Living abroad can be an incredibly rewarding experience. It can challenge you, change you and open your mind up to new ideas and new experiences. People decide to move abroad for various reasons. Some move for work, for school, for love or just to experience life in another country. Whatever your reason for moving, you’ll welcome unexpected experiences into your life that are rewarding and inspiring.
These 12 people have left their home countries for life abroad and hope to inspire you with their stories, experiences and reasons for moving. Here are 12 reasons we love living abroad.
Winging the World
China was a choice as good as any other.
In all honesty, I hadn’t ever made a conscious decision to move anywhere so I definitely didn’t expect to end up the other side of the world. I was learning quickly that life never quite turns out how you expect it to. My degree in Criminology was going to be my ticket to a uniformed job and a regular paycheck. The reality was an economy on its knees and no public sector jobs. I sat, on a factory production line, operating the same machine, day after day.
I felt bored, I felt miserable and worst of all, I felt like a failure. This self-crippling tumble dryer of emotions led me to take drastic action. I couldn’t just sit here and waste my life because plan A had not worked out. Knowing there was nothing for me to lose, I started reaching out to every employer that happened to fall in my line of sight. I didn’t think I’d ever end up teaching English, let alone in a country as strange and alien to me as China. Fast forward just a few months and I was walking into a classroom full of students, ready to give my first lesson.
Although I adored my year in China, teaching wasn’t to become a long term career move for me. Despite this, the experience changed my life. Through living in China, I developed a deep longing for travel which would’ve never been realized if I hadn’t applied for that job. I met amazing people, developed some great skills and found my passion, all when I was on the verge of giving up completely. If you’re thinking the answer to your problems lies abroad, you may just well be right.
I love to travel. It’s my favourite thing to do. But there’s a special feeling about exploring a new city or country by living there for an extended period of time. You leave the tourist behind and evolve into a local, discovering the unique attractions and deeper side to a destination.
Unfortunately, I moved to Edmonton, Canada in the winter during a cold snap. It was -30 served as Celsius and blowing Arctic winds through the city when I landed in Edmonton. I had just finished my first travels through Europe for the past 12 months and was moving to pursue a relationship with a Canadian girl I met in the Czech Republic.
Being Australian, I wasn’t accustomed to these winters. Nothing ever froze at my home, so the adjusting was difficult. Finally, when the snow melted and the sun did more than just light up the city, I began to feel more at home.
Edmonton is known for its many, diverse and entertaining festivals and each year I spend time at these public gatherings makes me enjoy the city more and more. The city is known for its cultural diversity so learning a new story or way of life isn’t ever far away.
While I still have much further to go to say I love the city of Edmonton, especially as those Arctic winter winds roll on through, I do feel a connection to this place and the people I’ve met. After all, it’s supposed to be about the journey, rather than the destination, and living in a New environment is rarely a bad thing.
As part of my studies (applied linguistics, English, Spanish and Dutch) at university, a semester abroad was a compulsory part of that experience. And boy, am I glad it was.
In September 2018, I headed towards the airport with two giant suitcases and two smaller backpacks, containing just about everything I own. It was the start of my great Spanish adventure. I spent four months studying abroad in Salamanca, Spain. There was one other girl from my home university that also came to the same city at the same time, so I knew I would have somebody to fall back on should anything go wrong.
Luckily, no major things went wrong (although it came pretty close sometimes). I had the time of my life and if I could go back tomorrow, I wouldn’t hesitate to do so. I met some of the most amazing people from all over the world, I experienced things I never thought I would and I travelled throughout Spain (and I also went to Morocco) to my heart’s content.
If you get the chance to live abroad for a certain amount of time, I definitely believe you should take the opportunity with both hands. Living abroad teaches you so many things that no amount of schooling can teach you. And even if you don’t learn a lot, I guarantee that you’ll 100% enjoy your time abroad and you won’t be able to stop talking about it to your friends.
I have lived overseas for over half my life. In fact, I’ve lived abroad so long the country that feels almost foreign to me is the USA. At 30 years old, I have lived in five US states, and 12 countries across five continents.
But for the sake of keeping this short, I will just talk about the first time I lived overseas.
The first time we ever moved abroad, I was 11. My mother took a year off to soul search. This took us to an Ashram in Canada, and then on a six-month adventure through India. When I first arrived, I suffered from severe culture shock, and seriously debated ever leaving our hotel room. But after two weeks, I sucked it up and ventured out, only to discover that India was kind of amazing. The food was superb, the people were incredibly kind, and Dharamsala, where we initially lived, was beautiful.
What amazed me about living in India – and still amazes me, no matter where I end up – was how normal it felt. Sure, whenever I went outside everything was a million times more colourful than it was in the USA. But most days, I hung out at coffee shops or even went to the cinema. Turns out there are coffee shops everywhere.
I had once in a lifetime experiences in India too. We had to chase monkeys out of our room, I studied Sanskrit with a swami, and rode camels through the Thar desert. I learned how to eat effectively without cutlery, and discovered Kashmiri tea and masala chai are the bomb.
