Life Abroad is Still Life

We know that what we read on the Internet isn’t necessarily true and isn't always the whole picture. Yet, we all continue to read these travel and lifestyle blogs or follow these social media accounts that are carefully curated to present a neat, clean, and beautiful picture of life abroad. And who can fault them? Who can fault us? We all want to read nice tidy stories that end well. We like to like beautiful images. Turn up the color saturation, throw a "#wanderlust" on it and you're golden.

But we all know real life isn't always quite so neat and tidy.

Trust me when I tell you there’s plenty of stuff going on behind the scenes that the outside observer would miss with a quick glance at my Instagram posts of donuts and sunrises. That’s a highlight reel of life abroad.

Personally, I feel that only sharing the successes and only showing the highlight reel does a disservice to the experience of living abroad (and indeed to living itself.) I’m about to hit you with some real talk here: life abroad is still life. I think people forget that.

When I came back from studying abroad in Spain I really struggled to communicate to my family and friends that those six months were still my life. They welcomed me back with a chorus of, “Oh, did you just love every second?! Wasn’t it the time of your life!?” These questions were particularly hard to answer because there were great days, there were parts that I did love and that were times that did feel like the absolute time of my life. But there were also really hard days, just like there always are. There were highs and lows, pros and cons, and I just took it all as part of the experience. And the same is true for this year in New Zealand.

Let me say this again, life abroad is still life. It's not all going to be rainbows and butterflies. There will be rough days. You will miss births and deaths and weddings. You might get shafted by your employers, your living situations might suddenly fall through, your romantic interludes might end in disappointment, you might even get a Fanta thrown at you on a training run. BUT (there's always a but) you’ll also meet kick-ass people, people who get you. You’ll have a perfect night or two, and you will most definitely have those moments, those flashes of perfection, however fleeting, that make it all worthwhile. And those moments? You can post those moments on Instagram.

Life doesn’t exist without duality. You need the dark to see the light, the bad to recognize the good, the lows to feel the highs. The way I see it, you have to start to see the bad, the failures, the dark, as part of the sweeping arc of the story of your life, not as singular “good” or “bad” experiences.

In the end, you roll with the punches, you make it work, and you count on the people you always count on. So make sure you’ve got friends who will pick up their phone when shit goes down and you call them from the other side of the world at 4am their time.

I have a good friend who likes to remind me that we’re all just on this big wheel of life—sometimes you’re at the bottom of your wheel, and sometimes you’re at the top. You just have to remember that it always keeps spinning, and you’ve got to pass through the bottom to get back to the top. And oh boy does that big wheel keep on turnin' (shoutout to Tina Turner) even if you move 7,000 miles from home—couldn’t stop it if you tried.