Why I Choose to Live Abroad
I’ve just wrapped up my first year of living in Istanbul, after two years in Prague, and I am embarking on a summer filled with travel and new adventures.
These past few years have supplied me with so many possibilities. There are so many places I could begin, but one question keeps popping into my head.
A question I get asked on a regular basis as an expat is, why? Why did you come here? Why did you leave your home, your family to live abroad? Isn’t it difficult? Isn’t it lonely? What makes someone want to do this?
There are many things that attract me to a life abroad. The people, the food, the adventure. The urge to experience and learn new things, to do something different. Disenchantment with my own country and culture is an aspect as well.
But the thing that I like most about moving to another country and living as a foreigner (especially as a female foreigner) is the challenge. It’s one thing to learn how to build a life, to be healthy and balanced and content in your own country, where you can get around fairly easily. It’s where you can use your native language to explain your situation and ask for help; obtain employment, without submitting reams of paperwork and waiting in endless lines in dingy government offices; and have family and friends and history.
But the thing that I like most about moving to another country and living as a foreigner (especially as a female foreigner) is the challenge.
It is quite another to build a life for oneself in a foreign land with a language you don’t understand, social norms you aren’t familiar with, rules and regulations that are constantly changing, and no guarantee that things won’t go sour, and that you won’t find yourself forced to vacate the country on short notice.
I liken the experience to the difference between being a dedicated jogger and a serious mountain climber. Shaping a successful and fulfilling life takes hard work, practice and patience. That is true regardless of where and how you choose to go about it. You have to suit up and show up, every day. And there are no guarantees, no matter how cautious and prudent you are. You could trip over a tree root or twist your ankle in a pothole. A rude driver plowing through a puddle could splash you with icky gray water. Anything could happen. Life is tough and unpredictable.
But some of us are attracted to the big risks. Some of us aren’t content with a daily jog on the hometown bike path. Some of us want to strike out on our own and scale that distant mountain that we can’t even see the top of because it’s so high, clouds obscure it. We want to do the things that others never considered doing because they seemed outside the realm of possibility.
We don’t care if anyone thinks we’re crazy either, because we know that when we get to the top of that mountain (and we will get there somehow) and look down on what we’ve been through, even the hardest and most painful parts, there will be nothing to compare that feeling to. We’ll be different women than when we started, and we’ll know that we couldn’t have become the women that we are any other way.
We want to do the things that others never considered doing because they seemed outside the realm of possibility.
I am one of these metaphorical mountain climbers of this world, and I love sharing experiences with others on the path. We are strong women, interesting women with courage, joie de vivre, and a wealth of stories and knowledge. We can offer so much support to each other by sharing our lives and experiences abroad – with all of their trials and joys, their ups and their downs.