In 2011 I moved from my home country to enroll into an international master’s program. Since then I’ve lived in a few European countries, in the Middle East and in Southeast Asia. I can’t even remember clearly what my view on life and the world was before that, because living abroad and traveling changes your attitude in so many ways. I don’t think that a change of a location necessarily means a change of an attitude – but it sure as hell teaches you some valuable lessons. Here are some of the things that happen once you start traveling more or living abroad:
1) YOU LEARN HOW TO PACK YOUR WHOLE LIFE IN 1 SUITCASE
The first time I moved abroad I had a couple of suitcases, some boxes and I had to move everything by car…. Then I moved further away and I could only take 1 suitcase and a bag as I was traveling by plane… Then I moved even further and I had to pack everything in just 1 suitcase… When I left for Southeast Asia the only thing I brought with me was an 8 kg backpack.
2) YOU NO LONGER SPEAK ONE PARTICULAR LANGUAGE
Learning the local language is something you’ll have to do in most cases when moving abroad. There are some countries where most people speak English, however, learning the basics of the local language is not only useful, it shows respect. And not only do you learn a new language or a couple of them – if you’ve lived in more than one foreign country, you also mix them all up… Every now and then I have to ask one of my friends how to say something in Croatian (which is my mother tongue) – cause I mix all the languages I know up, and I can’t remember something completely basic.
3) YOU BECOME MORE FLEXIBLE
I don’t mean physically. I guess you could become more flexible physically as well – if you take some yoga classes. I mean – more flexible as a person. The most important thing to understand when traveling or moving abroad is the fact that YOU chose to move to a different place and that YOU have to respect that country’s rules. YOU have to adapt to the culture and learn the local language or at least try to learn some basic stuff. And no matter how weird all of that new stuff may be – remember that YOU came to another country – it didn’t come to you.
4) YOU HAVE 2/3/4… OF EVERYTHING
Depending on the number of countries you’ve lived in – you have multiple SIM cards, multiple credit cards, multiple currencies in your wallet… You have electricity adapters for various parts of the world, and a whole bunch of other stuff you’d never get if you weren’t moving around like a gypsy.
5) YOU START MISSING THE LITTLE THINGS BACK HOME
I have this funny relationship with the Balkans. When I’m home for a longer period of time it irritates the freaking life out of me. But when I live abroad nostalgia starts kicking in at the weirdest moments and I do stuff I’d never do back home, like: listening to traditional music and crying; telling everyone how lovely the place I come from is and smothering them with photos of Croatia; supporting football and handball teams (and trust me I don’t know jack about sports); craving the traditional food, trying to cook traditional food, realizing it’s easier to buy a plane ticket and come back home for dinner than cooking it on my own.
6) BUT WHEN YOU COME BACK YOU’RE NOT SURE WHETHER THAT’S HOME ANYMORE
The worst thing about going away is being far from your friends and family. So every time I came back to visit (once or twice a year) I was super excited about spending time with them. However, you start to realize that this might be the place where you were born, where you grew up, a place with a lot of memories, a place where a lot of people you love live, a place you’ll always be coming back to – but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s your home. You start to realize that your home is wherever you feel good, that your home does not have to be in one place only. You become more of a citizen of the world, and less of a citizen of a certain country.
7) YOU HAVE FRIENDS ALL OVER THE WORLD
Even though it’s kind of a bummer to get really close to someone and then take separate ways, having friends from all over the world is truly magical. Saying goodbye never stops being hard, Skype calls suck, receiving an answer to a text while you’re sleeping – cause your friend on the other side of the planet just woke up sucks… But you feel as if these people carry a little peace of your heart everywhere they go and you carry a little peace of theirs.
8) MATERIAL POSSESSIONS LOSE THEIR VALUE
I don’t know whether it’s my Zodiac sign or simply the fact that I’m a woman – but I kind of adore shoes. And clothes. And my hair straightener (I even brought it to an archaeological excavation so I’d have nice hair digging up bones). However, the more you move, the more you travel – the less you need. And quite soon you realize that material possessions in comparison to the experience you gain traveling have no value whatsoever.
9) YOU EMBRACE CHANGE
Traveling as well as living abroad means change. All the time, whether you’re ready for it or not. It’s funny how you start embracing it and stop being afraid of it so much. It’s funny how suddenly change feels way better than the routine. And it’s funny how more often than not you get addicted to change. After all – the only thing that’s constant in life is change.
10) YOU LEARN TO LIVE OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE
I don’t know how many times I decided on doing something and then once it started thinking: “Why the hell am I doing this?!” Like living in a tent for a couple of months at archaeological excavations, spending time with lizards and funny looking insects in the tropics, or moving to a small, religious and a very strict city… But every time the “Why the hell am I doing this?!” phase passed I realized that that was the best decision of my life, and I experienced things I never would have experienced otherwise. Yeah, it’s nice and cozy to have fun and enjoy stuff inside your comfort zone – but only those who have stepped outside of it know that true magic begins once you cross that border.