Millennials are a generation of travelers. No generation before ours has had access to travel as cheap as it is now, and we need to take full advantage. Our wages are low, our job security is non-existent and our chances of becoming homeowners before the age of 50 are slimmer than Posh Spice. What better way to take our mind of all that than to spend some time abroad?
Going for a two-week holiday in Spain is great to get away from it all, but spending six months, a year or longer in another country that has a culture worlds away from your own can change your life.
We never stop growing. Our fourteen-year-old selves were worlds away from who our 80-year-old selves will be (thank goodness), and no matter where we go we will change. But how much perspective on our lives can we hope to gain if we stay in our safe, homemade bubbles?
So, if you have never dared to venture outside the resort in Malaga, do yourself a favour and take a step into the heart of a country you’ve always dreamed of visiting. It will do you more good than you can imagine, and here’s how.
1. It Broadens Your Mind
Growing up and living in your home country can put your mind on a single track. We begin to believe as we age that the way we do things is the only way to live because we struggle to imagine ourselves living any other way. Go to a country with no pop tarts, where you have to squat to go to the toilet. Sound crazy? Give yourself a few weeks and you’ll be devouring the new local delicacy instead, and marvelling at how strong your thighs are now.
When I first arrived in China for a year of studying Mandarin Chinese at Zhejiang University, the Chinese way of life could not have been more alien to me. Eating with chopsticks, slurping tea, and being asked incredibly personal questions by the locals, which is perfectly standard in China. Before long, I could finish a meal in less than three hours, learned that slurping tea brought out the flavour and realised that the locals were eager to get to know a foreigner.
The longer you stay in a foreign country, the more some of their customs and traditions begin to make sense. You might begin to question the ones you grew up with and think about how they enrich your life, or not.
Living in a foreign country grants you the power of empathy. The ability to step into the shoes of someone from an entirely different walk of life. In such troubling times, it’s the most valuable super-power we could possess.
2. It Empowers You
Traveling requires a degree of independence and faith in your life skills. Living in another country needs the same x10. The beginning is exciting, and scary because you have no idea how you will cope in a country that speaks another language or has different values. Surviving those first few weeks of homesickness and pop-tart deprivation feel like a real achievement. After that, you begin to speak the language a little, converse with the locals and finding your way around the area without calling the police when you get lost.
Living abroad becomes a series of milestones that you can celebrate, and each celebration allows you to feel a sense of accomplishment. When you’ve not just survived but thrived in a foreign country, you begin to wonder what on earth you can’t do.
3. It Boosts Your Confidence
Living abroad, especially if you’re by yourself, will have you asking for help. I hate asking for help, just in case I’m bothering someone. But when I lived in China, I had to ask for help often. Without the aid of kindly strangers who could translate for me or explain what certain words meant, I would have starved a month in.
Especially if you’re an introvert, a necessity to speak to local people can create some terrifying anxiety. But after the first 50 times, it starts to get a little easier. Six months abroad might actually have you enjoying initiating conversation. Whether or not that happens, you may find yourself feeling more adept at chatting. When both parties have difficulties understanding each other, you learn to fine-tune your methods of communication, so when you’re back to speaking English, it’s a breeze.
Living abroad might seem like a scary, or perhaps straight-up mad thing to do when you’re comfortable with your life as it is. Therein lies the problem. Comfortable does not promote growth, or change, or wonder. Go and find the sunniest beach in the world and fly there for six months or so. You might find you never want to return home.
Featured image via Unsplash