Over the course of the last 5 years, I have lived abroad for a total of four years in four different countries. For a long time, I have wanted to write about what it is like to live abroad.
But I kept on staying to myself, what do I know about that? I have only done it a short amount of time. Then, I made the calculations: Four years in four countries! Hey, I do actually know a thing or two about living abroad. So, I decided that it was time to write about it.
Over the next four weeks, I will write about distinct aspects of living abroad from a more personal perspective. Usually, I write more practical stuff about travel in Latin America but in these posts, I want to introduce a more personal side – I hope you will enjoy it!
So, in this first one, it will about what it is like to live abroad. I would love to hear your story from abroad or your doubts and thoughts about making the move in the comments below!
I moved away from home, and directly abroad when I was 19 years old. I had a flight ticket to Spain and only the offer of a volunteer position at a hostel in Seville. My goal was to get a job as a receptionist. I got the job, and stayed for almost 2 years.
What I remember from Spain is sitting on small chairs under the smell of oranges trees, eating tapas. Taking part in the traditional ferias with colorfully dressed women in flamenco dresses and men of horses.
Running through cobbled-stoned streets surrounded by colonial-style houses hand-in-hand with my Spanish fling. Staying out late and drinking beers from small glasses while standing in the middle of a plaza with high tables and people chatting around me.
Looking at the sunset coloring the massive walls of La Alhambra and the snow-topped Sierra Nevada. Walking through an empty city at 2 o’clock in the morning and just taking it all in and feeling alive.
But I also remember, getting up early in the morning, coming home late to only go to bed to wake up again the next morning to repeat. Walking through freezing empty streets on early winter mornings to get to work.
Not being able to sleep when coming home from a night shift and walking around like a zombie the rest of the day. And only to have 10 euros left in the bank account but without being able to use them because, in the supermarkets, you had to spend more than 10 euros before you could use the credit card.
I remember all that. The first couple of months, I worked my butt off with the start-up of the new hostel, I had been hired for. After that, the rhythm slowed down to basically being: work, study Spanish, hang out with people, work, study, hang out… and then, over again.
One day took the other. Everyday life.
I left Spain when I felt it was time to go home and start a university degree… But I was not ready. I lasted half a year in Denmark, then I was boarding a plane to Cuba.
What I remember from Cuba is the wind in my hair and Latina pop in my ears while the old 50s-style car cruised through the streets of Havana. Walking down the Malecón and listening to the waves hitting against the stones.
Hopping on the back of a collective taxi, and saying “hasta Carlos tercer” while everyone inside looked confused at why the “gringa” knew how things work.
Spending Sundays on the beach with friends, rum, and music. Hitchhiking through Havana at night, afterward thinking “what the hell was I up to? They could have kidnapped me (or worse)”.
But I also remember having to wait for hours (literally) in a queue to get whatever kind of thing I need. Having to do laundry by hand and boiling water in a pot.
Walking with a headache through the streets of Centro Habana having Cubans cat-calling on every corner. Waking up late at night not being able to sleep due to the humid air.
Being so so sick with a stomach infection. Having to go to the doctor in the middle of the night, and afterward not being able to get the medicine at any pharmacy.
And like that, my stay in Cuba also slowly turned into an everyday rhythm which today includes both good and bad memories.
Life abroad is also everyday life
Now, what I’m trying to say is that life abroad after a while gets its own daily rhythm. You go the same place and do the same things.
The rush you had, in the beginning, will eventually diminish because the surroundings become familiar. You establish your new every day just like you used to have it. Little by little, you adjust to the habits and customs that surprised you in the beginning.
Life abroad also includes crappy days where you just want to hide under the duvet and forget about the outside world. Life abroad also includes quiet days at home. Long-term life abroad has good and bad moments.
These are just a little bit of the memories, I have from the countries I lived in. In the following posts, I will include more on life in Sweden and Argentina (current place of resident).
But 4 years in 4 countries! That actually surprised me. Not because I don’t know what I have been doing, simply because it doesn’t feel like that long. Most of it feels like everyday life. Nevertheless, the truth is my definition of everyday life might not be that of any 20-something-year-old.