By: Jasmin Anderson
Call us Bohemian, call us gypsies, call us wanderers, weirdos, or flighty flibbertigibbets…call us whatever you like. What’s in a name, after all. Wanderlust is whimsical word we throw around for people who like to travel. And while I proudly wear the wanderlust badge, it can be a burdensome life sometimes. I fully acknowledge that this ‘burdensome life’ problem is some genuine, first-world, millennial, special snow-flakery. But here we go.
I call myself a wanderluster because I’m looking for a home. I wish that the state, or even the country I was born in felt like a place I could be happy and thrive in, but it isn’t. At least not for now. It’s problem that’s a privileged to have, but a problem nonetheless. So if you feel that your wanderlust is sometimes more of curse than a blessing, here’s a few helpful things I’ve learned along the way.
Knowing how you like to travel
Despite the fact that I love traveling, I have learned that I am not a ‘roughing-it’ kind of woman. When I see those intrepid travelers whose whole lives are packed neatly away on their backs, all I can think is: ‘Doesn’t your back hurt?’ Perpetually living out of a backpack is just not for me, and that’s okay. I need a game plan when I hit the road, complete with mapped out routes with stops for potty and snack breaks. I like to know where I’m sleeping, and I’d prefer it to be a bed. With a pillow. And blankets. And I wouldn’t say boo to a complimentary breakfast. That’s just me. Of course, if the plan is to rough it, I can absolutely get on board. But I need to mentally prepare myself for night (or nights) of mild discomfort (sleeping on park benches and the like). You’re not more or less of a traveler depending on your style, and again: that’s okay.
There are few things more embarrassing than seeing fellow foreigners making an ass of themselves abroad. It’s just the height of cringe worthy. It’s not fair, but people tend to make broad generalizations about travelers. See one belligerent drunken American. Boom. All Americans are loud drunken buffoons. Doing even a cursory search of the history and culture of a place will safeguard against most faux-pas. Respect its rules and customs. Respect its people. Respect that not everyone gets to do what we do.
Always be ready to Learn
So. You’ve made it to a new country. You’ve settled into your new home. You should ask yourself: what’s next? Living abroad is inherently great. But if you’ve decided to live your life there, you shouldn’t stop bettering yourself. Learn the language, pick up an instrument, take a cooking class. Do something! Try something you’ve never done before. Traveling broadens your horizons, yes, but don’t stagnate. New hobbies are a great way to meet new people or even just learn something about yourself. Living abroad might be the endgame, but its not the end to your personal expansion.
Make friends often and quickly
I have met some straight up fools on my travels, and I’m happy to say they are some of my best friends to this day. Friendships made while traveling can last a lifetime or just an afternoon. Especially with social media, it’s never been easier to stay connected with people. I’ll admit I am reticent to strike up conversations with strangers, plagued by a hundred little ‘what ifs?’ What if they’re boring? What if they think I’m boring? What if they want to steal my identity? What if they prey on me-looking women and they want to cut my face off and wear it Hannibal Lecter style? But I’m happy to report no one’s ever cut my face off. Not even once. More often than not, they are travelers just like myself. If you’re willing to strike up a conversation, you could be talking to your future best friend.
Don’t Set Unrealistic Expectations
My students love asking me ‘what did you think of [insert country here] before you came?’ My answer is pretty disappointing because the truth is, I try not to anticipate what a country is going to be like before I get there. Obviously every country is different, but our individual experiences of places are also massively different. Keep an open mind. Try not to compare and contrast with other people’s lives abroad.
Living in a new country will have its ups and downs. Some days you’ll make life-long memories. And some days you won’t make it off the couch. I’ve only been living this life for about 2 years, but these little tips have made living abroad a smidgen easier. I hope they can make your experiences that much richer. Wanderlusters, lust on!