Over the last few years, I’ve been blessed with opportunities to spend time living in a few different countries! I have spent time living in and exploring Mexico, Germany, Indonesia, and the Netherlands.
Read on for some of my reflections on my adventures, and some words of advice to anyone who’s considering spending any length of time living abroad.
invest in people.
When getting settled into a new place, it’s so important to find a group of people you can invest in.
While living in Germany, I was able to go to a local church, join the youth group, and meet with a smaller group regularly. Going to games nights, meeting up for lunch after church, helping with worship nights, having a girls Christmas cookie night – these were some of the activities that helped me get connected and form friendships!
I held myself back at times, thinking “I’m just going to be living here for a few months and I have plenty of friends back at home, so why should I seek out more friendships?” That only left me feeling disconnected and lonely. I highly encourage you to seek out a community and a close friend or a few, who you can go on adventures with and confide in!
Make the most of the season you’re in and embrace the opportunities to connect with people around you! Don’t wait for someone else to make the first move – reach out and start conversations! You are worth getting to know, so put yourself out there!
There will be hard days.
Not every day is going to be easy! Homesickness can be triggered at random times, and for me it was usually the worst when I was tired, feeling like I was missing out on something at home, or feeling under the weather.
On those days, be gentle with yourself. Give yourself the space you need to process what you’re feeling. Talk through it with a friend who will understand you and give you the encouragement you’ll need.
Do something that helps you calm down – go for a walk, drink some tea, eat something that reminds you of home, watch a comforting movie or show.
Remind yourself of all the beautiful things about the place you’re in, and all the good memories you’ve already made there! Practicing gratitude goes a long way. Sadness and difficult feelings also usually seem worse late at night, so don’t feel like you have to process everything before bed. Often, a good night’s sleep and the morning light will help immensely.
Try new things, and learn the language!
No matter where you end up travelling to, there will be something special and unique to every place that you go. Get to know the locals and take their advice! Try the local cuisine, learn as much of the language as you can, and try new things!
If the language is new to you, learn as much of it as you can before you go. When you get there, don’t be afraid to mess up! Learn the phrase “how do you say…” in the language, and use that sentence to learn new words and phrases! I picked up so many things this way, as well as by looking things up, and writing notes on new words I was learning.
Here are a few highlights that stand out when I reflect on my time in each place.
1. Enchanting storybook scenery in Germany
There are many fairytale-like castles, towns, and beautiful old cathedrals, that you can go and visit for a day and take a tour inside.
Wandering castlegrounds on a summer’s day with a picnic packed and a blanket to sit in the shade was so peaceful.
I also loved the energetic bustle and festiveness of going to a Christmas market in a castle in Germany!
Pictured below is Tommy, my fiance, enjoying a delicious sandwich that he still talks about. It was that good! There are amazing bakeries within walking distance almost everywhere you go in Germany!
2. Exploring Amsterdam by bike
A tour on two wheels: an unforgettable adventure!
Going with my friend to her favourite places to get coffee, take pictures, and eat, was absolutely terrific.
Amsterdam has so many fun little shops, museums, and old churches. Walking along the canals and people-watching, biking and ringing my bell, and taking the train were the best ways to get around and enjoy the city.
3. Enjoying the colours of Mexico
The people, food, and art in Mexico are so full of beauty and colour and flavour! I loved spending my weekends at church, restaurants, markets, the art gallery, the beach, and cafes.
During the 4 months that I spent there, I got to be part of a weekly after-school kids’ program! I loved creating art with the kids, teaching lessons, playing games, and singing songs with them! It was so rewarding once I started to learn some basic Spanish and could actually communicate with them, not just through an interpreter!
4. Experiencing tropical Indonesia
The beaches in Indonesia are unlike any other I’ve ever seen! The softest, most stunning sand. Clear, turquoise waters. Colourful fish and coral. I felt like I had stepped into a postcard!!
The beauty of the people, nature, and the architecture really stood out! People were so friendly and welcoming, and eager to share a meal and take selfies with us.
Travelling helps you grow.
Every time I go somewhere new and spend time getting to know the people, language and culture; I feel myself growing and changing. I hear different points of view, and it helps me understand a different perspective. I feel more connected to the world as a whole.
If you get the chance to live abroad, know that it will be both beautiful and challenging! The best things in life always are! Communicate openly with the people you’re living with, invest in friendships, try new things, and let yourself grow and expand in ways that you couldn’t in your everyday life back home.
I also highly recommend keeping a journal, and taking plenty of pictures. 😉