5 Personal Tips for Living Abroad

Download (1)I’ve pretty much just turned 21 and it’s been nearly five years now that I haven’t lived in Germany, apart from regular visits to my family. Instead, I have spent two years in a small town in the South of England, one in Spain (Madrid) and one and a half more in London. I feel, therefore, to have gained a certain insight into: how to live abroad? It seems quite daunting at first, especially if, as in my case, the primary language of the country your going to isn’t your one. Or, like when I went to Spain, you don’t even speak the language at all (and they most likely don’t speak yours…). Being in the typical “It’s nearly New Years” mood, I thought about the way I behaved when I was abroad, the things that happened, the way I felt, what went well and what went wrong. Looking back, there were quite a few things I would have done differently in hindsight. While I’m not sure whether reading a blog full of advice would have changed much (you best learn from your own mistakes, don’t you?), it might do for other people, anyways, or it might just be interesting to read.

Tip 1: Don’t be shy

I realize that this is the sort of “easier said than done” advice, but I wish I had followed it anyway, or at least tried. When you’re moving abroad, your going out of your comfort zone by leaving everything behind that you know and love: your friends, your home, your family, etc. And I can tell you, if you think a new country, maybe with a new job or uni, is exciting enough to make you happy while your there (especially a common thought when you’re there for just a limited time) – it just isn’t going to cut the mustard, as they say. Looking back, what made me most happy no matter where, were the friends I had. No matter how beautiful a country, or city, exploring the place with good friends by your side just makes it so much more enjoyable! And while approaching people isn’t easy for everyone, others aren’t always going to approach you. And after all, what do you have to lose? Remember, no one knows you (yet!)!

Tip 2: Don’t worry about the language

When I first came to England, my English wasn’t exactly great, I can tell you. And for the first couple of months I felt so insecure, embarrassed, and worried about making mistakes or people laughing at my accent, that I didn’t say much at all and preferred sticking to the only German people around instead. Now, by sticking to the people of your country you don’t just miss out on the opportunity of learning the language, one of the main purposes of going to another country for many people, you also take the opportunity to fully engage in the culture of the country away from you. My best advice is to talk to anyone that wants to talk to you, forget about your accent and remember: Your language is probably better than you think, there are lots of people around who don’t speak it perfectly, and, after all, it’s quite likely that the person you’re talking to doesn’t even speak a bit of your language.

Tip 3: Engage in every opportunity you get

When living abroad, there is so much to experience than just another language or a different landscape. There’s a whole new culture to explore! Whatever  you can do that is typical for the country – do it! Be it dancing Flamenco in Sevilla, Scuba diving in Thailand, taking a Pizza-baking course in Florence, or learning how to make Tacos in Mexico. I can assure you – if you let unique opportunities pass, you will regret it!

Tip 4:  Make an effort to keep in touch – with old and new friends!

Having lived abroad for nearly 5 years now, I know how hard it is to keep in touch with your friends from home. However, I also know that it’s worth it! There’s nothing quite like the friendship with those that you grew up with, and trying to keep in touch with them, by using the Internet and meeting up with them regularly, is definitely worth it. The same goes to new friends, however, – especially if you move to another country after a first time in one, or if you move back to your home country – keeping in contact with them will give a large network of friends all over the world (endless excuses for travel included).

 Tip 5: TRAVEL!

No matter how busy you are with your new job/life, there’s always time to explore. Just think about how much you will regret it coming home and not having seen anything (or as much as you could have) of the country you stayed in for a year. Despite having thoroughly enjoyed my year in Madrid, I still regret not having visited as much of Spain as some of my friends did. After all, it really doesn’t cost that much and what you will remember, isn’t the 40 Pounds you spent on the bus ticket, but the unforgettable moments!

 

So, all I am left to say is: ENJOY! Living abroad is, in my opinion, one of the best things you can do in your life, and an experience no one should miss.

PS: Please let me know what you think about this post. Did you draw the same conclusions if you have lived abroad?

Advertisements

Top Travel Moments 2013

With the New Year approaching, it is time for me to rethink the year that’s past. A lot has happened, ups and downs – but mostly ups, including numerous travel moments and people I have met during these journeys that I wouldn’t want to miss. Here’s a quick summary of the best travel moments in 2013:

IMG_0143

Mérida in the Yucatan peninsular in Mexico is a beautiful colonial city where I spent six weeks this summer. Despite incessant heat, humidity and mosquitoes, the million-strong city is definitely worth a visit.  Known as “Ciudad Blanca”, white city, its sights include the beautiful Plaza de la Independencia, shown above, and the Paseo del Montejo, a wide avenue perfect for strolling in the more temperate evenings. Besides, Mérida is popular as the “gate towards the world of Maya” – famous archaelogical sites such as Chichén Itzá, Uxmal and less famous but nevertheless worthwhile sites such as Dzibilchaltun are closeby. So is the beach – Progreso is only half an hour’s drive away. 

IMG_0466 San Cristobal

It was on my journey from Mérida to Mexico City that I stumbled upon this gem – San Cristóbal de las Casas. If you’d like to know more about this, please read this post: https://strollingtheworld.wordpress.com/2013/12/24/saint-christopher-of-the-houses/

CIMG5394

My journey from Mexico led me, with a few detours, to Panama, specifically to the archipelago Bocas del Toro. It is situated in the North-West of Panama, hence close to the border to Costa Rica and easy to reach via boat or plane (there actually is a very small airport that serves direct flights to San José and Panama City). As you can see on the picture, Bocas del Toro comes pretty close to the common notion of paradise: white sand, turquoise water and palm trees. Despite these undebatable facts, the islands are, however, overcharged with backpackers, and, what the dreamy calendar photos never show: It rains a lot. As in, a lot. We might have been unlucky, but it rained two out of three days that we were there, and there really isn’t much to do in that case.

IMG_1278

To round it off, there is this beautiful, expensive, fancy, stylish, metropolitan city called London in England. The capital has been my place of residence for the past year and a half, and will continue to be for presumably the exact same amount of time. Although my relation to London is characterized by both love and hate, I appreciate its internationality, its nearly infinite possibilities and the moments I have spent in its cosy pubs, famous museums, diverse clubs, and unique areas.

PS: Merry christmas and a happy new year!

The Bucket List

A bucket list – what is it and why do people write one? Questions that are probably easy to answer for most of you. But might not be, either. Personally, I had never heard of anything like a bucket list until a couple of days ago when I stumbled across it in another blog. Quick Wikipedia search. No entry.  Wiktionary says: “Derived from kick the bucket (“to die”) + list; hence “list of things to do before you die“.” Now this sounds interesting!

But what is the point of writing a bucket-list, actually? Well, first of all, it’s fun. Although at first my mind was pretty blank when I was trying to think of things, I quickly came up with more than 50 things I want to do! And quickly enough I started day-dreaming about how great it would be to actually do all these things. Which leads me to the next reason: it gets you thinking. Not just about these (maybe quite obscure) things you wrote down, but about your life in general, what you want to do and achieve and who you want to be. But before we blow this bucket list out of proportion, let’s get down to earth again: it is simply a great feeling to cross out one of the things. Which is probably why I started with the things that I really wanted to do and have already down (cheating? maybe).

I could probably come out with quite a few more reasons, but before I get carried anyway, here’s the actual list (finally!) (non-significant order, btw)

  1. try being vegetarian for a month
  2. live in Spain
  3. go to a boarding school
  4. climb pyramids in Mexico
  5. get my Bachelor and Master
  6. do an internship for a few months
  7. travel through South America
  8. try WWOOF
  9. try Couchsurfing
  10. travel South East Asia
  11. travel China
  12. learn how to dive
  13. learn how to surf
  14. speak Spanish and French fluently
  15. ride an Elephant
  16. see wales and dolphins
  17. see the Amazon
  18. drive a motor bike
  19. take a photography course
  20. hike in the desert
  21. go for a run everyday of a month
  22. travel for a few months by foot or bike, exclusively
  23. do a Safari
  24. learn how to dance Salsa (and dance it well!)
  25. work as a waitress
  26. work in a hostel
  27. be financially independent
  28. run a half-marathon
  29. write a blog – regularly!

Saint Christopher of the Houses….

IMG_0469Or better to say San Cristóbal de las Casas. Or possibly one of the most beautiful cities I have been to. I’m not sure why San Cristóbal fascinated me so much. The architecture? The people? The climate? Maybe rather the fact that I arrived there after having spent more than 6 weeks in a tropical climate, meaning constant 40° and humidityof something like 90%. Especially for someone who has spent most of her life either in Germany or England (keywords here: cold and rainy..), this is a lot to bear. So much the greater the relief of 25°, no rain, no clouds, no mosquitos (!) – and mountains! Not to forget that touristic town, which, despite the associated downsides, also entails a range of international restaurants – what can be better than a traditional Italian pizza after weeks of tacos on end! Especially if it comes with a price of about 35 Pesos (less than 2 Pounds). To top it off, I stayed in La Terraza Hostal, a hostel for the price of 5 Pounds per night with a lovely view of the town. 

65 days or 1560 hours or 93600 minutes

ImageOr the time I spent in Mexico during the summer 2013. About 4 months later (no, I’m not going to translate everything into days, hours and minutes…) I’ve finally decided it’s time to jot down some of those memories. Primarily I’m doing this for me – we all know how quickly we forget those little things that really made our time special and this is meant to be a resource for me to look back to those times and remember and live these moments and joys again. If other people find an interest in my posts – great! I’d love to hear everything about your thoughts or similar experiences. This blog isn’t going to be just about Mexico, however, (sooorry) I also want to write about my plans for the future (mainly travel plans…), others travel experiences and experiences living abroad. So I hope you enjoy this blog!