The delusions and reality of a life abroad


Hi, I’m Stacey, and I’m a single twenty-something who has been living abroad for the past six years. I can hear you now. Wow, you say, six years! You’ve been travelling for six years!? That’s so amazing, you say. I’m so jealous. I see you there, reading this in a sneaky hidden tab in your browser window while you should be working, beginning to daydream about this idyllic life. Life abroad. The overseas adventure. You know the one – waking up each morning in a hotel overlooking the Seine, in a king-size bed with crisp white sheets, wandering downstairs for an espresso at 10am, served by a handsome man who greets you by name and winks as he hands you your change.

I love the romantic idea you have of life abroad. It’s what motivates you to quit that boring job, to buy that plane ticket, to pack your bags, and to GO. When you’re daydreaming from behind your computer screen, you don’t want the truth. The truth is this. Some days, i am your mirror image, bleakly staring into the computer screen wishing my workday was over. The truth is that this morning I hit the snooze button eight times before prying myself out of the single bed with the broken springs that barely fits in my exorbitantly expensive room in a dingy flat that I share with an eccentric Venezuelan ESOL student called Hector. The truth is that I am currently staring back at you into that computer screen, but instead of daydreaming about overseas adventures, I’m daydreaming about tomorrow’s lunch, which, as tomorrow is payday, is guaranteed to be an improvement on today’s stale bread and nutella ‘sandwich’.

This is life abroad, and it is everything you hope it will be and more.

You see, there is a difference between living abroad and going on holiday. When you’re on holiday, you’re escaping reality. Money is high, hotels are nice, you have saved up enough cash to be served each meal, and your cell phone is most certainly off.

Now don’t get me wrong here. I’m making it sound like living abroad is a nightmare, but it’s not. It is an amazing, life-changing experience.

It’s not a holiday, it’s life.

Life, with all of its ups and downs, hiccups and hilarity, and when it’s lived in a culture completely different from your own there are added challenges. And unexpected joys. This life requires sacrifices, but is punctuated with moments and experiences and beauty and relationships that take your breath away, instances that make you stop and close your eyes and whisper ‘thank you,’ knowing that you’ve just lived a moment that is now painted indelibly on the canvas of your memory. You’ll admire the masterpiece for the rest of your days, marvelling at how dull and blank it might have been, had you not chased that daydream of life abroad. It may not always be glamorous, but I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt: it’s worth it.

Photo: Hamed Saber

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The delusions and reality of a life abroad

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