The ups and downs of living abroad!

Living abroad has it’s ups and downs, just as living anywhere does BUT it’s more amplified when you’re abroad. A few days before I returned, I was imagining myself back “home” in my town of Roquetas, in my piso, at school, spending time with my friends; preparing myself for the change and getting excited for what has now become familiar to me. My first day back in my town was at work and I was happy to be among teachers who were also really excited to see everyone since they had been on holiday too. Everyone was greeting each other with besos ( the custom here) and saying, Feliz Ano Nuevo.

I realized how much I do love Spain. 

Churros con chocolate

I was excited to stop at the grocery store and cook a big meal for myself until I arrived home and mi companero de piso, me dijo las noticias. Ok. I can deal.

The big meal I wanted to cook on Monday: Spicy salmon, rice, beets and tomatoes!

Then Tuesday came. I was feeling happy when I walked to el banco (bank) and correo (post office). I know the employees at the bank and they are ususally helpful despite language barriers; however on this day, the teller was not very friendly. I shrugged it off as him having a bad day or simply wanting to go home since I walked in 10 minutes before closing (banks close between 2- 2:30pm M-Friday). Ok. If I were at home, I may take it more personally but I’m learning living abroad there are so many more variables (cultural and language differences, manner of speaking, customs etc.) and I’m getting better at not being so sensitive. Then I rush into the post office to mail a few postcards. I pull a number and deligently watch when its my turn, meanwhile,  I ask a few questions to other employees. I got stuck on a few words and couldn’t express what I wanted to say. In the grand scheme of things, it was really not a matter of importance  but I was frustrated with myself.

I leave Spain for 3 weeks and already feel I’ve fallen behind…

As I’m talking, an employee walks towards me to lock the door and rudely says ( in Spanish), “We’re closed, why haven’t you gone to a window already?” I tell him in Spanish, “I was waiting my turn and was asking questions while the woman was busy. ”  I was proud of myself for being able to respond quickly but the tears were already forming and my voice cracking. I bought my stamps and left quickly but tears were already flowing. I cried my whole 10 minute walk home. I thought, I just want to speak! I want to communicate! And then negative thoughts flowed in: Why am I here?  I don’t even like some of my classes because I feel so bored. I’m not being satisfied… Why o why…? Why I’m I putting myself through this?

A stream a flowing! A place for reflection

But upon reflection, I realized I had gone through a lot in the midst of also transitioning back to living in Spain. It’s no surprise, I broke down. Returning to my familiar to hear my living situation was changing whether I liked it not and not being able to communicate as easily as I’d liked, is challenging.

On Thursday I met a friend at the market and ate churros con chocolate with her and  spent the whole weekend with friends yet I couldn’t shake the unease and uncertainty I was feeling.

An abundance of deliciousness at the market (12 euro=$16) Crazy, eh?

One moment I was happy, the next I felt really down. Despite the emotional turbulence, I was proud of myself:

  •  for inquiring about yoga and Pilates classes (the studio is shared with a salon and it’s never open when I’d pass by),
  • posting up fliers for the room available in my piso
  • meeting an American gal whose been living in Almeria for  a few years
  • Starting a conversation with a woman on the bus for 45 minutes in SPANISH! I usually avoid conversation not because I don’t like to talk but I feel awkward or embarrassed.

I was impressed- Look at me go! I’m motivated now and speaking as much as possible. Yet I was on an emotional roller coaster that wouldn’t let up until Sunday while I was hiking with friends and meeting new people. Thank goodness for Couchsurfing! The day before I had asked a friend if she wanted to go to Granada the following weekend (this wkend) and I realized that if I went, I would be escaping, not traveling.

Couchsurfing hike in Las Alpujarras

The more I felt the emotions, frustrations, difficulties: the more I came to terms with the fact I need to push through what I feel. I also was aware there are days I have lows at home. This is part of life. And more importantly, if I went home I would have bigger struggles. My life here is easy (aside from missing “my favorite” guy, family, friends) and I know this. But living abroad still has it’s challenges- language, cultural differences, customs, ways of speaking, making friends, being patient (even when you’d rather yell), finding your favorite ingredients at the grocery story, not being able to go to a store whenever you feel like, and so on. My life may be simpler but  it may not always be easy. That’s ok. That’s all apart of living abroad!

Home has way more challenges, despite having my support system and the familiar. Home means having to support myself, having a job where I can afford the absurd cost of living in the San Francisco Bay Area and figuring out my next steps in life. Going home now, wouldn’t make life easier and the issues I struggle with here would follow me home and I would be filled with regret and frustration that I gave up.

How do you cope when you're surrounded by thorns?

One thing that is always constant in life is change and challenges. It’s how you handle the challenges that makes the difference.  Do you laugh? Do you cry? Do you let go? Do you give up? Do you face your fears? The answers may differ depending on the circumstances but it’s all how you play the game called life.

What are challenges you have faced living abroad? How have you handled the challenges or obstacles?  What are things you enjoy? 

Leave a comment in the section below.

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7 thoughts on “The ups and downs of living abroad!

  1. Pingback: Should I stay or Should I go? « Roamingtheworld

  2. Pingback: What I’ll miss about Spain « Roamingtheworld

    • It’s always interesting to reflect on how things were in the beginning to how far I’ve come. Like fears, worries that have been conquered etc.
      living abroad certainly has it’s challenges

  3. Pingback: Reflections: My first days in Roquetas de Mar and my thoughts 8 months later « Roamingtheworld

  4. You certainly are challenging yourself. Good for you. And one day you will suddenly break through that language barrier and it will feel great. What’s important is that you are doing this which you will never regret.

  5. Hey Lauren,
    Sounds to me like you’re facing the challenges head on with a lot of optimism and courage. When I lived in Germany there were many days I felt sad or lonely because of the language/culture barriers and the rainy sunless weather. Somehow I kept going though, and I made friends that were worth it. It does feel like you’ve stepped outside of your life, like you are slacking off or avoiding the challenges at home. But you have a whole new set of challenges, and you’re gaining valuable work experience. It could be that people think of traveling as vacationing, rather than the chance to experience life in a different way, learning skills and living experiences you never could at home. Maybe if living abroad were viewed differently, we wouldn’t experience this guilt. But ultimately that’s a worldview we adopt for ourselves, whether or not others share it.

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