• I Am Sam.

Four realities of living abroad

The struggle bus can be real. Prepare yourself for some tough times.

Leaving can always be hard. It usually signifies an end to a chapter, and a beginning of a new one. I’ve done my fair share of leaving and being left behind throughout my life. I grew up with an expat father. When we weren’t moving countries every few years, we were moving houses every few months. While many would say I was lucky to have been able to travel at such a young age, it was definitely hard at times. I’ve gotten used to saying goodbyes, and I had reached a point where I viewed all people as temporary. No one was permanent, no house was permanent, nothing was permanent.

So I’ve created a list of things people need to prepare themselves for for when they leave. The reality check of leaving if you will. I know it's going to sound a little negative, and I'm not trying to discourage any of you, but think of it as me trying to help mentally and emotionally prepare you for what might lie ahead. These are some of the things I had and still am going through.

1. Those people you thought were going to be your forever friends? Yeah well, turns out they weren’t.

This is just a reality. I view it more as a filter. If people really did care about you, and you about them, you’d find a way to stay in touch. But there will be those that you thought you were close with that you’ll find yourself no longer talking to. That’s okay. It’s normal. It just means that both of you are growing and changing, and it just so happens that the paths you are on are no longer going in the same direction. Be thankful for the times you had, you’ll move on. And on the other end, your true friends are going to shine through. The experience of leaving has given me a circle of friends I know I will have for the rest of my life.

2. Shit gets lonely sometimes.

Embrace being alone - even while traveling

It might be hard in the beginning, especially when you haven’t made any new friends yet. It’s important to remember that it won’t be like this all the time. You aren’t going to always feel alone. Put yourself out there. You’re in a new place, it’s time you have a little bit of courage and try to meet people. Go to cafe, a bar, a park, a museum, the gym - you can meet people literally anywhere. The important thing to remember is you aren’t going to make friends if you hole yourself up in your room. At the same time, you’ll learn to also enjoy being on your own. I used to hate being alone in my room, my mind would wander, and I’d get even more depressed. Lately though, I welcome it. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to remove yourself from the rest of the world and focus on what you like to do. It’s given me time to read, write, and reflect. Take things day by day. You’ll get there.

3. You’ll miss out on big events.

Birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, graduations. There are so many things that we celebrate, and when you’re working abroad, the reality is you can’t take a leave every time there’s an occasion. You’re probably going to miss out on some major events and holidays. Some of these things cannot be avoided while others, you can adjust to. Start your own traditions, or better yet, invite your family and friends to visit you for certain events. That can always be fun. One of my favourite holidays is Christmas, but unfortunately, I won’t be able to go back home to celebrate it with family. I decided just because I can’t physically be there, doesn’t mean I can’t find other ways to give the gifts I want to give to my loved ones. So I bought a voucher for my little sister to go paragliding with her boyfriend, and shipped some clothes to her too! Good thing there’s online shopping nowadays!

4. Homesickness is a bitch..

I didn’t think this would happen to me. Mainly because I had been preparing to leave for so long, I didn’t think there was anything to miss about the Philippines. Boy was I wrong. It hit me hard. Some nights you’ll find yourself lonely in your new home, and you’ll want to talk to family and friends, but the time difference makes it difficult so you’re left watching Netflix on your own while eating a tub of ice cream. It’ll make it even more difficult once you see your family and friends post pictures of events and fun times that you couldn’t go to because you were miles away. It hurts, and it will most likely have you questioning whether you made the right decision to leave. Hang in there. Remember why you left in the first place. Your goals have to be big enough to help you get by the hard days. Find a hobby, keep yourself busy, it always helps to take your mind off of missing home.

If there’s any piece of advice I can leave you with, it’s to be self aware. Be aware of the feelings and emotions you’re going through as you go through them. Sometimes we react to our emotions before trying to understand them, and that can sometimes lead us to dark places. You’re in a new place, you should have known things might get tough. Things will get better. Enjoy the struggle, learn from the experience, and keep moving forward.