After living abroad for almost four years in four different countries, my life has changed for the better and I learned things beyond my wildest imagination!
Many people daydream about living somewhere else while sitting under the hum of fluorescent lights in a stuffy office, but most only stop there. I want you to know it’s not impossible to follow your dreams. Scary? A little bit. Afraid of the unknown? It’s good for you, I promise! Life is full of unknowns though, isn’t it? Nobody knows what’s going to happen tomorrow, but it’s so much more rewarding when it happens in a different country. You will have chosen a country you like for some reason. I can’t tell you the joy of watching a troop of monkeys feeding in a tree across from my house in Costa Rica. It was so much better than a vacation because I didn’t have to leave in a week or two!
So gather up your confidence, sell off everything that’s replaceable and get out there in the real world to enjoy this very short life that you have! Here are some of my tips on why you should live outside of your own country:
1. You’ll realize just how good you had it. I’ve always been amazed at the resiliency of the locals and their work ethic in Central and South America. Working long, hot and physically demanding jobs really puts it into perspective when you have worked in an office your whole life. I went from a 9-5 desk job in the U.S. to a volunteer position in Costa Rica working with wild animals on my feet all day. I rode my bike to work like the locals, sweated profusely and my muscles ached all the time. But at the end of the day, I felt good about what I had done and wouldn’t have changed it for the world. I was also in the best shape of my life.
2. You learn things you never would have otherwise. By living among different cultures, you learn reasons why things are done the way they are. I recall being on Magnetic Island in Australia, living with a family and they had this tiny wastebasket on top of their kitchen countertop that nothing ever fit in. It drove me crazy. I finally asked why they didn’t have a larger trash can and he said simply, “maggots.” My mind flashed to their outside trash bin where I’d see maggots crawling out of the top when I’d throw something in there. Heat and meat don’t mix, friends. There’s always a reason for the things people do!
3. You may flip your perception of how you expect to live 180 degrees. I lived in a city of almost 2 million people in the U.S. and swore I could never live in the country. “I’m a city girl!” I’d proclaim. Well, now I live in a famous wine producing region of New Zealand in, you guessed it, a small country town. I love it here…between growing my own fruits and vegetables to being able to see the clouds forming over the mountains and talking to the horse across the street, I can hardly imagine going back to my old way of living.
4. You learn to do with what you have. There’s something to be said about not living in an Amazon.com world. The places I’ve lived in Central America and Down Under, you can’t always get what you want. Especially not delivered for free in two days. People keep things around because you never know if you’ll need them for something in the future. Kiwi’s are some of the most ingenious folks I’ve met. You should see some of the mailboxes here, simply because if you want to buy one, it’s a good one day’s pay and it sucks.
5. If you’re American, you’ll see how we look to other people. It ain’t pretty. You may also feel some prejudice which often feels strange if you’ve never lived outside of the U.S. Live abroad long enough and you too may cringe when you hear an American accent. Don’t let it deter you from leaving your comfortable home and belongings though. You’ll never get this life back again. Go try something new and you’ll gain a new perspective on just about everything.
Have questions or tips about leaving your hometown? Post them below in the comments so others can be inspired too!