15 Lessons I’ve Learned From a Year Living Abroad
Last week marked my 365th day spent in Europe since moving abroad alone in the course of two long, memorable years. In a word, the past few years have been life-changing. I could have never imagined this life before I made the move to study abroad and travel – it has led to my inspiration in life. It has opened so many doors and new opportunities that give me a different kind of excitement every day. I’m still being inspired every day by new individuals and now I’ve spread some of my inspiration in life to others as well. Living abroad changed my life.
My moving abroad checklist has spent the past year evolving. I’ve considered what I used to hold close and what I still hold close. I’ve gained so much knowledge that I consider un-teachable and things I would have never learned in the classroom. Some things can only be learned on the road. That’s where my inspiration in life comes from. Inspiration involves learning.
Without further a due, here are 15 things I’ve learned that has changed me in one way or another while traveling:
Keep yourself open to inspiration
There’s a difference between motivation and inspiration. Inspiration is everywhere just waiting for you to find it. Motivation has to be triggered. Even the people who don’t seem like they can offer you anything will change your life. Don’t judge a book by its cover. The difference between motivation and inspiration is that you just need to keep yourself open to inspiration. Inspiration involves finding yourself through others.
Keep an open mind – it will lead to changes in plans
I’ve changed short-term plans so much. I have no idea where I’ll be at this point next year because every day I run into new opportunities from learning about new things. Just keep an open mind and don’t be afraid of where it leads you. Inspiration involves one to keep an open mind on all levels.
Strangers want to make friends just as much as you do
Don’t be afraid to say hello. You’ll be surprised who wants to talk to you. Make the first move. Keep an open mind and say something. You never know what it will lead to. I’ve gained a lot of my inspiration in life from speaking to the stranger in the room.
Saying “YES!” is your best choice
You’re traveling. You’re in a place where no one knows you and you have the chance to start a new reputation. Get out of your comfort zone and say “yes” to experiences you otherwise wouldn’t have. You won’t regret it. Moving abroad alone is a tough thing to do, but you already said ‘yes’ to it; you took the first step.
It’s not about the place, it’s about the people
You’ll notice, after a while of traveling, it’s not the place that creates the memories; it’s the people you will remember. Keep an open mind when traveling to far-off places. It doesn’t have to be the most exciting place to have the nicest people. The people I have met while traveling are my inspiration in life and that’s no exaggeration.
People want to talk about themselves. Put on a friendly smile and ask them about themselves. Be intrigued and engaged in the conversation. People will naturally respect that and desire to become closer to you. Moving abroad alone will make you curious about a lot of things – keep an open mind and don’t be timid. Ask away! My inspiration in life comes from learning from others that I’m interested in.
Sober nights can be the memorable nights
Nights out are fun. There is no doubt about it. Alcohol can lead to a more spontaneous you and memories you won’t soon forget. However, you’ll notice the nights when you’re sober are the nights that last the longest. And that’s what you ultimately want; experiences that last. Moving abroad alone calls for meeting new people. You don’t have to be drunk every time you see them.
Leave with no regrets
Travel with the couple you met at your hostel. Spend the extra money to get a beer with new friends. Kiss the girl you meet only for a night. Leave nothing on your moving abroad checklist. Don’t leave with regrets; those will slowly kill you. Keep an open mind and go for whatever you want.
Use common sense, but don’t over-think
Too many times, we over-think and build a bad image of a place in our minds. My friends who visit from America worry about pick-pockets and terrorism in Europe because that’s what we’re told to worry about it. Don’t. Be a smart traveler, use common sense. Some of my inspiration in life comes from exploring the places people don’t want to go because they over-think. That’s where the real gems lie. Enjoy your traveling and don’t think as much.
So many trips are ruined from over-planning. The best part about traveling is the unknown. Surprises that are thrown at you, whether good or bad are what make traveling what it is. Overcoming the struggles and reaping in the joys of the unknown; that’s what it’s all about.
Forget about the little stresses
If you are constantly stressing out about things you can’t control, when are you going to enjoy yourself? My inspiration in life comes from when I’m living care-free. Moving abroad alone will be full of little stresses out of your control. Let go of the worries, find the positives in poor situations, and live and let die.
Think about the future later
This goes along with the minimizing stresses thing above. Your future will always be on your mind. It has to be. But you’ll never let yourself live in the moment if you’re always thinking about what’s best for your future. Sometimes you need to say fuck what’s best for your future and live in the moment for a bit. It’s good for the soul. The difference between motivation and inspiration is that inspiration lasts momentarily and motivation will keep you going into your future.
Don’t make excuses
There will always be an excuse. You’ll never have enough money. There will never be enough time. It’ll never be a good idea for your climb up the corporate ladder. But GO ANYWAY! Moving abroad alone is scary, but inspiration involves finding out yourself. The best time to start traveling was yesterday.
NEVER listen to the media
The media will always try to scare you. Why? Because fear sells. People want to be given reasons not to go. They want the excuses to make them feel at ease with their contentment at home. The difference between motivation and inspiration is the cause. Be motivated to go to the ‘dangerous’ places, too. Inspiration involves the things to follow. But I’ve never been anywhere that is as bad as people will tell you. The world is a good place at its core.
Be a good representative of the place you’re from
This is perhaps the most important one as a traveler living abroad. Be a good ambassador of your country. Whether you like it or not, you’ll notice you make judgments about places you’ve never been based on the individuals you meet from those places. Others do the same thing. Remember that.
I’ve learned so much more while traveling than I ever did in a classroom. I feel grateful for every day I’m able to stay on the road and keep an open mind. Moving abroad alone and moving to Europe without a job was the scariest and most rewarding decision I’ve ever made. This is the life I always dreamed of and I didn’t think it would ever become reality. One year travel anniversary in Europe and it’s just the beginning of the story. There’s so much more in store for this journey.