If you’ve ever thought of uprooting to a whole new country, you know how the fear of the unknown floods you almost immediately. It’s so scary that it makes you run back to your childhood bedroom shaking and sleeping with the lights on.
I get it.
I won’t lie to you and say that it stops being scary. That bad things don’t happen and you won’t feel lonely sometimes. But don’t write it off completely, there are some surprise benefits to it that should get you feeling excited.
I left South Africa, my childhood home and a country I had never left before, to go start a new life in sunny California. I was terrified. I cried a lot on the plane. I looked up return flights before I even reached my layover. I sweat through every single one of my spare shirts. I was absolutely, unbelievably, body-shakingly, scuurrred.
Yet when I finally got to my bed, four hours away from the airport, I slept like a freaking baby. I knew it was the right thing. And you will too. The leap is the worst part, the most exciting part too, but it’s over pretty soon.
The truth is, living in a different country is not that different to living in your own country. Sure, people sound funny, drive on the other side of the road, the food is a bit more exciting. But you still get up in the morning, go to work, go home, go out with your friends. It’s still life, enriched and brimming with new experiences, but it’s still being a human. You can do that.
It’s an odd thing to realise. That people on the other side of the world are not entirely different from you, while simultaneously being the most interesting and strange set of human beings you’ve yet to encounter. You learn new ways of speaking (and that you are the one with the accent now), new ways to eat food and hang out with people, new routines and music. You learn what it’s like to be in a different culture, which is the first step in helping you figure out who you are.
We tend to learn things from other people just as much as through books and lectures. You learn that when you move to a new place. You start questioning your own routines, your ways of speaking and doing basically everything. You figure out if it aligns with you, you discard what doesn’t, you start shaping the habits that define you. I honestly don’t think I would know myself half as well if I had never stepped on that plane.
It really opens up the whole world to you. Once you dip your toe into one way of living then your mind is open to all of them. If you decide to crack the door just a little, it will swing wide open. The perspective you gain from the way others live life is invaluable, it will change the way you carry yourself, change your way of thinking about yourself and those around you. You become inquisitive and open to new opportunities and experiences.
The benefits to travel are unquestionable, but be aware that moving to a completely foreign place can be lonely, so learn to make friends quickly. (This is in fact another skill you pick up from travelling.) You’re also so much more interesting now, having an accent is great for this, people will want to know about where you came from. They want to learn from you.
You will be able to teach them.