Moving and living abroad has to be one of the most rewarding and life-changing experiences of my life. Taking the decision to move to Mexico from Australia has shaped me and presented me with many eye-opening lessons experiences about myself and the world around me.
Away from everything and everyone that you know. It is a chance to redesign that life you want and to truly reflect deeper into the person you want to be.
These are 9 life lessons that I learned in my first year living in abroad Mexico
Living abroad will make you a better version of yourself
Upon arriving in Mexico it was all exciting, new people, place, beginnings, new everything. However, the novelty of being somewhere new wore off quite quickly when Carlos and I were faced with many obstacles and bumps in the road. Money was one of them as Carlos wasn’t paid in his job and in the midst of that, Carlos and I decided to start our lives again from scratch.
However, it didn’t stop as a couple to continue along the path that we knew was destined for us together.
In the first year, I learned more about myself, life and relationships more than ever. I was faced with situations I have never been confronted with before but it made me stronger each time. As a couple, we became stronger than ever and we knew that it was just the universe’s way of saying, if you can handle this, you can handle anything.
There may be many feelings of frustration, loneliness, longing for a sense of belonging and perhaps even failure but these are passing thoughts and feelings. It just takes time and it does become easier. It is in those tough situations that make you more resilient, more willing to pick yourself up, take a deep breath and say “I can do this.”
In this process, you learn more about yourself, your relationships and you become the best of yourself.
When I first moved to Mexico we had no idea where we would live, what we would do and what was happening tomorrow. Nothing was planned, nothing was concrete.
Now, I am not saying to not have a plan, I think this is important to know what you are trying to achieve, where you want to go with life etc.
However, the big learning here is just a matter of being flexible, and knowing that plans change all the time. The more we allow situations to change and flow, the more we create room for self-development and allow the universe to just do its thing. This, in turn, allows for new and better opportunities.
It is in these times, you have to let go of what was and accept the now.
There will always be difficult situations no matter where you are, so it is how you choose to respond to those situations that make you a stronger person.
Practising minimalism: being detached from material things
When living abroad there is that realisation that we really don’t need certain things in our life.
You learn to live more simply, with less clutter and generally just with the necessary things. Now I love pretty things and comfort so I am not saying you should disregard all those things but all those things we thought would make a difference in our life, usually don’t.
And that feeling of letting go of these things that may have filled up my life, is so liberating. It is the first step of really living your best life.
Let me tell you a little story, only two months into being settled in our new home, we were completely robbed of our possessions in our own home! Feelings of disgust, violation, anger and the list goes on, overwhelmed us. We were not at all in danger, it was just bad luck.
It didn’t take us long to realise that we couldn’t be stuck in our misery and act on these emotions. Instead, we had to pick ourselves up and just keep going. It made us question, were those things really making us happy? Can we live without those things?
Money and “things” can always be replaced.
Of course, you may never have an experience such as this, and I hope you do not. When you make the decision to change your life or move to a new place, you realise alot of these possessions you did have, don’t really serve a purpose anymore; you may no longer identify with them.
You start to realise the importance of living lighter and more simply. You declutter and purify your lifestyle so to speak.
It does feel liberating.
So all those things that you leave behind in storage when you move overseas as an incase you might need them again, well chances are, you probably won’t.
Meeting friends with a similar mindset
When you let things flow and keep an open mind and heart, the right people will come into your life.
Do not feel you have to make friends just for the sake of it. I have made friends when I least expected it, such as at the gym, at the fruit market (yes we connected over that Aussie accent) or in a dance class.
However, if you are travelling alone, there are those times when you could appreciate a friend by your side and there will be many others in the same boat as you.
There will always be a community around that offer meetups that gather expats together, as a way to meet and get to know one another. Another great way is to check out facebook groups which offer hobbies that may interest you, such as book clubs, dance groups, Coffee meetups etc.
Also in your community where there is a large population of expats, digital nomads, you may also find coworking spaces which are great ways to connect with like minded people.
There is something special about making friends when you are living abroad. They come from all over the world and have decided to do the same thing as you, that is, make the decision to make their life in another place. So there is a mutual understanding about the process you are going through, they are there for you in times of need, they are there to lend you that blender you have been needing.
Sometimes they even become your family away from home.
Patience and Tolerance
Everything takes time to readjust when you move abroad and in my case moving to Mexico. I can say it took me a good six months before I found my way and felt more grounded. So do not be hard yourself if it takes longer. It is ok if it takes longer to adjust than others. We all work in different ways.
