Living abroad can definitely be a life-altering event if you let it be.
I believe that almost every time that you purposefully bend and stretch your comfort zone, you will see massive benefits in the long run because of it. The experience itself will cause you to think, act and see the world differently, and those who do rarely come out of it unchanged.
Catalyst for Change
The biggest conclusion that I have made about travel and living abroad is that it is really a catalyst for change.
Rarely in our day-to-day lives do we really branch out and do something drastically different than the day before (unless seriously provoked). Your days will pretty much look the same.
But with traveling and living in a new place, everything familiar gets replaced with new sights, smells, environments, people and ways of life. For some, this is overwhelming and too much to deal with. But for most others, this is a fantastic excuse to live differently.
These changes can be as simple as having new people and places introduced into your life (restaurants, cafes, etc.), or much more deep, like restructuring thought patterns on how you view and respond to the world (like choosing to be happy instead of letting whatever current thoughts are running through control you).
Master of Flexibility
When traveling, you quickly realize that you need to be incredibly flexible, because anything that can happen often will. Travel delays, visa problems, accommodation issues, food choices, etc. can quickly throw a curveball into your plans, and leave you with two choices:
- Whine about not having control over it
- Take it in stride, and move on
The more you travel, the more you realize stuff happens, and if you freak out when it does, you will have a very long and agonizing trip. Instead, find the good or happy parts of it, and just enjoy the bump in the road for exactly what it is – an adventure (and potentially a good story someday – “Remember that time in Vietnam…” ).
New Cultures, New Lifestyles
You can always learn from the people around you.
Wherever you go while traveling, there will be a new culture, with people that think and act differently than you do, and you can often take pieces from that and incorporate the good into your life.
For example, since we’ve been here in Thailand, people are so incredibly nice, hospitable and gracious. The almost always smile and say hello, and just make you feel welcome. These are definitely things that want to and are trying to incorporate into your demeanors and behaviors, because they are just inherently good.
Make It Happen
Lastly, living abroad will teach you the art of “making shit happen”, if you don’t already know it well. Figuring it out along the way, and then making that decision happen is one of the best life skills you can have, and the variability of travel can teach it well.
That can be found in everything from the simple things (finding accommodations the day you arrive, negotiating in a culture you don’t know, figuring out the local transportation system, etc), to the more complex (navigating a taxi driver who speaks no English around a city you’ve never been to, communicating symptoms of your illness to an ER nurse who doesn’t speak English).
In the end, you will just have to make it happen one way or another, or else you’re just S.O.L.