Sitting on the beach sipping a coconut, I begin to reflect on my time abroad. Looking out at the beach with the Hong Kong skyline in the distance, I contemplate why I didn’t begin this adventure sooner. Within a short time away from home, I have gained some of the most unforgettable memories and have felt more alive than any other time of my life. In truth, I felt as if my life had finally begun the second I hopped on the plane and began my quest abroad.
From early on, we are taught to take a conventional path, abiding by the societal norms. We are encouraged to make a plan and stick to it. Pursue college, get a job with benefits, purchase a house, and invest in a retirement fund. We are essentially living to work, clocking in the hours to attain that one-week vacation. We are investing in a future, yet forgetting to invest in the present moment. We often forget to take a breath, losing focus on the importance of life. A life of fulfillment, enjoyment, and passion. We end up being ruled by our circumstances and structured plan, watching life pass by.
Personally, deciding to take the unconventional path was easy. I figured if I was going to be an educator, might as well do so in an interesting location that could feed my wanderlust. Furthermore, I could actually find a job while getting ahead financially. Honestly, the financial stability and ability to travel freely first drew me into moving abroad. However, there were unforeseen benefits of living abroad that I soon learned.
Whether it be a gap year or working abroad for a year, I encourage everyone to break away from the norm and experience life outside of their home country. Here are 4 reasons why living abroad at least once will change your life.
Living abroad gives you the chance to live outside the box. Every day brings a new and exciting experience, from indulging in new foreign cuisines to mingling with the locals. Life simply never gets boring. I have traded in my monotonous weekends for weekends that now involve exploring new beaches, roaming local markets, and occasionally country hopping. Things that used to seem impossible have been made possible here. At home, I was never able to afford do much of anything let alone take an international vacation. However, living abroad provides the opportunity to live life to the fullest.
Appreciation for Home
On the flip side, living away has heightened my appreciation for home. Prior to moving, I often complained about my home country, eager to leave behind everything. It’s quite easy to take for granted the simplicities and comforts of life. A few things I took for granted were personal space, accessibility to goods, convenience, freedom and quality of life. Moving away has taught me that I have everything I need and more. I think it’s important to have a reality check from time to time, evaluating how easy many of us have it.
Living inside my tiny American bubble, I was quite sheltered and ignorant of the world around me. I was aware of other cultures but didn’t grasp the difference until I was fully emerged into another, completely outside of my comfort zone. Traveling grants you the ability to meet and work with people from all over the world. To understand many parts of the world, you need to fully immerse yourself in the culture. See how real ramen tastes in Japan, see how the tribes in Borneo live, go to a town where no one speaks your language. These types of experiences will give you a real opinion and a new perspective on the world, sticking with you forever. An article in National Geographic can only give you so much. The world is a beautiful place, and living abroad helps unveil the truth.
Taking yourself out of your element is a great way to figure out who you are and what you want. Many expats move abroad to help figure out their life’s purpose. I personally moved abroad to travel and have a unique work experience. However, my time away has helped shape who I am. Prior to moving, I was dependent on others to make choices, lacked independence, and was unsure of my self worth. In addition, I was still confused about my life’s journey. Moving away has allowed me to get to know myself on a deeper level and has helped me gain empowerment. Living abroad is not only a physical journey but a personal journey.
Also by Jess: How to Get Out of Your Own Way
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Photo: Jess Davis; Kelsi Barr via Flickr