I’ve been wanting to post this for awhile but couldn’t quite get the words out how I wanted. Maybe it’s still not exactly how I want to say it, but I’ve got packing to do! Anyway… In general, most everyone has been very supportive and enthusiastic of my travels and living abroad. Thanks everyone for your positive encouragement and sweet comments 🙂 But I also know (firsthand) that there is a different perspective when seeing others European photos, looking like they are having the best time of their lives! It can spark some jealousy and lead to resentment. It can make you feel like your life is so boring in comparison. Well here’s the deal… things aren’t always as they seem.
I’ve had these feelings in the past watching people since high school posting about their Euro trips. And I still face it now! I met a lot of people at my orientation when I first got here, and there almost seemed to be an air of competition about who could visit the most places. We all became Facebook friends, and in an instant, I could follow who was going where. At times it made me feel like I wasn’t traveling enough (and many times I wondered how some had enough money to travel almost every weekend even on a budget). It’s very easy to compare yourself to others with the advent of social media. But social media usually hides the mundane and the ugly in our lives. Most people choose to share the things that are going really great – Look where I am! – I got that job promotion! – We’re having a baby! Most of us have done this and that’s not to stay you can’t share all your great experiences. Part of maturing is learning to be happy for other people regardless of what’s going on in your life. Even so, it can be pretty demotivating when you are slowly but surely chugging away to reach your goals.
I try to be sensitive to this and post sparingly on Facebook about my travels. I was once that person seeing all the cool photos and wondering when I would ever go to Europe. But I did make it happen! I found a way that worked for me even if it took longer than my peers. But I want to emphasize that living abroad isn’t always fun and games. I think even studying abroad and living abroad can be quite different. I’ve had more of a long-term stay and came into this without knowing a single person. While I never studied abroad, many friends have told me it’s much more structured, which tends to make things a bit easier. Plus, you’re with a big bunch of Americans who all want to be friends. Living abroad has required an almost daily effort to keep up with and proactively do things. My first month here was probably the most stressful. There was so much paperwork to be completed, apartments to see, bank accounts to be established, friends to make… just enough things to figure out to drive you crazy. I had some support, but for the most part I was on my own.
You all get the highlights of my life in Europe for the sake of entertainment. If I were to blog every single day, you might start thinking my life isn’t so exciting. I go to work, I go grocery shopping, I go to the bank, I clean my apartment, I do laundry, I cook dinner, I watch TV… In these ways, my life probably isn’t much different from yours. I can’t travel every weekend nor do I really want to because planning and paying for that many trips is exhausting. Being abroad isn’t fun all the time. You have to make new friends, friends that you will likely separate from, and trying to make Spanish friends and keep Spanish friends is truly an art form. It can get lonely, you’ll miss your family, you’ll miss little things about home, and you’ll miss things coming easily to you. But don’t let the dull stop you from living abroad because there are some moments while small truly make the mundane worthwhile.
I want to end this post by saying I’m not ungrateful for the opportunity I’ve been given. I’m not trying to downplay my experience to the point of deterring people from doing it. I just want to point out the reality of it because I do think being abroad has been glamorized. There will always be every day life to deal with no matter where you live. It’s learning how to balance your real life and your dream life to make the most of the situation. I’m happy that I did take advantage of my situation to travel. I’ve seen a lot in just one year, and there is so much more for me to still see. You might still be waiting to go out there and see it all, and you’ll make it happen in your own time and your own way.