My journey abroad started back in 2012 when I moved from Portugal to Dubai. I lived in my hometown in Southern Portugal for 17 years, moved to Lisbon for college, and after that to Dubai to find work. My now husband (boyfriend at the time) got a job as a tennis coach there and we both said, why not... With nothing to lose, an open mind, and 2 huge suitcases, off we went.
I still remember how anxious, sad, and lost I felt.
Our trip took an entire day – going on a plane to London and then Dubai. By the time we got there, it was 8 in the morning. That adventure only lasted a year and a half. We found ourselves lacking challenge in a city that seemed to stand still, but Portugal wasn’t our next destination.
We both agreed to come to New York City and ventured off looking for jobs.
Like me, you might not know, but tennis coaches have it easy. They can find a job almost anywhere in the world so within a few days, my husband landed a job and our small idea came to fruition. Little did we know landing in New York a year later would change the course of our lives.
Living abroad in a brand new country is one of the few life experiences that changes you completely. You’re never going to be the same person you were back at home. So much of what we do is taken for granted, and living abroad changes your perspective on life and how you live it – mainly because you start paying close attention to what would normally seem like mundane moments and strangers. If anyone of you are consumed with the travel bug, let me enlighten you…
You start suffering from FOMO.
For me, it’s with my parents. One of the things I miss the most is being able to hang out with them every other week. And, as depressed as it sounds, you’re sort of missing their lives and vice-versa. You also want to be there for important moments like weddings, anniversaries, and baby showers, but you can’t. Some of your friends will get annoyed with your absence, but it’s beyond your control because you’re on the wayside across the world. The distance makes you appreciate your friends and family so much more… I’ve learned that if there’s anything in the world that brings family and friends closer, it’s distance – that’s also the true test of relationships.
You start to appreciate home.
Every time I go back home, it feels magical – the way home should feel… Normal places I frequented every single day in the past suddenly transform into the light of my eyes. I love going around my hometown, taking pictures, and just sulking in its familiarity. It also makes you want to pretend you’re living in old times – just another day of strolling around downtown Lisbon.
You become more aware.
Being transplanted in unknown places definitely heighten your senses in every way. As a result, you just become more aware of your surroundings – the people, places, and landmarks. This starts to play out in your everyday life and in work. Awareness and attention to detail is never a bad thing.
You start to find yourself.
As cheesy as it sounds, it’s so true. You’re never going to spend as much time alone as you do when living abroad. You have to get over the stigma of doing things like navigating an unknown territory alone. You’re going to face the most difficult times of your life, but also come out stronger and develop an incredible sense of self.
I always knew I wanted to live abroad.
Whether it was through study or employment, I just wanted to live. On my wedding day, 4 months prior to coming to New York, one of my best friends told me she knew I would come here one day. We both started crying, hugged, and took a shot. I don’t regret a single day. And even though NYC isn’t really my home, I can’t imagine living anywhere else right now. If you’re even thinking about living abroad, I’d encourage you to GO. Run. Don’t walk.