I’ve been living abroad for nearly 2 and a half years. Moving out here was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Deep down I don’t regret the decision or my life here at all. I love what I have here and the people I get to meet and the places I can see more easily from here.
That said I still have bad weekends. I have doubts. Hours or days or even weeks where I wonder “What the hell did I do to myself?” And ponder “Why did I choose to live here?” These aren’t really bad or even unexpected and in the end actually make me more aware of how good it is here.
I have lived in several places around the south east US for most of my life. I then started traveling and seeing the world. These experiences ended up changing me and making it so I could no longer really be happy just living a ‘normal’ life. I think this is the road I wandered down that led to me living in Germany. What a wonderful road that was too.
Yet sometimes I wonder…
Yeah, I love living here and don’t expect to ever move back. I have a life here that I like. It is not always an easy life though. There are frustrations…
- I have a bike and a tram pass, which 95% of the time is truly wonderful. Not so when you want to buy furniture or plants or simply go to a place that is outside of the tramlines easily.
- Stores here close at odd times and don’t always carry what I want.
- As much as I do speak the language, there are times I just can’t be bothered, but have to anyway.
All of these things are minor. I have friends with cars, the language is rarely an actual problem and who really(!) needs cheese-its and beer at 2am. But taken together on top of a poor night’s sleep they do get to me sometimes. I wake up and just yearn for what I picture as my ‘easy’ life in the US. I wonder if it really was a great idea to give up the convenience of my car and the easy nature of my job there.
Then I recognize these as symptoms of culture shock. What? Culture shock after nearly 3 years and a number of previous trips? Apparently, some days yes. That sense that they don’t do things here the way they do at home and the unhappy feelings from that. That is classic culture shock.
Then I remember…
If this seems like culture shock, then treat it as such. I make myself sit and take stock of what I have and what I left. Yes, I only have a bike here, but I ride it and am healthier(exercise and fresh air bonus) for that. Not being able to go to the store at a whim is helpful against buying too much as well. At least I have people to talk to here as opposed to the automatic checkout lane at the grocery store.
In my old life I suffered from regular panic attacks. No matter how stressful it gets, I have yet to see a recurrence of them here. It is blooming hot and humid at home this week and really pleasant here. I can sit out on a plaza and drink a beer watching people go by and then in 10 minutes walk home. Never been able to do that before. Organizing for this weekend one of two dozen places to go watch the USA / England World Cup game, all within walking distance.
I just sit down and look through all of the benefits of being here and that helps put the doubts in perspective. I begin to see why I choose to live here and being forced to check that choice every so often helps in a lot of ways.
Doubts are helpful..
They help clarify things and challenge decisions. You have looked at what is important and still come out with the same decision. When I was still in my old life in the US, every time I hit a major roadblock I just decided that everything would be better if I moved to Europe. This was the driving feeling that made me travel and got me to move out here. Ok, for those that are shaking your heads, of course just moving here didn’t make those roadblocks go away, in fact it brought new ones.
In the end being here I have a frame of comparison. I always have the option while living abroad to just say, “No I want to go back.” It would be a royal pain, but I could do it. Having that option means I can compare the hassle of going back with the roadblock that I am facing. This ability to compare means the roadblock doesn’t look so bad or so long-term. It helps me put things more easily into perspective and just relay knowing I am where I want to be.
I know a lot of expats don’t necessarily have a choice about living abroad due to work or family. I do and am grateful for that choice.
I would imagine that long-term travelers go through these doubts as well. Travel provides a perspective to compare against, but it also challenges you. This is one of it’s great benefits, but sometimes it just gets too much. When that happens you have to sit back and look at things and learn even from this doubt.
Do you ever doubt your decision to go travel? What do you do with it?