11 Ways Your Life Will Change After Living Overseas

how traveling overseas can change your life
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Written by: Cheryl Slayton | June 27

Flickr / Sophia Louise

Experts say a week of temporary blindness can help improve your hearing, and an experiment keeping mice in the dark for several days has even proven this to be true.

Maybe Ray Charles wouldn’t be the Ray Charles of today if his own blindness hadn’t rewired the circuits in his brain and boosted his hearing power.

Now, I know I’m not a lab rat or a legendary soul singing musician (But, who knows? I never like to limit myself). What I do know is what it’s like to have your cultural senses heightened when you “cut the proverbial cord” of your mother country and fly far, far away from your own backyard.

Here are 10 ways living abroad can and will change your personality for life (in a good way):

1. You Live in the Moment

When you picture yourself living in one place for years or even decades in the future, life moves fast — really fast. Before you know it, days turn into weeks, which turn into years, and your life seems to be passing you by without you even really getting a chance to appreciate it. But moving abroad somehow activates a different switch in your brain that tells you, “Pay attention. Don’t miss out.” Every minute matters. Every smile, every word, every action has greater depth because you know it is one of very few you might have in this new place you call home.

2. You Become a Better Communicator

When you live in your home country, every word, gesture and thought is measured. You’re always on the watch, making sure your words are not taken in an offensive way and always stretching yourself to say just the right thing.

Living abroad changes everything. While you never want your words to offend another culture or religion, the pressure of saying “just the right thing at the right time” is gone. You can relax, knowing you can and will make mistakes. Lots of them.

3. You Give Up the Pressure of “Status Quo”

Whether it’s staying up-to-date on the Netflix series everyone is talking about or checking your social media feeds to stay connected, there is a lot of social pressure that comes from just being “home.”

It’s called the “status quo,” and while it does a lot to keep us comfortable, it does very little to help us find ourselves. Moving abroad sets you free from the expectations of “normal” life and helps you embrace a life of the beautiful “in-between,” in which you are free to create a pattern of living that is all your own.

4. You Learn How to Truly Be Yourself

As an “expat” in a foreign country, you are not only allowed to be different — you are expected to be different. Now, that doesn’t mean you should go around saying and doing things to offend the local culture.

What it does mean is that you are more likely to be appreciated for the things that make you different, the little quirks about yourself that no one seems to appreciate back home. You’ll find you will come more into yourself and not be afraid of embracing what makes you unique.

5. You Learn What Truly Matters in Life

When you live in a foreign country, you take the bold step to remove yourself from your culture comforts and embrace the culture of elsewhere. The tension this creates is both beautiful and exhilarating for everyone involved and makes it easier for you to be who you really are.

It also makes it easier for you to see the beauty in foreign cultures as well. And, you learn how to really listen, how to see beyond the little mistakes we all make when speaking a foreign language, and listen to what is really being said.

6. You Learn To See Beauty Everywhere You Go

The truth is there is beauty all around us, all the time. But it can be all too easy to miss the beauty of the world you live in when it’s one you’ve always known. Sometimes, you just have to shake up your surroundings to see things for what they truly are.

Whether it’s Japanese pagodas or the sand dunes of the Middle East, you start to see the world as if you’re seeing it for the very first time (because in a way, you really are!) and that childlike sense of awe and wonder is an almost drug-like source of joy.

7. You Become a Better Negotiator

There’s something about Westerners, especially Americans, that makes us believe we have no choice but to accept the price, rules or guidelines offered to us. We deal with big companies and individual transactions where business deals are few and far between. The same is not true of many other nations. When you live abroad, you open the door to learning the new and very valuable skill of negotiation. You’ll have a new skill set that will impress your friends and family alike when you return home.

8. You Become a Risk-Taker

Human beings are creatures of habit. It’s our biological urge to adapt. But, this can become a crutch when we are no longer willing to step out of our comfort zone and try new things. Once you move abroad, you’re almost given a license to live “outside-the-box.”

When every new activity or experience is tied to the experience of living overseas, taking risks becomes less of a challenge and more of an expectation. You’ll be living off the adrenaline buzz for months or even years after you return home.

9. You Develop a Stronger Sense of Humor

There’s something about living at “home” that makes life feel a little more serious and makes each action feel more permanent. Because there is a common pattern or expectation of behavior, mistakes are less accepted, more scrutinized. You can often feel like a rat in a cage.

But when you move abroad, you expect yourself to make mistakes and are more likely to find humor in your small mistakes or the mistakes of others. Laughter is healing, and you’ll find it is one of the best ways to cope with the challenges and adventures you will face.

10. You Become a Better Friend

When you’re home in close proximity to your friends and family, it can be all too easy to take them for granted and not try as hard as you might otherwise to get to cherish your time together. When you take that step to move overseas, the bonds you had before suddenly have more value, more depth.

It’s cliché but true that we don’t know what we have until it’s gone. The best part is that with social media and apps like Whatsapp and Skype, there are endless opportunities to reach out to your friends and family back home and tell them how much they mean to you. And when you do get the chance to visit or return home, your time together will mean much, much more.

11. You Become a Better Person

Living abroad, especially separating yourself from the luxuries of Western life, opens your eyes to the things in life that bring real, lasting value.

You open the door to meeting people from all walks of life and situations. People with limited opportunities but big hearts. People who may be considered ‘poor’ in one corner of the world, but are truly ‘rich’ in ways you might never have never understood before.

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Cheryl Slayton

Cheryl has been challenging the status quo since she ditched her training wheels in 2nd Grade and hopped a fence after losing her ticket to the local fair. Eventually, she started pushing geographical boundaries (instead of legal ones) and made travel her best friend. While two-stepping her way through Texas, climbing a volcano in Antigua, Guatemala and teaching Arabian princesses in the Middle East, she made some amazingly adventurous and ragamuffin friends along the way, like a bossy Haitian, savvy South African, wild Canadian and an Indian-French-Canadian connoisseur of bags and wine. Now, she's happy to call Orlando home again (and try her best to stay on the right side of the law) as she puts pen to paper to share her stories with the Ambitious Crew. Find her on Twitter and Facebook.

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