I truly believe everyone should spend time living abroad. You will meet the most amazing people, learn about new cultures and languages, and eat the best food of your life!
We have lived in Saudi Arabia for some time now, me for eight years and Misha was born and raised here. I came here to work due to the recession in Ireland, and Misha’s family moved here for the same reason before she was born. It’s why most people are here. The wages are good, the number of vacation days are good, and it’s a good base for travelling to other countries as it’s quite central. Also, contrary to the outside perception of the country, it is quite enjoyable to live here. (We have written a more detailed article about it here; Living and Working in Saudi Arabia)
It is a big step to take to move to a country where everything is so different from what you grew up with. The culture differences take a bit of getting used to.
However, not only is it exciting and adventurous; it also gives you a better understanding of people. It causes you to be more accepting of other cultures and traditions. You learn to be more patient with people due to the language barrier which sometimes comes up.
And you find that at the end of the day you will end up talking to them about things you would talk to anyone at home about, like the weather, the latest football scores from the Premiership, things you would think were not part of people’s lives here. You realize that they are not so different from you or I. They want to learn about you as you want to learn about them.
We made the right decision by coming here, it has given us a great opportunity in life, and we would encourage anyone considering making a move to another country to take the leap of faith and give it a chance at least once in your life.
How to Vanuatu
On the 28th of October 2018, I landed in Port Vila, Vanuatu. Having no prospect of a job, a dwindling bank balance and a nervous excited feeling. I had put my bike and ski boots on a cargo ship in Canada, and as the friendly Ni-Vanuatu security official stamped my ‘Special Category’ visa onto a page of my British passport, it dawned on me… I was really coming to live here.
So how did a British girl and her ski boots end up moving to Vanuatu?
Yes, it was because of a boy.
I first met Kieren at a rowdy rock pub in southeast London. I had pulled him a pint of Kroonenberg. He had come to my failure of a house party. Four months later he had returned to his homeland, Australia, but we kept up with one another. We caught up in Colombia for four months, then England, then Vietnam, then Canada, then Mexico…
We both work and travel. He is a water engineer. I am an English Language teacher, waitress and general opportunist. We flitter from place to place, picking up short contracts.
Then we decided to move in together. I hopped on a flight to Vanuatu and now here I am. I have found a job as an English teacher here. Plus, I love how much everyone smiles here. We will probably journey onwards, but we will journey onwards together.
I not only moved into a country, but I moved into a relationship.
Full Time Explorer
I first visited Nepal almost two years ago, and I immediately fell in love with the country. I was on the road as a travel blogger, and for some reason, staying in Nepal was more intriguing than continuing to hop around different countries. Ultimately, I decided to come back and spend 5 months here, but those 5 months weren’t enough either. Now, I spend half of each year living in Nepal as an expat. There’s so little information online about my favorite country, so it ended up being a great business opportunity for my blog.
For me, being an expat is a completely different experience compared to being a tourist. In Nepal, there are over 125 different ethnicities and languages. Most tourists assume that everyone is Nepali and they all speak Nepalese, but there are so many subgroups that you don’t get to know about until you spend more time here. Each has its own food, culture, language, festivals, etc. There’s so much to learn, and it’s impossible to get bored.
Besides immersing yourself in another culture, living as an expat gives you a whole new appreciation for what you have. In Nepal, things like clean drinking water are a luxury. The things I used to take for granted every single day at home, are now things that I value a great deal. Living in another country has made me so grateful. I’ve learned not to waste food, to respect elders, to use less plastic and to reduce my footprint. I’m thankful for simple things like roads, clean air, and hot water. I have a deep admiration for people who can live simply and be happier than those who have everything back home and lack joy. For me, being an expat has completely changed the way I see the world and how I experience life.
I have always had an affinity for travel and was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to travel with my family while growing up. After graduating from university and living in Chicago for three years, I decided it was time for a new adventure. The winter had been a particularly brutal one, and so I began searching for places I could go for some eternal summer. I happened upon many programs for teaching in Thailand. Since I was a licensed teacher, I figured it would be a great way to get abroad and make money while doing some traveling.
I moved to Thailand with my boyfriend and we quickly fell in love with the country. Thailand had so much to offer, including an incredibly low cost of living. I found a job at an international school, and with the money I saved, I visited Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and even Myanmar. I also met incredibly interesting individuals at my school who became my friends. After living in Thailand for two years, my boyfriend and I moved to Honduras to continue teaching while exploring a completely different part of the world.
I would encourage everyone to move abroad if they can! After living abroad for so long and coming home, I am itching to get away again. Living abroad allowed me to really immerse myself in a culture and get to know the country and people in a way that visiting never does. I can see myself moving abroad again and settling somewhere outside of the United States. But who knows, maybe I will be a wanderer forever!
