There is something about living abroad that really forces you to reevaluate what it means to ‘love’ and to ‘hate.’ Some say it is about a new personality unlocked by a language or set of relationships. Others say it is the effects of living a life you’re purposefully creating; you’re more aware of what you value and what you no longer do. The expat life can really test you, this we’re sure of.

I say it is the fact that you’re living in a new reality and constantly creating and discarding new rules and visions. This means the ‘highs’ are super high, worthy of being adored out loud, and the ‘lows’ are felt all the more for that reason. The interesting part is what happens when you do a 180 and completely change your mind in the long process of living abroad. Whether it is fresh inspiration, a person, a country, or an inner shift, sometimes things change your mind in ways you just can’t prepare for. 

Read on to find out how I went from despising to deeply loving these six things about living abroad.

1. Carrying my whole life around in a suitcase and a backpack

I have never truly been a hoarder or a lover of owning many things, but prior to my traveling lifestyle, I found much comfort in having things. I was proud of my gorgeous apartment, which, after some planning, looked fresh off a Pinterest mood board. I liked the security of having options, even if I only really wore 2/3 of the shoes that I neatly lined up below the aesthetic clothes rail. Living abroad, I now know, means living minimally.

At first, this was a pain. With a huge 32 kg suitcase and two backpacks, I myself wasn’t sure if my plan was going to work; if this was really all I needed. Almost a year and a half in, I have found so much joy in shedding the weight. In fact, I have given away and downsized to a smaller suitcase and regularly just travel as a backpacker. It turns out, what I really need to enjoy the world, is very very little and lots of curiosity. That’s literally it. 

2. Transitioning from being a plant mum

Credit: Nappy

When leaving the UK, I carefully designated all my plant children to friends who I knew would keep them alive. A part of me thought I might get new plants while traveling, but it hasn’t successfully happened just yet. There is only so much attachment you can have for Airbnb plants and ones you have to leave behind in the rentals. 

Truthfully, this point is mostly about being okay not being tied to one place. I always imagined myself staying places for long periods and creating a home space but living abroad nomadically has actually taught me how much I enjoy uprooting and finding new corners of the world to pretend to live in. I’m learning just how good I am at belonging to new places over again.

It isn’t something many people realize, but learning how adaptable you can be while traveling, is a very hard thing to unsee. It might even challenge you to move again, and see how you handle that. Maybe after a few more years of consecutively living in cozy, dream houses around the world, I’ll settle down and have some plant babies of my own. 

3. Language barriers

One memory I am always going to hold onto is being sat at a table somewhere in Oaxaca, with a good plate of food, all the excitement of being in a new city, and none of the language skills I needed to join in the Spanish conversation jumping around me. All I could do was focus on my food, nod here and there, and not feel too embarrassed when the people at the table switched to English so I could join in on the conversation. 

When I first arrived in Mexico I spent half my time trying to inhale the Spanish grammar I thought I had locked down. The language barrier really got to me. It took me a while to get conversational and more confident speaking to strangers in all parts of Latin America.

Language barriers don’t affect me in the same way anymore. In fact, they’re more like invitations. Fast forward to me specifically traveling to locations like Veracruz, where very little English is spoken, just so I can be forced to depend on only Spanish. Now I have friends, relationships, and memories that only exist in Spanish and I have initial language barriers to thank for that.

4. Being new to everything, always

A huge part of living abroad is being new to everything and everyone. It means introducing yourself regularly, learning the cultural norms, being new to the diet, the climate, the accent—there is no end to the levels of newness. Like many who uproot to travel the world, I was very familiar with routine. While I was happy to shed this, it took me a while to actually embrace it. 

I got used to being the new girl as I visited new cities, joined new friendship groups, and found new ways to move through the day. Newness stopped being an inconvenience and became a way to see new worlds that offered me new ideas about countries I want to visit. 

5. The simple pleasures of being a serial sim card holder

Tips for Atlantis Bahamas
Meta Lab,

I have no real way of explaining this one. These days I like the ritual of buying a new sim card for my new life in a new chapter. And so that is what I do until I have nowhere to keep them, much like the random change from countries I visit that lives wherever it can in my luggage and purse. There are certainly alternatives to sim cards, but I don’t know about them because I am shamelessly happy with my pile of sim cards and sim ejector pins. I also like having data wherever I am and a local number, as solo traveler etiquette. I think now that I don’t own a whole lot, I make up for it in multiple sim cards, maybe.

6. Redefining my comfort zone

San Cristóbal de las Casas
Amara Amaryah

I don’t think there is anything easy about stepping out of a comfort zone. Living abroad has taught me not only to value it, but to expect it. Even while it remains uncomfortable to expand in this way, while far from home and solo, it is something I now love most about this life. What could be more crucial than moving through a life that feels good, challenging, and different from how you last met it?

Related: Pelumi Is The Solo Traveling Nigerian Woman Doing World Travel Her Way