Now that I am back in America for some extended months, I am left reflecting back on the last 3 years I have spent away from home.
As I sit here at my kitchen table of the place I once lived in everyday and think about how I do not have a return flight back to Asia, I am caught in my thoughts of the life lessons I have learned in my time abroad.
For those people that have considered leaving home whether its across the country or across the world, give this post a read.
I used to hate change. Like actually despise it. I lived my life on repeat and didn’t want the life I had to ever adjust to anything else. I wanted to hang out with the same friends, never leave the homes I grew up in and in general keep my life similar day to day.
I am now a firm believer that change is the best part of life. I have changed so much as a person over the last 3 years. My life has been continuously changing whether that’s in jobs, friendships, countries, or experiences.
Change is what helps you grow. If you are not growing in life all the time, then what’s the point? Living abroad has changed my perspectives, my values, my desires for my future and over all the way I see the world.
I have never been good at saving money but living abroad has brought me to a whole new level of being bad at it. Every country I am in there is a million things I want to see, do and experience.
I want to go out because I want to meet new people, I want to go on that tour because it looks incredible. I want to spend extra on western food because I am sick of eating Asian food. I want to party because my FOMO is out of control.
Saying no is hard for me, especially when I am someone who lives my life for the moments and wants to do every fun thing I possibly can.
While a big lesson learned is that I am not good at saving money, I have also learned to be better about how I spend and recognize that I need to work extra hard if I want to keep up the lifestyle I live.
It is not all a walk in the park, and that’s okay because I have learned a shit ton on how to live and deal with independance while being away. In the beginning I was envious of my own life! Look where I live?! This is so incredible! Yes, it is but I also have to deal with the same things I did at home.
Even though I lived in paradise, I still had to pay bills, deal with sickness (without good medical care), unpleasant landlords and people ripping me off because they think I am a tourist. Not to mention the constant language barrier.
I assumed I would be living life easier in Thailand, but you know what they say about assuming… “Assuming makes an ass out of me and you”. I want to say this loud and clear because I think people at home don’t realize that my life is still a struggle even if I am living on an island with the beach as my front yard.
The saying “we live in a small world” really does hold true. It is laughable at how many times I have met people across the world that know someone I do or have been to the same concerts at the same time even though we are from different countries. So many connections are made while living abroad however big or small that make you think to yourself no way!
My favorite “the world is so small” moment was recently actually. I was on an island in Thailand, as I was making new friends and going over all the questions every traveler answers.
When I answered the where are you from with, “it’s a small town you wouldn’t know in upstate New York, called Buffalo.” This guy nearly jumped out of his chair and said “Buffalo?! There is a girl staying at this hostel who is from Buffalo and she said the same exact thing about not knowing where it is!”
Naturally I could not believe there was another person from Buffalo let alone on the same island and staying at the same damn hostel. We ended up meeting and had a lot to talk about, mutual friends we knew, travel experiences and so much more. I also now have a Buffalonian travel friend and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Ignorance is bliss, and thats exactly how I saw the world right off the bat. When I first left America to teach abroad I assumed I would be traveling all the time and that’s absolutely not the case.
I always had these grand plans to explore each country I was in from top to bottom but just like at home, life gets in the way and money doesn’t grow on trees. Teaching also keeps you in places for extended periods of time.
With that being said, I have been thankful enough to see a lot of Asia and explore the countries I have lived in but that came over time and not all right away. I learned that if I wanted to travel full time I would need a career change.
Being on the other side of the world makes it a lot harder to go home. So naturally my FOMO reaches a whole new level when I am abroad.
If I am having a bad day I can’t just jump on a plane and have my family make me feel better. I see my friends having fun and I want to be apart of that. I miss birthday parties, events, holidays and worst of all I have missed most of my new niece’s life. It’s a hard thing to adjust too and living abroad, it definitely makes me appreciate my family so much more.
Although I miss home and the amazing people that I have left there, I wouldn’t change leaving for anything. I have had people by my side at all times who are going through the same emotions of missing home, just like me.
I have met people from LITERALLY all over the world. I have friends from the UK, Netherlands, Australia, India, Thailand and a bunch of other cool places. These friends are also from all different backgrounds, religions and cultures.
I would have never met these people in America, and sadly, I probably wouldn’t have been friends with them if I hadn’t moved abroad. We are all human beings and unfortunately that is something I wasn’t able to fully relate to until leaving home.
It doesn’t matter where you come from or what differences we may have, I have learned not to judge by first looks. All these amazing but different people that I have become friends with give me constant smiles and unforgettable memories.
I absorbed what being a minority was all about as a now foreigner. When I walk down the streets, I am looked at differently and a lot of times ‘cat called’ by men, and starred at by women.
You learned to adjust to it quickly though. I think being an outsider in certain places and understanding what that feels like was such a life changing lesson. It is important to feel that way because it made me want to adapt to the cutlers around me more and also made me realize that whenever I judge someone else how I feel is exactly how I may have made them feel.
No matter how long you live in a foreign country there is always going to be things that separate you from the culture you are in. The good news is, in every country I have lived or visited aboard I have been appreciated and treated well by most people.
It is also nice to know that you are not alone in whatever country you are staying in. There are so many expats that live in these countries just like you! Joining Facebook groups was so important for me to have other people to go through adjustments with.
I have always been someone who wants to surround myself with people at all times. When I didn’t have people to hang out with, I felt lonely.
Having a completely different type of independence living abroad changes your perspective. While traveling is an incredible experience, sometimes the constant moving around, not being able to escape people and outrageous amounts of partying can drain you.
