The “Soft Benefits” of Becoming an Expat
North Americans living abroad cite a number of reasons they love the expat lifestyle. There’s the ability to experience another culture, the daily exposure to incredibly beautiful natural surroundings, and the drastically lower cost of living, to name a few.
But there are also some other, more deep-seated benefits you never hear about. Because they can’t be measured or, in many cases, even articulated.
They make up the emotional well-being that’s characteristic of the most successful expats. And they’re perhaps the biggest perks of all to the expat life.
The Number One Goal of Most Expats
Though the list of expat benefits is long, most North Americans who live in foreign countries will tell you they moved to find a better quality of life. And whether you’re looking for a more ecologically diverse environment, a better place for raising children, or a richer cultural experience, there’s no more satisfying feeling than living in a place that closely aligns with your priorities.
When you’re able to choose your place of residence, not because it’s where you grew up or because it’s close to relatives, but because it supports the values you most want to uphold for your family…that’s incredibly liberating.
Is a laid-back lifestyle essential to allow you to live at your own pace? Are you looking for a place that allows you to live sustainably and minimize your ecological footprint? Or maybe all you want is a home with a view of the sea.
Freedom Fuels an Incredible High
Taking control of where you live gives you the ultimate freedom. And that freedom is empowering. It sets the stage for an entire series of self-directed choices. Decisions about your livelihood, your pastimes, and your social network.
When you’ve shaken off the restraining bonds of things like schedules and rules, a whole new world of possibility opens up for you. I’m talking about having the ability to work remotely or go into business for yourself, being able to homeschool your children, and freeing up some disposable income for things like travel and adventure.
Imagine closing up your kids’ biology book and taking them to explore a prehistoric rainforest instead. Or finding a secluded beach to enjoy an afternoon with your spouse, rather than vacationing at a crowded all-inclusive resort.
When you – not society or the government or your boss – are in control of your life, the decisions are in your hands. You decide whether you want to squeeze in a little surfing before you start your work day or whether maybe you want to load up the family for a weekend getaway in the nearby mountains.
The Sense of Satisfaction Is Unrivaled
This might be a good time to point out that not all of the emotions associated with moving abroad are positive ones. There are a lot of drawbacks and, in fact, a lot of would-be expats don’t end up making it work.
There are instances of failed businesses, failed marriages, homesickness, and even substance abuse as expats try to navigate the system and culture in their new home. Surviving as a foreigner in a strange place requires determination, flexibility, and a whole lot of other attributes I don’t have room to discuss here.
But staying positive, keeping the ball moving forward, and coming out victorious on the other side is incredibly rewarding. You just keep pushing through until one day you wake up, look at your partner, and say, “We made it.”
That’s not to say there won’t still be down times. There will. But there will be so many more highs than lows. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment over everything from opening a bank account (no small feat in many countries) to learning the language, or finding your place in the local community.
Become Who You’ve Always Wanted to Be
The experience of being displaced and having to transition into a new way of life has the double-edged effect of making you lose your identity, to a degree. While temporarily uncomfortable, this phenomenon can give you the opportunity that no other experience can.
The ability to reinvent yourself and be the you you’ve always wanted to be, with no external motivators to impact your career path, your lifestyle choices, or how you spend your time.
It’s not about losing yourself or your past. It’s about finding your true joy and purpose without anything to cloud your vision.
The Best Emotion Is the One You Won’t Feel
The things people love the most about living overseas are as varied as the expats themselves. But there’s one characteristic that all successful expats have in common.
They will never have to wonder what would have happened if they hadn’t been too afraid to take the plunge.
Never will they regret being talked out of moving by skeptical family and friends. Nor will they have to live with the realization that they let themselves be dissuaded by their own fear of failure or their lack of faith in their ability to adapt.
And there’s a lot of pride in that fact.
Rather than lying awake at night worrying about an uncertain future, only to dream about a better one they’ll never attain, expats can rest easy knowing they’ve achieved something so many others can only hope for.
A mind without regrets makes an awfully soft pillow. Find out for yourself.