We were in our late twenties and we both had professional careers in our hometown Torun, in Poland. I guess I started feeling too comfortable and bored with my life. Does it sound familiar to you? This, however, was not the main drive of moving to Scotland. The main factor was the desire to learn English. If you have ever been to Scotland you may think it was a crazy idea, but Edinburgh has stolen my heart when I first visited it a couple of years earlier. Hence, when Poland joined the European Union in 2004, Ela and I decided to pack up and go.
The beginning was chaotic; hunting for a flat, for a job, applying for National Insurance Number (required for legal employment in the UK) and not being able to fully understand people around me. Additionally, for the first time in our lives, we had to undertake physical jobs. I won’t lie, the first months were not always rosy. But remember, I wanted to learn, therefore I applied for a full-time course in a college, where I met people going through the same motions as Ela and I. We stared making friends, some friendships last till now.
Move forward 13 years and I speak English, I have passed professional qualifications in a foreign language, we expanded our hobbies like hiking, photography and travelling, just to mention a few.
Would I do recommend moving to another country? Without any hesitation – yes! You will learn to count on yourself, to be determined and work hard for things you dream of. You may learn another language if you wish. And You will learn so much about life from people around you. I also like the fact that I have two homes now.
World for a Girl
I’m Kirsty, a British Expat in Malaysia. My partner and I absolutely love travelling and have visited over 90 countries together. Everyone presumes that once you have children you’ll settle down but for us, it was the other way round, our wanderlust just grew and grew. We took extended shared parental leave when our second child was born and spent 4 months in Mexico and the USA. As soon as we returned to London, we knew that we had to leave. My partner asked for a transfer to SE Asia and last year, we moved to Malaysia.
We live in Kuala Lumpur, the bustling capital city, and we absolutely love our life out here. Although we miss family and friends, our quality of life has definitely improved. The children can swim in the outdoor pool every day, eating out is cheap and there are gorgeous rainforest trails 15 minutes away. Kuala Lumpur is incredibly multi-cultural and the children are celebrating Hindu, Islamic and Chinese festivals and learning Mandarin and Bahasa Malaysia in school. The experience is making us a very global family! What’s more, is the amount of amazing new travel destinations on our doorstep. Now we think nothing of flying to tropical islands and cities, like Bangkok with the kids for a short break.
However, there are negatives about living in Malaysia. Small ones like the oppressive humidity and the ever-present armies of ants in our apartment to larger ones like the hefty fees for international schools and the amount of red tape. We’re very lucky that we’ve made some great friends quickly in Kuala Lumpur but I know many expats, especially families like us, can feel isolated so far from home. Overall, we’re enjoying our expat experience – the only problem is it hasn’t cured our wanderlust!
Wanderlust and Wet Wipes
Back then it was expat brat. Later it became third culture kid. Now I’m older it’s adult third culture kid and trailing spouse or expat wife. Whatever label you want to give it to me, it’s because I’ve lived well over half my life overseas. I currently live in Qatar but it’s my 5th adult assignment! In fact, I’ve lived in 11 cities across 5 continents so far.
It’s safe to say that I have the travel bug but not in the way that most people think. I love a good holiday but what really makes me tick is living in a place and really getting to know it. There’s so much to gain from living somewhere else: you meet people you would never normally meet. You learn about cultures and religions and countries that you may have known nothing about before (or even had prejudices or stereotypes about). You experience things you’d never normally get to do.
I love that we’re giving our children opportunities that most people dream of. There are hard parts of our life, especially for the kids but they bounce back quicker than you think. The flip side is they’re learning resilience and fortitude. They make friends everywhere they go and adapt to their surroundings so quickly. I can’t imagine they’d do it as gracefully (sometimes haha) as if we’ve stayed in the same place their whole lives.
Most importantly, for me, is how living abroad fits into this world that is showing us so much bigotry and hatred. I think expat living can teach people tolerance and understanding. That we can be open to and accepting of differences between cultures and religions. That we can celebrate differences and live side by side each other at the same time.
And that surely has to be invaluable.
As long as I can remember, I wanted to travel the world. I dreamed about spending months on end going from country to country and immersing myself in different countries’ cultures, histories and learning about their people. The thought of being able to live and work in a country that wasn’t my own also called out to me. Through a friend, I found out that I could get a temporary work visa and live in several different countries (which allowed Canadian immigrants) for 12-24 months.
This was it!
I immediately started picking up extra shifts at work to earn and save more money and did everything I could to make moving abroad a reality.
I focused hard and moved to Edinburgh, Scotland in 2009. Back then it was a country I’d never visited, had no connections with and I had no idea how long I would stay.
Moving to Scotland was the best decision of my life. It challenged me in ways I never expected, it opened me up to new relationships with people who are now some of my most cherished friends, it helped me overcome depression and it helped me experience such incredible happiness.
I completely fell in love with Scotland and I return to it as often as possible. I really feel a special connection to the country and feel proud when I hear others speaking about it.
Moving abroad had its ups and downs, unexpected challenges and incredible experiences. I really believe that everyone should move abroad to broaden their horizons and explore a world they would never normally have the chance to discover. If you get the opportunity to move abroad — do it. You won’t regret it!