When you are anxious and shy, moving far away from home would probably be the last thing on your mind. And yet, I did. For a split second in 2002, I was so excited about the opportunity to move to Asia that I completely forgot about my fears and made the decision to leave home.
I’ve been living in different countries ever since. Had anyone asked me before if I were able to pull this off, I would have called them crazy. I had always dreamt of going elsewhere, but I had lacked the courage.
Sometimes, we just need one reason to dare the impossible. In my case, it was love. Today, I know I also could have managed had I just believed in myself.
You don’t have to leave as well just to make sure you’re going to face your fears. However, I would like to encourage you to push your limits once in a while. When we are in a rut, we easily forget what’s possible if we dare enter unfamiliar terrain.
My 7 Fearless Life Lessons Learned from Living Abroad:
1. You are stronger than you think you are.
I would have never thought that I could survive without my family and friends to turn to. Finding my way in a foreign place was a challenge. However, instead of struggling for a long time, I learned to rely on my strengths.
I had to be thrown in at the deep end to realize what I was truly capable of. I overcame my fears every day anew, because I was determined to make it.
What’s in it for you: Trust your capabilities, and you will be surprised how easy it is to rise above yourself. Fear seems invincible when difficulties occur, but it’s just not true. When life throws us curveballs that’s when we tend to perform the best: We don’t have time to worry but to act.
2. There’s always a way.
Back home, I was used to handling things a certain way – and avoiding facing my fears as much as possible. There I was, in a new country, a new culture and having to speak another language. Getting things done was a nightmare. I doubted myself a lot, and was afraid that I would never be able to succeed, but I had to force myself to stand my ground without having a network to rely on. It’s true what they say: When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
What’s in it for you: Life can’t be predicted, but we can learn how to manage the surprises. Put your fears aside, and expect the unexpected. No matter how big of a problem you are dealing with, there is always a way. You’ll get there, but maybe not the way you would have thought. Most of the things we consider problems are nothing more than obstacles along the road of self-discovery.
3. Letting go is part of life and sets you free.
Losing my friends was a thought that worried me a lot when I moved far away for the first time. To tell the truth: I did lose some. Not all of them, of course, but a few. I found hundreds of reasons why that happened, and I was always the one to blame. Eventually, I realized that this is part of life and wasn’t my fault.
It doesn’t matter where we live, people come and go. It’s just hard to admit. Some will remain friends for life, with others we will lose touch. It hurts to see people go, but personal decisions lead to change on both sides. And sometimes, people just move on.
What’s in it for you: Accept to let go. Life changes, and so do you, as well as others. Each time you manage to let go without tormenting yourself, the pain gets less. Instead, be thankful for the experience and the memories. Life will surprise you with new wonderful people to join you on your journey.
4. Life is what you make it.
The times I’ve been told that I must be so happy where I live are countless. However, many people dream of relocating for the wrong reasons. Life is not going to change drastically just because we’ve moved to another location and are blessed with sunshine all year round.
Once we have settled in, routine takes over like anywhere else. The only difference is: You are left to your own devices. Happiness doesn’t knock at your door, you have to work for it. I had to force myself to be more outgoing and dare things I was afraid of in order to build up a life that I could enjoy.
What’s in it for you: When you manage to face your fears, you open up possibilities you never thought existed. Your happiness depends on you only, and not on the circumstances you are thrown into. No matter where you live, what you make of it is your very own responsibility.
5. You can’t run from your problems.
The grass is always greener on the other side. It sounds tempting to move away and leave everything behind, but our problems don’t change. I’ve learned this the hard way.
While our environment is different, we remain the same, with all our talents, fears and doubts. When relocating, it tends to get rather more challenging than easier. On top of the familiar problems, we have to deal with a lot of stuff we didn’t even think of.
What’s in it for you: Change is always possible, but it’s up to you and not to circumstances. Peace of mind comes with the faith that you are able to handle life’s difficulties – regardless of where you stay.
6. You need less than you think you do.
Whenever I relocated to another country, I literally lived out of my suitcase first. In the beginning, this made me feel anxious. It took a few weeks until the ship arrived with the container carrying my household, but the longer I had to wait for my things to arrive, the less I missed them. I became more mindful of what I really needed and wanted. Since that time, I try to declutter on a regular basis.
What’s in it for you: Owning a lot of stuff might give us security, but it also limits our personal freedom, especially when we start worrying about it. We tend to cling to things way too much and make our well-being dependent on what we own instead of focusing on what really adds value to our life.
7. When thrown back to basics, anxiety gets less.
When you have to start again in every aspect, most of your fears and worries almost seem to vanish into thin air: I was a stranger, I had to find my way around on my own and communicate in a language I wasn’t fluent in. I didn’t have any other choice as to do what was necessary in order to be able to gain a foothold in my new environment.
What’s in it for you: When we stay within our comfort zone for most of the time, we deprive ourselves of the opportunities life is offering us. Sometimes you have to be hard on yourself to be able to grow.
The more time we spend worrying, the more hopeless our situation appears. So go out there and take the bull by its horns. It’s less intimidating to do what you are afraid of than keep thinking of it.
Want to share your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment.