Going abroad, everyone prepares you for how amazing it will be. As I mentioned in an earlier article, people will say how "abroad changed them," how they wish they could go abroad again because of the type of experience they had.
My experience so far has been similar. I am having the time of my life, immersing myself in a language I hold so dear to my heart, visiting a different cafe each day, having easy access to surrounding countries, and meeting people from across the world.
So yes, all the clichés are true.
Abroad is amazing and I can already tell I am not going to want to come back at the end of it.
Still, I think there is a second side of abroad that no one talks about, the other side that people try to keep hidden.
As my mom so plainly put it the other day:
Unfortunately, when we travel, so does our shit.
Pardon my French.
This is something that has rang true for me since coming here.
It is vulnerable to admit that there are things going on behind the scenes that contrast what I am showcasing to the world. Yet one of the first articles I wrote was about vulnerability, and this is something I always strive to stay true to.
As much as it'd be great to come abroad with a clean slate, with no self work left to do, that is simply not what happens. Whatever we have been working on in the past comes with us as we travel. This goes not just for coming abroad, but through any transition we go through, whether it be switching schools, going to college, or starting a job in a new city.
Yes, I am a different person now that I am abroad, but my essence is still who I was at home.
I am still who I was before I left the United States. I still have themes in my life for growth that have consistently come up over the past few years and have come up even more so since I've been here.
So yes, readers, there are times over the past few weeks where I have struggled because of this, doubting myself, my relationships, making rash decisions and drastic changes. It can be so hard to be so far from home and to see the affect it has on the relationships I hold so dear to my heart, especially when you end up hurting those you love because of the great distance. It can be hard to hear news from home in weird time frames because of the time difference.
Again, when we travel, so does our sh*t (I'll censor myself this time around).
We don't just bring our material belongings from home with us, but our emotional ones as well.
In fact, I'd dare to say that being abroad gives us even more awareness to our emotional "belongings", as you are in a completely new environment that can help different perspectives arise into who you are as a person.
As difficult as it can be sometimes, I know deep down that this "other side" of abroad is a necessary thing. Of course I want to enjoy myself abroad (and I for sure still am), yet I also want to give myself the opportunity to grow, and I can feel that happening every day.
I am realizing that this contrasting side of abroad, the one with the emotional baggage and self work, isn't something that ought to frustrate us. It is something that we ought to look at as an opportunity.
I must admit I've been angry with myself for letting certain issues arise while I've been over here. All I want is to make the most of my time here, and to me, focusing on these issues means I am not being present to my experience here. Yet the thing is, anything that comes up here, anything I am working on, instantly becomes a part of my experience here and impacts it, and that is not a bad thing, it simply is.
I'd venture to say that I wouldn't want to start abroad with a clean slate, because there are so many parts of me that I love that I want to be with me here, and other parts can continue to unfold and grow during my time here.
In situations where I feel the distance, I am starting to remind myself that being 4,000 miles from home is the perfect time to truly focus on myself. This doesn't mean I won't check up with my loved ones, simply that this is the time to let different parts of myself be discovered, so that when I come back, I come back an even more developed person than I was coming in. This way, I can then continue to build my relationships I hold so dear in person.
My loved ones will still be there when I return, so for now, I know I need to give myself the space to spend quality time with myself, to learn more, and to continue along my path.
Space and break from routines can be hard, but this is all a part of it, all necessary.
The other side of abroad isn't something to be feared, but embraced as vital to growth.
The next time someone tells you about their experience abroad, don't just ask to see pictures of where they went. Ask them what they learned, how they grew. In the end, the emotional insights we bring with us and return with shape who we are greater than anything else.