Deciding to live and work abroad can be life-changing, and sometimes scary, but the excitement of an adventure usually outweighs the fear of the unknowns of life in a new country. For your family and friends, though, your decision to travel abroad can leave them confused and concerned, fretting over all the possible things that could go wrong. Despite their best intentions, this response can often deflate your confidence and make you question if you really are making the right decision.
When I decided to move to South Korea to teach English, I encountered many naysayers. I was constantly asked about the safety in Korea, why I wanted to put my life at risk, and how I planned to handle the looming threat of North Korea.
No matter where you decide to move abroad, there will be people who find your decision crazy or dangerous. Maybe you even think you’re a little crazy. But that’s okay. Here are some ways to respond to any concerns your family and friends might have about your decision to move abroad.
No place is immune to a possibility of conflict and danger. Even in our own home countries and cities, we can be bombarded by horrific hurricanes and unexpected horrors. Think of how many people consistently visit New York City despite 9/11, because it is a city worth visiting. Just because a country has scary stuff in their past doesn’t mean it isn’t worth traveling to in the future. The unfortunate truth is that there is no place in the world that is 100% safe.
Regardless of where you are in the world, there will always be unforeseen circumstances. It is, of course, natural to feel safer in your familiar home even though we know it is not void of danger. It’s always important to remember this – just because the world can sometimes be a scary place does not mean it isn’t also a beautiful one that’s worth exploring!
We live in the age of media. Any and everything that happens is broadcasted – we hear and read about terrorist attacks, bomb threats, and natural disasters daily. It would be impossible not to be affected by this. But statistically, you are no more likely to be caught up in these events just because you leave the country.
While living in South Korea, I rarely heard media coverage discussing North Korea as a threat. But in America, North Korea is what comes to mind immediately after mentioning moving to South Korea. Despite the two countries having little to no interaction, the media has painted a very violent relationship between the two.
Media outlets focus on the negative and tragic because it draws an audience, but that doesn’t mean an entire country should be represented by one incident, or that “over there” is a scarier and more dangerous place than our current home. It is every travelers’ responsibility to do their research and have a clear understanding of the potential risks of where they will be living and working, without overgeneralizing an entire country (or even city) based on stereotypes or a few news stories.
Tragedies happen. Natural disasters tear apart towns. Terrorists attack cities. These are all things that could happen anywhere at any given time. Life does not stop or slow down when something awful does happen. The best we can do is live our lives to the fullest despite these things.
There are too many amazing people to meet, delicious foods to try, and sights to enjoy to let fear keep you from traveling.
No matter where you have chosen to live or travel abroad, there will be people who do not understand. You will have to learn to deflect this negativity and embrace your decision. Traveling isn’t something that should be feared, but something we should all encourage and applaud. Be proud of your decision and excited for your adventure!