I knew living outside of the US would have its challenges. That’s what everyone talks about – the culture shock, a variation in the pace of life, a new language, different foods, strange people, security problems, currency differences. The list goes on and on. Most of these commentaries about living in a new country have to do with how we adjust to change.
I won’t lie and say that I didn’t struggle with some of these things, but I don’t think they are the hardest part of living abroad. Changes in lifestyle, language, and culture are all differences that can be internalized and you, as a being, have the power to adjust your perception and feelings about your “new world”.
For me, the greatest challenge is being away from my family.
Even now, after about 2 years of living outside of the US, my heart still feels heavy and I shut my eyes, holding back tears, as I hang up the Skype with my mom on Mother’s Day. I don’t want to be sad, and I try to tune out my heart, as my brain reminds me that being geographically distanced doesn’t change the love that exists. But being thousands of miles away when your soul craves a hug and when your heart wants to tell them face to face that you love them, makes living internationally an emotional strain at times.
I know missing my family is just part of this life I have chosen, and if at any point I decide that it’s more important to be closer to home, I know I can hop on a plane and be with them. But for now, I take care of my heart on these days like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and special family celebrations, knowing that the day to day of this international life brings me great joy and happiness.
I also feel that Sheryl Sandberg was wrong. For any of you who have read her book Lean In, you might have been inspired by what she had to say about moving women ahead in board meetings and through their careers, but what she has to say about “having it all” will never ring true. As humans we have insatiable desires. We want a family, we want a nice house, we want to vacation in exotic places, we want to see our parents, we want to eat fancy food, we want to dress well. And even when it would appear that one might have all of these things, there is always more wants. We are never fully satisfied.
But despite all my wants and desires, I am happy. I am in love with a wonderful man, I have a great family, I have loving friends, I have my freedom to make my own decision, I have skills to have a job, resources to decide not to work for some time, and food and water to nourish me. I can even hop on a plane and be in a new country tomorrow. I am incredibly privileged, and thankful for all I have been given. However, myself, as a human-being, still will always want more. And while I move around the earth, my heart consistently reminds me that I miss my family.
Living and traveling abroad is a wonderful, beautiful opportunity, but not without its challenges. It’s ok to struggle with aspects of being in a new place, but whats important is to understand these battles and to grow as a person.
To my family, I would be nothing without you. Thank you for your unconditional love and support, and I smile knowing that we will be together again sometime soon, even if its not on Hallmark holidays.