Let’s get to the honest truth about living abroad, shall we? I may talk about how wonderful living abroad is, how plentiful my opportunities to travel are, or how fun it is to live in a different language and a different culture. Not to mention, my 12 hour/four day work week is something that most working people envy. And, it’s true! I am a very lucky individual who had a really great privilege and opportunity/resources to be able to live abroad, and live abroad for two years, at that. But, what I usually don’t share on social media is that sometimes it gets
REALLY lonely being abroad and not speaking your native language or even living in your culture (you’d be surprised what a difference this makes).
The loneliness creeps in when you can’t fully express your opinions and your thoughts, it creeps in when you’re invited to a group outing and no one talks to you or you can’t communicate with them, it creeps in when you’re scrolling through Facebook or Instagram and see that your friends have shared memories that you can’t be a part of. Loneliness is definitely an aspect of life that I sometimes forget exists. I tend to keep my days busy and always try to be productive, but there are moments when I feel like I either don’t belong, or there isn’t someone here that REALLY gets it.
If you’re abroad, let me tell you this: you are definitely going to feel lonely. You will probably feel lonely even while you’re exploring your new host country. You will sometimes feel lonely in your group of friends you may have made. You may feel lonely while you’re traveling! Loneliness doesn’t disappear just because you’re “living the dream” in a different country. Loneliness follows you around and makes you feel oh so very humble, wherever you are. So, how do you fight loneliness while abroad?
Skype & Whatsapp With Family and Friends
Oh the wonders of technology, right? If I’m ever feeling lonely and need someone to rant to or just complain to, my family and my friends back home are my number one go-to’s. It gets a bit difficult with the time difference (six hours!!), but we usually try to organize something more late at night for me, and middle of the day for them. With Skype, I can talk to my family and friends on my laptop or my phone. I also like to use Oovoo, which allows callers to do three way calls for free! This is great for my sisters and I, since we’re all in different places. Another great application is Whatsapp, which most Europeans use because texting is just ridiculously expensive. With Whatsapp, you can text for free (with Internet or Wifi) and even call for free (with Internet and Wifi)! Try setting up a time once a week to catch up with your family and a few of your closest friends.
DON’T GET SUCKED INTO INSTAGRAM OR FACEBOOK
This one was probably one of the biggest problems I had when I first moved abroad. I continuously checked Instagram and Facebook to see what all of my friends were doing back at home. It gave me an extreme case of #FOMO (fear of missing out), that I always felt like I made the wrong choice to live abroad. I kept thinking that I was missing out on all of these memories being made, the inside jokes, and cute “#SQUAD” pictures on Instagram that I wasn’t a part of. It’s great to check Instagram feeds and scroll through Facebook to keep up with your friends, but don’t spend hours scrolling through their memories, thinking that you’ve missed out on them. You’re abroad and creating your own memories, with new people, new experiences and will return with plenty of stories to tell! You’re creating memories, too! Don’t forget that!
Pick Up A New Hobby or Invest Time Into Becoming Better At Something
Like I said before, working a 12 hour work week and having three day weekends every week is pretty enviable. A lot of people consider auxiliars pretty lucky for barely working and having so much time to travel. To be honest, I AM BORED OUT OF MY MIND
(most of the time). Last year, Tim and I didn’t even have Internet in our apartment, so can you imagine how bored we were?! We played a lot of Solitaire and even played “Hide and Go Seek”, once, in the dark. You gotta get creative! My advice with all this time is to either pick up a new hobby or do that thing you’ve always wanted to do but “never had the time to”. Being an auxiliar, I have SO much time on my hands, and am using it to develop my blog, find writing jobs online, and now, learn some photography/how to edit videos.
You can also invest your time in really learning the language of the country you’re living in, working out, or try your hand at something new, like dance classes!
Don’t Compare Your Life Abroad To Your Life At Home
They say that it takes you three months before you really adjust yourself to your new home/surroundings. The first three months for me, last year and this year, were some of the hardest months. I’m in a new area, a new language, a new culture, and could barely communicate last year. I kept thinking about my group of friends back at home and everything we would do, and then would try to find a group like that here. Completely wrong! First of all, if you’re living abroad, you’re probably living in a culture that is completely different to your own. This is point number one as to why you probably cannot find a group of friends in your host country that are exactly like your group of friends from home.
I’m definitely guilty of this today, trying to find friends like I have back at home. I’m always comparing my life abroad to my life back in the states. It’s “the grass is greener on the other side” syndrome.
Oops, guilty. My life abroad and my life back in the states are two completely different things. I can guarantee creating your life from your home country in your new country might not always work. I always remind myself, I’m abroad for a reason! I’m abroad to see if I can create something new, something different, with different people, culture, and even in a different language. Don’t compare, you’re taking away from the amazing things you could be experiencing!
Accept The Loneliness
Much easier said than done! I struggled with accepting my loneliness in the beginning; only filling my time with more work, more social interaction, and even using travel as a way to keep myself busy so that I wouldn’t think about how lonely I felt abroad. This only lead to pushing aside what I knew was inevitable; so when I really had nothing to do and was left alone with my thinking… that’s when the crying started happening. There have been many moments where I’ve cried abroad, in the silence of my own room, before going to bed (
shh* super personal), and thought to myself: “What the heck am I doing?” or “Why do I feel so bad?”
Big adult moment for me, was realizing that although I’m abroad and I’m supposed to be “living this dream” or “running away from adulthood” (as some people may say), I still feel lonely. Feeling lonely is NORMAL and OK! I learned that I had to embrace those awkward, lonely, super weird and uncomfortable moments that left me so anxious, just to be able to appreciate how far I’ve come in my journey with Spanish and in Spain. It’s been a wild, wild ride! Even with almost two years under my belt, there are still moments where I feel alone while with a group of people, moments where I feel left out of a conversation, and moments where my Spanish completely just does not function. In the end, I take each awkward or uncomfortable experience and either laugh about it later or learn from it.
2 thoughts on “Fighting Loneliness While Abroad”
I think the loneliness will always be something that we deal with! Now that I’m home, sometimes I even feel lonely being in a familiar surrounding!
I feel you! I moved alone 6 years ago and I STILL feel the loneliness every now and then. Like you, I have a bajillion cousins and even though we have a WhatsApp group chat that is going off every day, I still feel like I’m missing out on so much (especially the food). It’s so nice to hear someone else verbalise this as many of my “new” friends can’t relate why I would feel lonely. I guess one simply can’t forget the comfort of familiarities! X
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