Home Is Where The Love Is

From the moment you decide to move abroad, your life turns into a powerful mix of emotions – learning, improvising, dealing with the unexpected… All your senses sharpen up, and for a while the word “routine” is dismissed from your vocabulary to make space for an ever rising adrenalin thrill ride. New places, new habits, new challenges, new people. Your life’s been changing at a non-stop pace, but, at home, life’s the same as ever. Everyone keeps struggling with their daily chores, and it suddenly strikes you: life won’t stop for you. When someone asks you about your new life, you lack the right words to convey all you’re experiencing. Yet later, in the middle of a random conversation, something reminds you about ‘that time when’…, and you have to hold your tongue because you don’t want to overwhelm everyone with stories from your ‘other country’ and come across as pretentious. Lots of people will tell you how brave you are – they too would move abroad if they weren’t so scared. And you, even though you’ve been scared, too, know that courage makes up about 10% of life-changing decisions. The other 90% is purely about wanting it with all your heart. Do you want to do it, do you really feel like doing it? Then do it. From the moment we decide to jump, we’re no longer cowards nor courageous – whatever comes our way, we deal with it. You’ve always been free, but freedom feels different now. Now that you’ve given up every comfort and made it work thousands of miles away from home… you feel like you’re capable of anything! Sometimes you unintentionally let a word from another language slip. Other times you can only think of a way of saying something… with that perfect word which, by the way, is in the wrong language. When you interact with a foreign language on a daily basis, you learn and unlearn at the same time. All the while you’re soaking up cultural references and swear words in your second language, you find yourself reading in your mother tongue so it won’t get rusty. You soon realize that now, most things and people in your life are just passing through, and you instinctively play down the importance of most situations. You perfect the right balance between bonding and letting go – a perpetual battle between nostalgia and pragmatism. Living abroad, like traveling, makes you realize that ‘normal’ only means socially or culturally accepted. When you plunge into a different culture and a different society, your notion of normality soon falls apart. You learn there are other ways of doing things, and after a while, you too take to that habit you never thought you’d embrace. You also get to know yourself a little better, because you discover that some things you really believe in, while others are just a cultural heritage of the society you grew up in. When you live abroad, the simplest task can become a huge challenge. There’s always moments of distress, but you’re soon filled with more patience than you ever knew you had in you, and accept that asking for help is not only inevitable, but also a very healthy habit. It’s as if you were looking through the car window – everything moves really slowly at the back, in the distance, while in front of you life passes by at full speed. On the one hand, you receive news from home – birthdays you missed, people who left without you getting the chance to say goodbye one last time, celebrations you won’t be able to attend. On the other hand, in your new home life goes by at top speed. Time is so distorted now. So deep down, you know you don’t miss a place, but a strange and magical conjunction of the right place, the right moment and the right people. From the moment you squeeze your life into a suitcase, whatever you thought ‘home’ was doesn’t exist anymore, but there will come a day when you’ll suddenly feel at home in your new city. Home is the person traveling with you, the people you leave behind, the streets where your life takes place. Home is also the random stuff in your new flat, those things you’ll get rid of in the blink of an eye when the time to leave comes. Home is all those memories, all those long-distance calls with your family and friends, a bunch of pictures. Home is where the heart is. Many of the problems we have in this world are due to misunderstandings. When you learn about another culture, and see why others do the things they do, it’s easier to understand them. You can develop sympathy with others. It’s harder to justify things like hatred and war when you understand where another person is coming from. When you talk to seniors about their memories and life experiences, most of them would tell you that some of their most beautiful and meaningful moments occurred when they stepped outside of their comfort zone. Traveling to a foreign country is one of the best ways to step outside your established comfort zone. Most people experience a degree of homesickness and distress at the start of their travels. Being exposed to a different language, sights, smells, people, and an entirely new culture can be both an exhilarating and overwhelming experience. People experience tremendous personal growth when they are facing vulnerability. Stressful situations expose character, and more often than not, help to build it too. One of the best things about traveling and living abroad is meeting new people and fostering friendships with others. Likewise, it also opens doors of opportunities for you in other parts of the world that would otherwise be inaccessible to you. You realize that we live in a global world and it just makes more sense to work together, as in the end, we all have the same needs and wants. The world is your oyster!


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