This is when I learned that I liked having time for myself, I wanted to spend the day on the beach alone or binge watch my favorite shows.
As much as I wanted to get out of my Buffalo bubble and go explore other courtiers and cultures, home is still where my heart is. I will NEVER find the right pizza abroad and I most certainly won’t find a chicken finger sub with ranch dressing.
You miss the little things, like curling up in front of the fire place and taking a nap in the winter or the home cooked meals I clearly took for granted and never thanked my parents enough for. Being able to walk across the yard and go fishing or call my friends up and say hey, let’s go to the Bills game next week. Home will always be the place that has the best comforts in life.
Home has better restaurants, shopping centers, supermarkets and medical care. As much as I wanted to get away I didn’t realize until living abroad how grateful I am to be from Buffalo.
The biggest stigma I hear is you can’t travel, you’re too old, you should be thinking about settling down, finding a career and having a family.
Honestly, no I don’t!
I do not have to live my life on a timeline and those of my friends that have careers, houses, are looking to settle down and make something of themselves, it’s awesome and I still love you for it but it doesn’t have to be like that for everyone.
Generations are changing, things do not have to be done according to a plan anymore nor do people have to feel like they need to live their life a certain way because that’s what society says.
More millennials than ever are starting to travel long term. I have met people abroad that range from 17-43, all traveling the world! All living their lives how they want, It doesn’t matter what age you are when you’re getting to see the world.
I do not believe there should ever be an age cap on gaining new experiences, the ones that do it when they are young, hells yeah! I only wish I would have left sooner, but I envy those that are 30+ and traveling the world, props to ya for having the courage to leave and experience such amazing things.
Being in my mid 20’s as a traveler and meeting so many young and older people has been a lesson in itself. I know for a fact I’ll be traveling for the rest of my life, regardless of if that’s long term, short term, with a career, a family or alone because that is how I will choose to live my life.
America has been in the spotlight for the last couple of years for various reasons, mostly negative ones which makes it a big topic of conversation for people from other parts of the world.
Every new person I meet, if not Canadian or American, always want to discuss politics. It’s the inevitable and they love to talk about how they think America should be run or what changes should be made.
I feel since I have spent the last two years away from home, I do not get to judge America, and honestly why would I? It’s my home, but meeting people that have an opinion about America and are more than willing to share is always interesting. I gain perspectives from the outside looking in, views from various nationalities that I may not ever get from home.
America is always going to be home for me, and it will always be a place I am proud to be from. I am totally okay with people from all over the world wanting to talk about it too. Keep the learning and the debates coming.
The hardest thing to adjust to has been the time zones with friends and family. When I was living in Asia, I was 12 hours ahead of most of the people I wanted to talk to most. When I was getting up to start my day, they were ending theirs.
In Australia, I was 14 hours ahead of my hometown. When they had time to talk, I was likely getting ready to go to a party and when I had time to talk, they couldn’t stay up late enough because they had work early in the morning.
The struggle was real. With the time change being so massive at times it really made me appreciate the friends who would make an impossible time work just so we could catch up. Thank god for Facebook and texting too, most of my close friends at home have a ‘Meagan Vietnam’ ‘Meagan Thailand’ ‘Meagan Australia’ and a ‘Meagan Cambodia’ number just so I can text them wherever I am. Being abroad has shown me which friends I miss the most and the ones I know will stay in my life because we have managed the last 3 years being apart and nothing is any different.
Even the friends I do not talk to regularly, it doesn’t matter, I know when I go home, we are going to pick up like nothing has changed and I appreciate that. I have learned how to be better at staying in touch even if that means forcing friends to FaceTime me.
Even better than being able to keep all my amazing friends from home, I have found new friendships abroad. I could not picture my life without them. I am thankful for them and even more grateful to have met them.
Traveling friendships are unique because you go through a lifechanging experience together. These friends are all from different places so, seeing each other regularly isn’t an option but they understand the traveling life which makes connecting again easier.
When I left for Thailand, I was scared shitless. “Will I have enough money? Will I make friends? Can I handle this big life change?” I constantly second guessed myself and why I wanted to leave in the first place.
By the end of my first month abroad I had settled in just fine and realized my fear was something I made up. Yes, it was real, but it was all in my head, I was creating negative outcomes that weren’t even anything for me to worry about.
What exactly did I have to afraid of? In two years, everything has worked itself out in the three different countries I have lived in. A valuable lesson learned is that you create scenarios in your head of reasons why it should never work. It is your sub-conscience people. Changing your mind set to a more positive outlook has made me realize that I never should have doubted my reasons to travel in the first place.
This is a huge lesson learned and one I didn’t understand until I left. Apart from the few traveling friends from home I do have, it is impossible for someone who has never traveled or lived a similar lifestyle as mine to fully ‘get it’.
A lot of my family and friends still wonder what the hell I am doing and when I am coming home for good. I know they don’t fully understand because they haven’t lived it and thats okay. By now I am used people saying wtf when I tell them something I experienced abroad or my family telling me I am crazy.
Regardless, they are able to support me even if they have different view point on and honestly, that is all that really matters.
If you have made it to the end of this post, well done. I know that was a lot. In all honesty though, its truthful stuff and ALL of these lessons I didn’t grasp until I came back to my Buffalo Bubble.
I am thankful for my time abroad in so many ways. Like I have said before, it has completely changed my life for the better and I can’t wait to jump into my next travel adventure.