that’s okay. One day at a time. What day is today?

Published by flaviastamato

Publicist and writer, a citizen of the world trying to free herself from writing cliches (but it's so tempting....)

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