Last week I celebrated the one year anniversary of me living abroad, alone. I got all kinds of feelings: I was proud that I survived a whole year of actual life responsibility, happy because I kind of like my new life, a bit sad because well, I still miss my family and friends and excited because I don’t know what’s coming next.
On May 9th 2015 when I packed everything I owned back home (turns out I didn’t own that much) I thought that I was ready to live abroad, well because I had traveled a lot to different countries with different cultures in the past few years . While it’s one of the most interesting experiences of my life, I don’t think I was quite prepared for what I was getting myself into.
I have been discussing with few people here who went through the same experience, they shared with me different experiences from different perspectives, but there is one thing they all agreed on: There are 4 stages everyone goes through when moving abroad.
While listening to all of them, I realized that living abroad is quite similar to the process of falling in love. No matter how slow or fast you go through the stages, it still remains true for me. After experiencing a year living in the UAE, I can say that these stages are spot on. I’m sure anyone else that has lived abroad for a long period of time would relate. Here goes:
– Euphoria AKA the honey moon stage: Moving to a new country for the first time can be terrifying, mind-altering, life-changing, nerve-wrecking and most importantly exciting, same as the first dates in a relationship. Honey moon phase is the time of excitement and intrigue when everything new and different is appreciated. Same goes for the first dates in the relationship. Your first few weeks of dating are always perfect and no one will ever be as great as that new special someone in your life.
– Withdrawal AKA the longing stage: In dating after a while, you usually start missing your old way of life, hanging out with your friends more, and your routine. When you move abroad, after the honey moon you start missing your familiarity with home and the comfort in knowing where everything is. You miss your own language, your family, your friends and your culture. Don’t get me wrong, I still love living abroad, but it’s not rainbows and butterflies all the time, and you start seeing it. Challenges get more challenging and you start doubting your decision to move abroad (or dating your significant other).
– Adjustment AKA the understanding stage: Then comes adjustment or what we call becoming comfortable. You’ve gotten through the tough times, and while it’s never easy all the time, you start accepting that. You adjust your old mind-set to adapt to the new life (or the new relationship for that matter) you have built. You make sacrifices and adjustments only to find that it makes you a better person. If you can get past it, withdrawal stage will be just a minor problem in your time abroad, a problem that makes everything from there on seem great in comparison.
– Enthusiasm: Finally, and all of a sudden you start having your own new routine, you have your favourite restaurants and spots and you find comfort in the familiar. Same as being in a long term relationship, as doubts and insecurities are replaced by a ‘living in the moment’ attitude.
While in any relationship loyalty is key, I’m not so loyal when it comes to countries I visit or move to. There is always going to be another country out there flirting with me enough to want to pick up and move on. With that said, I wonder where I should go next..
Cheers to the places we yet have to go to!