10 Lessons From An Expat About How Living Abroad Can Help You Grow

10 Lessons From An Expat About How Living Abroad Can Help You Grow

Soon, it will be almost 7 years since I decided to move abroad and embark on a journey filled with the uncertain and the unknown. And now looking back, I can clearly see—it’s been such an amazing journey.

My adventure has been incredibly fun, but it has also taught me a number of invaluable life lessons: lessons that have opened my heart and my mind; lessons that have shifted my perspective; lessons I’m quite certain I would never have learned in my home country.

Living abroad makes you a wanderer, constantly amazed at yourself and at the world. You learn, broaden your horizons, unlearn, and after coming down and embracing a few lessons, you start to grow in humility. You evolve. You feel homesick. You collect memories that will stay with you forever.

If you’ve ever lived abroad or embarked on a long journey, I’m sure you can relate. Here are 10 things that change forever the moment you move miles away from home.

learn to jump

1. You Are Always Ready To Jump

From the moment you decide to move abroad, your life turns into a powerful mix of emotions–learning, improvising, and dealing with the unexpected. You break down a few times and quickly have to build yourself up again.

Things change fast, and you need to figure them out just as quickly. All your senses sharpen up, and your routine life is replaced with an ever-rising adrenaline thrill ride. Readiness to jump, to move, to find the answers becomes a part of you. It becomes innate and spreads into your genes. New places, new people, new challenges—new everything!

Starting from zero is terrifying, but it’s surprisingly addictive.

courage is overrated

2. You Realize That Courage Is Overrated 

People will admire how brave you are for moving abroad alone. You will hear them say that they would do the same if they weren’t so scared. And you come to realize that bravery is not the absence of fear.

You never thought you were brave. In fact, you were scared as hell. But deep down you always knew it was worth doing.

In reality, courage is mostly about wanting it with all your heart. If you’re waking up with the thought that there’s got to be more to your life than there is now, then believe that there is. But in order to get to that life, you will have to take that leap of faith and just do it. Do you really want it? Do you really feel like doing it? Then just do it. The fear only exists in our heads.

freedom meaning

3. You Revisit The Word “Freedom” 

You’ve always been free, but freedom feels different now. You’ve earned true freedom. Freedom to explore. Freedom to be yourself and choose whatever you want. New friends, new habits—you decide how well you want to assimilate in a new place. You decide what your day will include, and what you will not allow.

Holding your life in your hands alone, you have become the master of yourself and your life. Freedom now means total responsibility.

new normal

4. “Normal” Becomes An Indefinite And Vague Definition 

Living abroad makes you realize that ‘normal’ only means what is socially or culturally accepted. Nothing makes you more open-minded than plunging into a different culture and a different society.

You will come across so many different cultures, traditions, ideals, and political and religious views that your idea of normality gets shaky. You start to realize there are other ways of doing things, and after a while, you notice that you have integrated a new culture into your identity. You even acquire new habits from locals you never thought you’d embrace.

You also get to know yourself a little better, because you discover that there are things you truly believe in, while other ideas you once had were just the cultural heritage of the society you grew up in.

There is no norm. There is only your choice to live a certain way and that choice is different for everyone.

saying goodbye

5. Saying Goodbye Gets Easier

Even though hardly anyone is good at saying goodbye, after living abroad, farewells do get a little easier over time.

Once you realize that most things and people in your life are just passing through, you try to cherish those people while they’re around, and accept their departure when it’s time.

You perfect the right balance between bonding and letting go—a constant battle between nostalgia and pragmatism. You let go with gratitude and try move on with your life: where there is a “goodbye,” there is always a new “hello.”

appreciate the moment

6. You Learn To Appreciate The Tiniest Moments

Imagine looking out of the car window—everything moves slowly in the distance, while in front of you, life happens at full speed.

On the one hand, you receive news from home—birthdays you’ve missed, people who left without getting the chance to say goodbye, weddings and baby showers you won’t be able to attend. On the other hand, life in your new home is in full swing.

Time becomes so distorted that you learn how to appreciate the tiny moments, be it a video call with your family and old friends, or a cup of coffee with the new ones. You don’t know a good thing until it’s gone. While you may feel like you’re missing moments at home, remember that when you return, you will also miss the little things from your life abroad, so it’s best to savor each moment while you can.

ask for help

7. You Learn To Ask For Help 

When you don’t know the local rules or the language, a very simple task can become a huge challenge, and often things don’t go according to the plan.

Filling out tax reports, finding the right word at the store, learning how the transport system works. There are always moments of distress, but you’re suddenly more patient than you ever knew you could be. And you accept that asking for help is not only inevitable but is a very healthy habit.

live in the moment

8. You Start To Collect Moments, Not Things 

Living in a place that isn’t permanent helps you to realize that “things” don’t equal happiness. When you have to pack all your belongings into a suitcase, you’ll find that many things you used to place so much value in become meaningless. They add bulk instead of value to your life.

By eliminating these items, I’ve earned a sense of unparalleled freedom from a life of materialistic possessions.

In fact, you start to redefine your idea of success. Having comfort is great, but knowing that your value and worth is within yourself makes it easier to detach from materialistic things. Things are just things. You can buy them anywhere in the world. Whereas investing in yourself is one of the best return on investments you can ever have.

Whether it’s investing in educating yourself, developing yourself personally or professionally, expanding your creativity, taking good care of your health, building strong relationships, or simply choosing to be happy—soon you realize that these are the things that matter the most.

become a new person

9. You Become A Different Person

Living abroad is a trip that will profoundly change your life and who you are. It will shake up your roots, your fears, and force you to get used to doing things differently.

You might not realize it immediately, but one day you’ll see it crystal clear: you grew, evolved and moved on.

You faced setbacks, moments of feeling helpless, and dealt with them on your own. You overcame so many obstacles, and you have the scars to prove it. Some scars you are proud of, some not, but nothing can ever be the same. You’ve changed.

no regrets

10. And…There Are Absolutely No Regrets

You always knew the world was this big. But it’s only after traveling the world with your own two feet to marvel at its size and scope that you realize just how big it is. How amazing it is. There are so many places to explore, cultures to learn from, and people to meet. How could you not continue to discover it through your travels?

Living abroad doesn’t mean you lose your sense of comfort forever. You simply learn to build it from scratch.

What changes is that you stop looking back. Feeling nostalgic becomes less and less appealing because so many things are happening in the present that need your attention right now. Looking back is important—it helps you remember where you came from and appreciate the journey you’ve chosen for yourself. But moving forward is what truly matters. 

Have you ever lived abroad? Is there anything you would add to this list from your own experience? Drop a comment below 🙂