There is no doubt that traveling and living in another country, for any amount of time is incredibly special, but I think many people have glamorized it.
Everyone talks about the wonderful things that we see, the people we meet, the fantastic food we get to eat. We post photos on social media of beautiful views and famous landmarks, and selfies taken with new friends, always with a smile on our faces.
But we don’t talk about being lonely. We don’t talk about how hard it is to live in a village where hardly anyone speaks English. We don’t talk about the weird bugs in our kitchen, or how the electricity is out for hours or even days at a time. We don’t talk about taking the bus alone for the first time and being terrified. We don’t talk about how tiring it is to be stared at everywhere we go. We don’t talk about how isolating and lonely it can be. We don’t talk about any of these things that can make existing really difficult sometimes.
When I call home, everyone always says the same things…
“It must be so incredible to be there!”
“What cool things have you been up to?”
Like life is somehow so much more exciting just because I’m in another country.
Most of my friends and family don’t realize that I am living my exact same life, just in another location on the planet. That just like them, I get up in the morning, make breakfast, go to the office, come home, cook dinner, watch a movie, or read a book and then go to bed.
Sure my bus ride to work looks a little different, how I do laundry is a little different, my meals look a little different and my apartment isn’t exactly the same as it would be in Canada. And sure, there are exciting days. There are different holidays, and times when I get to travel around the country and see new things. But we do that back home too. Generally speaking, this is just normal life.
I’m not visiting this country, I’m living and working here. I have to deal with culture shock, I have to learn a new language – not for fun, but because I need it to survive here. I have to learn how to handle all of the quirks of living in a village. I have to cope with feeling self conscious as I walk down the street and hear people talking about who the foreigner is. This isn’t a vacation, this is my life.
Yes, the view from my balcony where I drink a cup of coffee every morning is pretty extraordinary. Yes, I have great friends and coworkers. Yes, I’m lucky to be here. Yes, this is an amazing opportunity. And yes, I still love Nepal.
But there is no doubt that this is hard. It’s lonely. It’s amazing. It’s both exciting and completely terrifying. Living abroad is an incredible experience, and while I wouldn’t change anything about it, I do wish that we would stop glamorizing it, and see it for what it is:
A really cool opportunity, full of challenges, learning, happiness, tears, new experiences, culture shock and more mixed emotions than we can imagine.