I was a teacher so I always thought I had a good sense of patience and tolerance. However, moving to Mexico, especially in a town like Playa del Carmen and Tulum, patience definitely tested me in that regard.
Everything slows down …. except the taxi and collectivo drivers. They are the definition of “speedy Gonzalaz here.”
Acquiring patience and accepting things (even when they seem to have no sense) is just necessary when living abroad particularly if you choose to live in little towns.
Holding these expectations and ideas that things will be the same as home need to be thrown out the window.
It is a matter of accepting that things are done differently and patience really is a virtue.
What is the point of sweating the small stuff right?
Language barriers when moving abroad or travelling
The language barrier is real.
As someone who enjoys being social and engaging with others on a personal level, this is something that has been the most difficult for me.
At times there are feelings of being left out as you have no idea what is going on. This can be particularly hard in a yoga class let me tell you. Or you want to participate in a social event with a group of people or just want to be able to ask the friendly, smiling man about the plants he is selling on the side of the road.
I have even be confronted with certain judgements for not speaking the language because of my appearance, dark hair, brown eyes. There is a presumption that I should speak Spanish.
That said, living abroad or travelling “energises” you to learn the language.
Sure, you are out of your comfort zone and sometimes you feel like a child learning to speak but you realise it is the fear (which I still am trying to overcome) that is the one holding you back, it is a story in your head.
So just remember even a “hello” and “thankyou” in that language goes a long way and people will generally be grateful for even trying.
There are many apps now that you can use that do help such as Duolingo, many meet ups where people practise the language and language schools within the city. Right now I am using Italki to learn Spanish and I love that we can access these resources wherever we are in the world.
Be patient with yourself, immerse yourself with the language and give it a go.
Understanding another culture
You will learn about other cultures- especially when you immerse yourself and interact with locals. This is important if you want to get a sense of what it really is like living in that country.
Embrace the unexpected and unknown.
Moving to another country has meant keeping an open mind. Things will always be different, people will be different- whether it is values, traditions or ways of doing things, the food, clothes, even something as simple as catching a bus or the way you pay for your bills.
What I cherish the most is you become more inquisitive, understanding and appreciative. We gain more insight into each other and become better educated about our own human race.
We start to also gain a new level of empathy as to why people think and act the way they do.
Living away for a year, there are many things that I do miss. Speaking freely as a woman and not being judged, a diversity of food- really miss great Asian food here in Mexico.
I miss my friends and family of course- You find a new appreciation for your loved ones back at home. The time difference can be a pain in the butt sometimes.
You really develop another level of gratitude; not only for the materialistic things but other things such as organisation and efficiency (of course I am talking from the perspective of someone who lived and grew up in Australia and now living in Mexico).
But living in Mexico, I feel grateful for how easy it is to get really fresh and organic produce in almost every corner. I am so grateful that avocados are so creamy and perfectly riped and that locals will always say hello.
I am grateful that I am free from labels and just free to be me.
The importance of “Quiet Time”
Living abroad has meant choosing my own schedule and always making time to just “be.”
This has highlighted the importance of rest (something I was not doing very well in my crazy, busy lifestyle in Sydney).
By ‘resting’ and having ‘quiet time’ I am always feeling renewed and refreshed. Filling up days with activities, planning for the next week and spending too much time on endless tasks etc, it is easy to lose sight of what really matters in life. You don’t allow time to self reflect and to feel comfortable with your own company.
Appreciating the quiet time, you rediscover what you may have neglected in your life and identify what is important to you.
When you savour the silence and allow time to be quiet, you become more aware of your reasons/purpose for doing what you are doing.
It will allow grace and tranquillity to suffuse you and your spirit to renew itself in those quiet and golden moments of introspection.
Of course, it is also important to be mindful to not be taken away by these thoughts in a negative way.
By learning the act of mindfulness, practising it daily and understanding what really makes you happy and at peace, opens up room and space to think outside of the box. Quitting our jobs, moving cities/countries and starting from scratch can provide an opportunity for soul searching, determination and really digging deep into the passions and skills you have and using them effectively to cultivate success.
This where I say travelling and living abroad has been one of the best and most liberating feelings. I have allowed myself to be stripped bare and learn everything about myself, how I handle situations, who I want to be and what I want to do with my life.
It has offered me more room to be grateful for the simple things in life and most importantly, continue developing unconditional love.
The world is a beautiful place. There are endless things to see and experience and who knows, you may surprise yourself and realise how important it is to take a chance and make that change.
Some books I encourage you to read around mindfulness or living more consciously that I can recommend: