I was too excited by the prospect of living overseas to think about the consequences of what I was signing up for.
Changing friendships, culture shock, and homesickness plagued me throughout my three years overseas.
Not to say that I didn't have a jolly good time – as I certainly did. Yet, living abroad was a bit like riding a roller coaster. There were some superb highs, as well as spectacular downs.
What kept me sane as an expat was the little things, such as going on regular adventures, reading what seemed like a library of books, and being able to keep in touch with my family and friends.
Here's what I suggest you do to stay sane while living overseas.
Communicate with loved ones at home
I couldn't have survived expat life without the means of communicating with those at home.
Thankfully, we live in a digital age, where we can instantaneously connect with those we love.
Gone are the times where you spent months waiting for a return letter abroad! With Skype, Whatsapp, mobile phones, email, Facebook… you're spoilt for choice when it comes to picking a method of communication.
Along with the digital means, I fully embraced letter, card, and postcard sending. I always loved receiving them myself – here was the opportunity to send someone I loved a little something to brighten up their day.
When reciprocated, my excitement was palpable.
Plan travels and go on mini-adventures around your new home
Going overseas from Australia is both expensive and challenging. Going abroad from the UK is almost as natural as breathing.
I never could wrap my head around the fact that I could get on a train and be in Brussels within a few hours, or pay $21 for a round ticket to Norway.
I think I became a bit addicted to travel in a way. Whenever I felt desperately homesick, or the English weather was getting me down, I distracted myself with trips abroad or mini-adventures around the UK. It gave me something to look forward to – to focus on instead of wondering what was happening at home.
I'm not saying this is a healthy thing to do, but it sure was fun at the time.
Losing yourself in other people's stories
If it's one thing I'm grateful for in life, it's the written word. Reading has been a form of escapism since I was a wee nipper.
When I was feeling a little disillusioned with my overseas stories, I picked up a book and immersed myself in someone else's.
I ended up reading a stack of books while I was living abroad (and buying a heap too, which was fun to ship home).
If you're finding your story a little lackluster, pick up a book and get lost in another's. I rarely finish a book without feeling a sense of achieving or learning something (there are the odd ones where I think “what a waste of time,” but we'll not talk of those now). It's a nice feeling.
Forcing yourself to make friends
There was no use wallowing in self-pity about anything I was missing out at home when my home was at least a day's plane trip away.
So, I set to making as many friends as possible, using a manner of different methods.
I was lucky enough to have more than a few like-minded people at my workplaces in both Doha and London. I still keep in touch with many of them today.
While I was in London, I got to do something I'd be wanting to try for a long time and took a writing class. This was also an excellent setting to meet people, as we had similar interests. I still keep in touch with a handful of people from the class.
Indeed, the reason expat life was the most interesting, was that I always had to challenge myself, in so many ways.
From searching for a place to live (in which it took over a year to find somewhere that felt like a home), to getting a job, making friends, fending off homesickness… there wasn't anything easy about living overseas.
Yet, there were so many factors that made it worth it. Getting to experience two different cultures – one not dissimilar to my own (England) and one completely different (Qatar). Meeting new people from all over the world and all sorts of walks of life. Trying new foods. Traveling to different countries. Being able to share my experiences with my friends and family back home.
All of this kept me going for the three odd years I spent abroad. And it's why, if I had the opportunity to become an expat again in life, I'd jump at the chance.
This story was brought to you in partnership with Nobelcom.
LC is an ex-expat who is currently re-exploring her home country of Australia. Follow her adventures at home and abroad via her blog Birdgehls, where she writes about travel, expat life, gushes on about various animals and bemoans her often futile attempts to go completely green. Or, you can look her up on Facebook.
Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:
- G Adventures for small group tours.
- World Nomads for travel insurance.
- Hostelworld for booking hostels.
- Rail Europe for train passes.
Saturday 11th of February 2017
I also spent three years abroad, away from all family and friends back home. Interestingly, it wasn't difficult for me at all. I stayed in touch using Skype and such and that was enough for me. But then again, I have always been a bit of a "lone wolf" :)
Wednesday 15th of February 2017
You're lucky, Jacob! Thank goodness for Skype and Whatsapp. They saved me, haha.
Friday 3rd of February 2017
Every time I travel somewhere new, I love immersing myself in the new culture and trying new things. These are great tips for living overseas.
Saturday 4th of February 2017