Maybe it began this way for you: you were frustrated with you life, fed up of small town life in your home country, or maybe done with big city life there. Your job was going nowhere and you weren’t sure what to do with yourself. The relationship had just ended, or maybe there was just no one out there on the horizon (“not even over the horizon” as my mum once pessimistically said of my dating life!). You feel insecure or under-appreciated or lonely or scared of the future.
Your solution? A job has come up half way around the world, someone has a spare room and invited you to stay, and you do it. You buy the ticket and you’re out of there. This is going to be great. New city, new country, new life!
And the first few months, that wonderful honeymoon period, when everything is exciting and new and you feel like you are actually living-writing your own Eat, Pray, Love memoir.
But then one day (maybe sooner, maybe later) you glance down and there are the same old suitcases at your feet. And you feel a weight on your shoulders and realise you’re still carrying that old rucksack. You’ve not left any of it behind after all, it all came with you.
The fear, the loneliness, the insecurity, the addictions, the bad habits, the weaknesses. It all came with you.
If you think that embracing expat life means an immediate fix, a sudden better life, you’re in for a sharp shock. It doesn’t make you a better person with a better life on day one. It might even make things harder.
Do I sound horribly depressing right now? Keep reading. Because it’s true that you bring your problems with you. But it’s also true that expat life can be the catalyst you need to change, to make new good habits, to overcome the fear or insecurity, to embrace new challenges that lead to a more fulfilling and purposeful life.
But it doesn’t happen by accident. It’s not a guarantee. Expat life, with its surprises and differences, may give you the kick start you need. But you have to do the hard work of embracing all it has to offer to take hold of that better life you’re yearning after.
Habits don’t form overnight. They take weeks or months of committing to doing something that feels unnatural. Fears don’t disappear in the morning light of a foreign sun. They need working through, facing, overcoming. And if I know anything, it’s that being brave is scary.
Expat life is not the answer to your problems; it won’t change you overnight. But expat life can be exciting, inspiring, awakening – and maybe the kick up the butt you need to change your life.
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Baggage image via Photo Problem