Should you move abroad?

Originally published on ExploreThere. New thoughts in blue.

Moving abroad isn’t ideal for everyone. Duh. It’s an overwhelming, unsettling, shocking change to your routine. And then life abroad becomes routine. However, it could potentially be the most incredible experience of your life. I shouldn’t have put “however” in that sentence. It will be incredible, whether it’s incredibly horrible or incredibly fantastic. It could also be incredibly, surprisingly “eh”.

The major indicators that I should give life in Taiwan a try aren’t going to be the same for all expats; looking back to early 2010, when I was considering the move, these factors had all been true for me for many years. They’re still true. You can physically move all you want, but you can’t escape yourself.

Needed a major trip every six months

This started in high school, when my parents recognized my worsening depression and let me fly to South Carolina for a week to visit a friend. Every six months or so my wanderlust would explode in a desperate, uncontrollable need to explore. This is still true, just not as intensely. I travel a lot, both within the country and internationally. Once a traveler, always a traveler, I suppose.

The year before I moved to Taiwan, I took two week-long vacations: the Netherlands in the summer and Alaska in the winter. Both times I felt the same yearning to escape the confines of Texas. Don’t get your feelings hurt,Texas. You’re a great place and home to my family and many of my friends, but there’s so much world to explore.

My credit card company loved me; my bank account hated me.

Looked for greener pastures

In high school I hoped to go to college away from home. After college I applied for jobs in Florida, California, and anywhere else that looked new and exciting. My first full-time job lasted just 2.5 years; I had to get out of the small city and spread my wings in a more culturally-diverse, 20-something-friendly larger city. Once I’d been in Austin for two years,Taiwan came calling. Bored with my job, yet in love with the city, I decided to take the plunge. I have a fear that I’m always going to be a two-years-and-go girl. My next move I hope to be long-term. I’d like roots.

Considered a move for many years

When I was about to graduate college, fresh from a five-week internship in the Dominican Republic (which, to date, is one of my favorite experiences and countries), I considered moving to South Korea to teach English. Many times between 2005 and 2010, I did research on different places where I could teach, but was always too timid to dive into the decision. I’m glad I didn’t go.Taiwan was the right move at the right time.

Hated being a tourist

I loathe looking like a tourist. I won’t pull out a map or obviously ask for directions; I will literally go miles out of my way in order to stay independent. In fact, I rather enjoy getting lost. So convincing a local am I that I was stopped many times and asked directions while walking around Vancouver this summer.

Sure, I’ll participate in touristy excursions; I’m not against tourism. I just prefer hostels and homestays over 5-star hotels; hole-in-the-wall local restaurants to chains and franchises. A city’s facade doesn’t really interest me. Show me real life. Don’t get me wrong, though – sometimes passing out in a king-sized bed under layers of airy comforters in a freezing hotel room with a view of the city is exactly what the doctor ordered. Favorite hotel room ever was the 30-something floor of the Westin in Seattle. It was for work, and my contact, Tish, hooked me up.

Felt comfortable with myself

In Austin, I lived alone for a year, which taught me that I like myself; I’m comfortable being alone. I talk to myself out loud a lot because of that year. That said, I very much enjoy my circle of friends and love being with people.

Living abroad can, at times, feel incredibly isolating, and foreigners have to be able to handle bouts of intense loneliness. And depression. They also need to know how to be true to themselves and go out and meet new people without being crushed by self-confidence issues or peer pressure. It took me a long time to find my balance in Taiwan, but that adjustment has made me even more comfortable in who I am. Because I’m awesome.

An invitation to fellow explorers

What were your reasons for moving abroad – no matter for how long or to where? For that matter, anyone who’s made a drastic move anywhere: why? What were your “red flags” that you needed to get up and go?

Psh. No one replied. That’s okay, though. I’ll just talk to myself.

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