I hope you are all fine, healthy and happy. Thank you for having landed on my blog, once again.
This week I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to me to live abroad, which is why today I’ll write a post about it. It’s a h u g e , heavy topic to deal with and I’m not sure where to start, so I’ll just write what comes to mind hoping it will make sense at the end.
I’ve always had this aspiration of travelling the world with a suitcase full of dreams since I was a teenager. That was not because I didn’t feel good at home, it was rather because I wanted to see the world, because I was curious and I wanted to discover more of myself. I was thrilled to see how I would react and grow in new, unexpected situations, where no-one I knew was there to help. I wanted to prove myself that not only I could make it, but I could thoroughly enjoy the whole experience.
I left home when I started uni and that was the beginning of a lifetime journey for me. I lived in big cities, travelled to wild places, swam with the seals and slept in a tent. I packed and unpacked my luggage countless times and filled my heart with treasured memories. I also spent nights longing for home and old time friends, feeling guilty for missing yet another birthday party or wondering why it is so difficult to plan video calls. Because living abroad is a whole experience that has its ups but also its downs.
Let me explain that better.
To me, one of the most interesting things of living in another country is that I personally start not to feel too attached to the culture and society I come from, nor I feel like I totally belong to the hosting community. The people I care about the most are not there to judge me, and during the first months I don’t have such strong bonds to the people I get to know in the new country either. I am in a brand new environment that hasn’t influenced me yet.
This is, in my humble opinion, what makes me feel free to appreciate different habits and ideas. The social pressure is milder, I don’t belong to a specific cathegory of people, I can be whoever I want, start from scratch, nobody will care. So if someone starts to talk to me about why I should try a new sport or consider a different point of view on a given issue, I’m much more inclined to give that a chance. I might not change my mind in the end, but I’m more open to explore other perspectives than if I was utterly attached to the environment I lived in. I would not have tried spicy food or learnt how to meditate if I hadn’t lived in Australia, for example.
On the other hand, there are moments when I miss the feeling of belonging to a community, which is hard to build abroad and takes time. As my wise professor of Sociology taught me at uni, humans are social animals after all. Sometimes we need the support of a group of people that shares our history, our traditions and our culture. And yet a new problem arises: each time I return home, I no longer feel like I totally belong to that environment anymore because without realising it I’ve changed, I’ve incorporated habits and thoughts that belong to other places.
That is the truly essence of living abroad to me: the feeling of having a little bit in common with a number of societies but not belonging to anyone in particular. Us travellers are a blended mixture of thoughts, ideas, traditions and stories that we’ve collected along the way, that we share only with those who have travelled with us. That is the reason why now home is where my luggage is, because every place I go to is just another stop before the next adventure unfolds.
That’s what has kept my mind busy during the past week on my way to work. I have to admit I feel much better now that I’ve put it on paper. I hope you enjoyed it and please share with me your thoughts about it!