By: Lu Salgado.
Growing up for me was always strange, I used to question everything I didn’t understand, not in a positive and curious way but with prejudice. I used to judge everything that seemed different from what I was used to seeing, so living on another country wasn’t exactly a tempting option for me.
I used to think that people who came back after living in a country for a while exaggerated their experiences because they just couldn’t help talking about it every single time. I’d constantly think can’t they get over it? (clearly, I had no idea).
But life is smart enough and it finally help me understand they weren’t just chattering.
Suddenly a single decision changed the track of my life by going away for a year to live in Turkey. As a latin american who grew up with a very different culture, Turkey was for me like a bucket of cold water on my face. It was shocking for me to see how different the world was outside that safe space I called my hometown.
Seeing part of the world from a whole different perspective changed my mind forever. I think that the experiences that cause some shock in you are the ones you never forget, so it did with me.
I started to want more of that sensation. I wanted to see more faces of the world, meet new people, learn new languages. All of a sudden I found my self taking a plane to go away for 8 months to live in France and some years later to live for a year in São Paulo. It was like I couldn’t stay in the place that saw me grow anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, is not that I was running away from my life. My life in Mexico is actually great — no intention of being presumptuous, not because of a certain lifestyle but because of the people I am lucky to call family and friends. For me, traveling has nothing to do with running away from anything, it’s about discovering.
…but what happened then?
What is it about living in another country that makes it so tempting?
What have I learned?
Here are the 5 things I have learned from it that would explain it better.
Lesson #1 Traveling takes your prejudices away
One of the greatest gifts that I got from having the opportunity to live in other countries was to become an open-minded person. I have encountered incredible personalities, most of them totally opposite from mine, who have taught me many lessons.
I love to observe and analyze — although before I had that habit of doing it through my judgments, I used to feel uncomfortable if I’m honest, not being able to deal with all the differences but learning to understand how other cultures work in which some things are more normal than at mine, has taught me to question with curiosity and to learn from differences without imposing the way I see life. Letting prejudices go is a way of growing, because eventually you start to understand about respect and acceptance knowing that you’re the one that has to adapt to the unknown instead of expecting the others to do so.
Lesson #2 You can find yourself in others
Even if you are in the other side of the world where the only thing you’re able to say is beer, you will always find someone that gets you because for me, friendship and souls know anything about languages or barriers.
Somehow in another country there’s always going to be someone that is able to understand your mind in ways you cannot explain, someone you can hang out with without feeling the pressure of not speaking the same language — in some cases, this is one of the reasons why people don’t take the risks of knowing new people. Of course we will always have English but those who have traveled won’t let me lie, in some places that is not the case.
Most of my actual best friends spoke other languages which at the time, I wasn’t able to speak, but just because I could be they way I felt like being with them freely, a bond was created.
Lesson #3 Ignore fear
Fear is the worst companion to take on a trip. Fear limits you and closes your mind. If you listen to what it says all the time you might lose the chance to get to know incredible people, create amazing stories from your experiences or even take the risks of start talking a new language out of fear that others will not understand you or may laugh at you.
So instead, the best travel buddy you can go with is curiosity, because it doesn’t try to control your path, it gives you new alternatives that you can explore if you allow it.
Lesson #4 Is not about the place is about you
Sometimes we think that the version that shows up when we live in another country is one that can’t follow us wherever we go.
The thing with the versions of yourself that you see when you get away from what is familiar to you, is that they develop due to the different environment you come across with, it is a part of you that develops when you try to find yourself in the unknown. Throughout your life you have been in a certain way, you have been very comfortable in your bubble and suddenly you move from a place where they don’t even understand when you say hello. Your mind understands that you are not where you usually are and creates strategies that you can use to survive a new face of your reality.
However, these strategies cannot come out unless you allow it. In the end, that new way of being that you see of yourself in a new experience is something that has always been there, but you had no need to develop before.
We condition ourselves to be in one way, we set our own rules about what we can and cannot be, depending on where we are.
Then I realized that everything that I “allowed” myself to be out there could continue joining, it was just a matter of my letting him out.
Lesson #5 Your body will change
Most people have routines to be able to keep their health on track and sometimes living abroad can unwittingly change them. Living in another country means changing some of your habits, means getting use to time difference, products, environments and specially food.
Part of enjoying the fact of living in other country lies on how much you allow yourself to enjoy those differences. What I want to say is that probably you’ll need to get rid of some of your habits and just relax your controlling mind to be able to adapt to things as they cross your path.
Perhaps your body will change its appearance, its smell, its needs and specially, its weight. Those are all ephemeral, memories are not. Learn to enjoy the process of adapting to what’s new for you, accept yourself on each part of it, without being so hard on you for leaving that idea of perfect body that we usually carry on our minds.
Thinking about whether to live in another country?
My answer will always be yes.
To see the outer world teaches you to question what you call normality and that certainly, places you closer to your essence.
It is hard to say goodbye to what’s familiar to us, but eventually we understand why we do it.
There is no guarantee that traveling is rewarding and delightful because at the end is full of uncertainity, you’ll have to teach yourself to train your perception of it.
Living in another country will never be satisfying for you if you use it to run away from your feelings or from tough times. The way you perceive the outside world is a reflection of how you feel internally. Lessons are available for your but first, you have to learn to sit with your feelings so that you’re able to see them.