Sunday, November 25, 2012

What it means to live abroad

Making the decision to go abroad means trusting yourself completely; having faith that you will be okay, that you will make new friends and form new networks and that it's a personal promise that no matter how hard it might be, you will make it work. It's taking a leap into the big unknown and hoping you were right in wanting this. It's rolling with the punches and riding the highs, knowing that for once in your life you are completely alone in this decision and the experience is what YOU will make of it.

It's accepting that maybe it is a little selfish, to up and leave, but that it's okay. People will have their opinions but you're doing this for you. It means missing birthdays, Christmases, anniversary's, weddings and new's missing the smaller things like weekly catch ups with friends and Sunday braais with the family. It's missing the little things that become big things and accepting that it's just the way it has to be now. It's boxing up the jealousy at not being around or the homesickness that hits you hard enough to take the wind from your lungs and realising that this was a choice and you move past it. But it also means accepting that all and being thankful that you have so much to miss back home. It's moving past the wishes for home, and fully embracing where you are at this very moment. It means finally seeing that sometimes we need to get over ourselves and just enjoy what we have now.

It means ever longer spaces between the odd Skype call or text between means losing some friends, but realising that maybe they were never true friends to begin with. It means learning who you can trust and rely on and who will always be there to support you, no matter the distance. It's meeting new people, making new friends who come from all backgrounds and who you can learn so much from. It means friends becoming family away from home. It means sad goodbyes... accepting that you meet people who are sometimes only around for a few months, but who you grow so close to and share the kind of bond with that spans time and distance. It's learning to let go of the small things and enjoy the kind of maturity that being away can bring to a relationship.

It means growing and stretching as a person, and sometimes it hurts but mostly you feel more alive than ever before. It's new experiences  new faces, new is having your eyes forced open to points of view you may never have looked at before. It means learning to accept and embrace the differences between you and others; the realisation that a whole other world exists outside of what you imagine and to get the opportunity to experience this is life changing. It's the risk that you can never go back to your old life. It's feeling alone and foreign, making you sympathetic to those back home who feel that every day. It means accepting that maybe you can never go back...maybe home is not where you've always thought it was but is actually exactly where you are, right now. It's dealing with the internal struggle between staying and going. It's being bitten by the travel bug, hard.

It means being thankful for everything you have back home, and seeing how much you took for granted. It's making the decision to try and never take that all for granted again. It's coming to value your country, its people, as distance makes you see things clearer. Or maybe it means seeing the bigger picture, seeing how appealing the rest of the world is. It means getting excited when you meet a fellow countryman and going home with a greater appreciation for what the world holds. Maybe you choose to never leave home again or maybe you choose to never stop exploring...coming abroad means you want to make that kind of decision. It's the sense of accomplishment that comes with knowing you did it - you went against the odds and have made a life for yourself in a completely foreign land. You survived, you kept your promise to yourself and you're a better person for it.

It means anticipation - of what adventure lies next, of seeing your loved ones again, of growing and having a bag full of memories to show anyone willing to listen. I know that things are different for everyone, depending on where you are and what you're doing. But this is what living abroad means to me...what does it mean to you?

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