Living Abroad (Is)…

Living Abroad (Is)…

Inspired by a passage in Nick Miller’s Isn’t It Pretty to Think So?

Living abroad is ants in your bed and on the floor and in your desk. Living abroad is sweating perpetually. Living abroad is shopping for everything you could ever need or want at the local 7/11.

Living abroad is unfiltered water and instant coffee. It’s finding a new favorite coffee shop and haunting the hell out of it. It’s sitting in the back corner of said coffee shop every day and writing—writing about new things and writing about old things in new ways.

Living abroad is placing less value on external appearance and more value on internal experience—lending itself to caring more about where you are and who you’re with. It’s waking up at 7am on the weekend and deciding not to roll over. There is so much to see and so much to do.

Living abroad is navigating new forms of public transportation (songthaews and SkyTrains and motorbikes, oh my). It’s being able to visit three countries in one month. It’s walking for miles and miles and miles. Living abroad is packing the wrong shoes for a weekend trip and having to buy a new (extremely expensive) pair of Converse… A pair of Converse that you already own by the way. It’s learning to appreciate architecture. It’s taking a wrong turn and stumbling upon a hidden garden or a temple or a beach. It’s your newly-purchased, comfortable shoes (that you already own dammit!!!) giving you blisters. It’s constantly buying Band-Aids to protect said blisters.

Living abroad is being dirty and grungy and gross and taking one shower in five days. It’s yes, I am wearing this shirt again. It’s becoming addicted to dry shampoo. It’s finally showering with cold water and a rusty nozzle and the smallest sliver of soap.

Living abroad is nourishing the hell out of relationships—new ones and old ones—on the phone and in-person. It’s letting old relationships fall to the wayside to allow room for new ones, and it’s discovering just how capable and brave and strong you really are—without anyone else. Living abroad is realizing just how important your thoughts and your voice and your experiences are, while simultaneously realizing just how trivial one ethnicity or one culture is in the bigger picture. Living abroad is realizing we are all just human. No one is omniscient. No one is better. No one is worse. 

Living abroad is loving a piece of someone else’s culture so much you want to bring it home with you. It’s trying something and thinking: this is the most amazing thing or thinking: who let me do this? Never again. It’s beautiful and hard and uplifting and troubling. It’s hope.

Living abroad is questioning everything you’ve ever known—your beliefs, your values, your ideals… your history, your background, your customs. Living abroad is shedding façades and embracing how you truly think and feel. It’s learning to be at peace with and by yourself. It’s meeting thousands of people and—oftentimes— connecting solely through smiles and hand gestures. Living abroad is missing loved ones and meeting loved ones. It’s sending postcards to America that arrive three weeks later. Living abroad is notsomuch wishing you were at home with the people you miss, but wishing the people you miss were right here with you, right now.

Living abroad is yearning for your warm, childhood bed. Living abroad is wanting to never return home. It’s—at the same time—an aching nostalgia for the places you’ve already been, and an aching desire to go where you’ve never gone before. It’s contradictory. It’s addicting.

Living abroad is eating street food and feeling deathly ill two hours later. It’s eating peanut butter for four meals in a row while you recuperate or just because you want to. It’s falling in love with green curry and Thai omelets and freshly chopped coconut. It’s discovering new bars and frequenting the ones with free alcohol. Living abroad is budgeting and sacrificing.

Living abroad is taking a job you would never think to take at home. It’s working as an ESL teacher and having no one understand you (or even attempt to listen to you…). It’s cancelling class so your students can prepare a dance and cut out reindeer for the Christmas show. It’s speaking to 4,000 students about “the toilet.” It’s embracing the mai pen rai mindset (no worries… ever).

Living abroad is not being able to depend on wifi. Ever. It’s hand-washing your clothes in the bathroom sink and draping them over every available surface in your apartment to dry. It’s ninety degree weather… in January. It’s ninety degree weather… always.

Living abroad is struggling to learn a new language. It’s having the women at the local coffee shop attempt to teach you Thai (and having them cheer you on when you understand one out of every five words). It’s feeling accomplished when you can finally count from one to ten.

Living abroad is embracing an impromptu rainstorm as you walk to school because a) you don’t own an umbrella and b) you haven’t seen rain in over two months. Living abroad is the perfect combination of just living and near-constant adventure.

Living abroad is something everyone should do at least once (but hey, don’t take my word for it). It’s not always “great views and sunshine,” but it’s always monumental and eye-opening. It’s always beautiful and thought-provoking. Living abroad is learning and loving and growing and changing. It’s the most intensive and accelerated form of learning I know.

Living abroad is different situations and similar experiences. Living abroad is similar situations and different perspectives.

Living abroad is unfamiliar faces and friendly grins. Living abroad is a shared laugh with someone who doesn’t speak your language. Living abroad is appreciating the smallest of gestures.

Living abroad is “the most foreign place” becoming home.


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